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CBS 2 Exclusive: Rail That Failed At Subway Derailment Site Was Installed Elsewhere

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Metropolitan Transportation Authority investigators have been zeroing in on a recently-installed rail as the cause of a derailment on the F Train last week, and have been trying to determine whether other rails have the same defects.

Normal services resumed Monday morning on the E, F, M, and R Train lines along Queens Boulevard, The MTA said all of the subway cars that derailed in a Queens tunnel on Friday were removed from the tracks over the weekend.

A rail snapped and caused six cars of the train to leave the tracks in the Friday morning accident.

Meanwhile, as CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported exclusively, sources told CBS 2 some of the rail involved in the derailment was also installed elsewhere. Experts have been trying to determine where that was, and if the same defects exist.

“You can visually inspect them if there are cracks and micro-cracks, or small cracks in them. Another is to take out the rail from — if there is large numbers of these rails that have been put in across the system, take out a sample of them and do independent structural testing on them,” explained Robert “Buzz” Paaswell, a distinguished professor of civil engineering at the City College of New York and a former executive director of the Chicago Transit Authority.

The broken rail in question was shipped to the MTA in November or December, and was installed in March after a hairline crack was discovered in the previous rail.

“The rail did break under the train and so we’re going to send it out for the metallurgists and other scientists to examine it to try to find out what was the cause, what was the effect and what happened here,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said Sunday.

The MTA did not say exactly how many rails were in the batch manufactured in the United States by a company that has supplied rail to the MTA for decades.

The agency also did not disclose how many of the 39 foot, 1,300-pound rails have to be tested. But the agency did say so far, none of the tests have turned up problems in another location.

Paaswell said he is surprised that investigators think it may be a broken rail, since that does not happen very often.

“No accident is freak – a good engineer wants to know what causes it,” Paaswell said. “But it is an extremely rare occurrence.”

In a statement, the MTA said, “Rails in the subway system are visually inspected twice a week by MTA crews which walk all 660 miles of track.”

Other tests are conducted every two months and every three months.

Meanwhile, the agency worked hard to restore service after the Manhattan-bound F train derailed. The accident happened on the express tracks around 10:40 a.m. Friday in the tunnel about 1,200 feet south of the 65th Street station in Woodside.

PHOTOS: Queens Subway Derailment
The derailment injured 19 and stranded hundreds of riders. Firefighters had to use an access point at 60th Street and Broadway to get into the tunnel and get all the passengers to safety.

In the time since, MTA crews have worked around the clock to repair the rail infrastructure.

“They had to go in and rebuild several hundred feet of damaged track,” Lisberg said. “That means putting in new rails; putting in new ties; rebuilding concrete; in some cases, putting in a third rail.”

Riders were just happy for a normal commute, but were also concerned about just what else was out there.

But the MTA noted that it has had only 17 mainline derailments in the last decade.

“One derailment is too many,” Lisberg said. “Our goal is zero, but I don’t think there’s any grounds for fear of widespread problems.”

The search for other potentially defective rails continued Monday evening.

The train’s operator and conductor were tested for drugs and alcohol, but results were not immediately known.

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