Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Train Motorman Tells of Harrowing Ride by Tom Namako -

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Some bad advice from Duke Ellington during the recent blizzard...

It was a "suicide mission" that had him side-stepping the third rail in blinding snow.

A motorman whose A train got stuck during the blizzard recounted the treacherous night, saying yesterday that he climbed onto the tracks a terrifying 20 times over a desolate stretch of Jamaica Bay to manually clear snow from the signals.
Yann Willam Hicks, who's been a driver for four years, was forced to do the work by hand because the metal "signal" arms that automatically shut down a train when they're hit were frozen in the upright position.
"I had to get off at every signal because they were stuck in the upright position. I did this on the bridges above the water!" Hicks said. "We'd travel for a bit, get stuck, I'd get out, then we'd travel again. This happened about 20 times."
Hicks said he was astonished when his dispatcher told him to drive the train in the weather, knowing the subway couldn't handle the haul.
"I told the dispatcher, 'You've got to be kidding! You're sending us out in this stuff? This is suicide!' " he said.
And the risk of falling from the tracks was the least of his concerns
"Every time I jumped off the train, I couldn't see the third rail -- I had no idea where it was," he said about the high-voltage line that could have fried him had he come in contact with it.
When part of his train finally crawled into Aqueduct station, he was told he couldn't advance because a train carrying 500 passengers in front of him was stuck.
At first, the riders were infuriated with him, but eventually, Hicks said, the passengers realized he was as stuck as they were.
"I was calling dispatchers every 15 minutes asking what was up. That was the hardest thing -- when the passengers got irate. They were taking it out on us, banging on doors," he said.