Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PATCO fire

I always wanted to see the "ghost station" at Franklin Square but I never thought I'd see it like this.

I was a little angry that I just missed what I thought was the express PATCO train leaving the 15/16th & Locust station in Philly and then I looked at my watch and found that it was 5:05 PM, 2 minutes early for the express. I also caught that the train was marked "Lindenwold Local" as it left the station. OK So I didn't miss the express.

I waited at the station and another train pulled in as soon as the first one left. This one was the express and I took my favorite seat in the very front, next to the conductor. I like the window. What can I say? I also used to make all my friends hold their hands in the air like we were on a roller coaster when we headed over the bridge on the front train.

I was thinking how lucky this was to have my favorite seat on the express but I really had no idea how lucky it really was.

The ride was uneventful until we headed out over the bridge and I noticed that the train was moving slowly. The train usually comes out of the tunnel and speeds up as it heads up the hill of the bridge crossing the Delaware River.

I heard the conductors' radio and one of the other conductors of a train ahead of us was saying that he had an emergency light come on and then our train stopped on the bridge. We stopped just below mile post 1.75 and I am not sure that the whole train was even out of the tunnel. I was because I was on the east end of the train, closest to New Jersey.

We sat there for a bit and the radio crackled again, this time saying something about a fire under the last car on the train ahead of us. The conductor didn't sound panicked, he just sounded business like.

People were making phone calls telling loved ones they were going to be late.

There were several of us up front with the conductor and we were on the edge of our seats listening for news about the fire.

Finally, after about 20 minutes the central control station told our conductor to make an announcement that we were going back to 8th and Market street station and she headed back to the west end of the train to drive from the other end.

Our trained headed slowly back west it the tunnel but it didn't seem to have all the lights and air conditioning on.

Then it stopped dead. I could see the end of the tunnel leading to the bridge and I still had a cell phone signal from where the train stopped so I made a few calls updating my home and work were I was.

I was a little mad at myself because for the last 6 years I have carried a flashlight in my bag. I carried that stupid little flash light everyday for 6 years. In July I got a new bag. Guess what didn't make it into the new bag? The flashlight.

I think there was an announcement about staying in the tunnel until power was restored and we were all asked to move to the center cars. After that an announcement was made that PATCO workers were going to open the Franklin Square station and we could all leave from there.

We waited for a bit and then I headed to the center cars and found one with the doors open and headed out on to the Franklin Square platform and from there, all the people on the train waited to head out up into the sunlight.

For a short time it was a little adventure, making our way out through the abandoned station. It looked like the set of science fiction movie. No one was really frightened at that point, it was more like your neighborhood after a car wreck or a fire. People chit-chatin' up. There was a big guy who was having trouble getting up the last bit of stairs and blocked everyone for a while but that was about the end of it.

NJ Transit came with some shuttle buses and took most away and I waited for my ride (Thanks again George).
Courier Post Story


Colin said...

Just found this doing some Googling... any chance you got to snap some photos inside the station, like in the concourse area?

suburbanstories said...

I uploaded all the photos from that day to flickr.

There is only one other from underground though. We were in a bit of a hurry to get out.