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CTA says ground fault is to blame for outage that stalled Brown Line train for hours

Commuter concerns persist a day after CTA train stalls out
Commuter concerns persist a day after CTA train stalls out 01:58

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The CTA Brown and Purple lines resumed normal operations Wednesday, but some riders say they're not ready to move on.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, the passenger want more answers after their Brown Line train was halted for hours on the Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River on Tuesday.

In the midst of the stall-out riders were repeatedly told over the train speaker they were being held on the line because of a power outage. But some riders said that doesn't track with their experience.

As seen on video Tuesday afternoon, CTA riders were helped from the Brown Line train stuck on the tracks over the river just south of the Merchandise Mart - each of them walking single file down the catwalk to safety.

Twenty-four hours later, one rider says he hasn't forgotten the moment when he realized something was wrong.

"It felt like the train was like off the tracks on the right side. It leaned up on the left, slammed back down - giant spark, or explosion, I don't know - and then came to a halt," said CTA rider James Harley, "and then we were stuck there for like two hours."

Harley's account matches with what others told us Tuesday.

"The train literally went on the side," said Frank Sierra. "I've been on the train many times, and it's never done that. Everybody's looking like, this ain't right."

Service resumes on CTA Brown, Purple lines after power issue 01:47

So we took their concerns to the Chicago Transit Authority, which said according to preliminary information, there was a ground fault.

CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski advised thinking of it "like a circuit breaker being tripped in a household."

This caused power to shut off to the surrounding section of the track immediately, CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski wrote.

"You are exposed to rain, snow, dirt," said transportation expert Adam Auxier.

On Feb. 4, 1977, several CTA 'L' train cars crashed to the street below after a collision at Wabash Avenue and Lake Street. There have been other derailments since. But an expert said a train toppling over is not likely.

"The way trains are designed, the center of gravity is so low that the risk of a train like toppling over is just - that's not going to happen easily,"

Auxier said it is unlikely the CTA train wheel and track ever lost contact. But he said but Chicago's elevated, exposed train lines face challenges - and harsh curves - that others might not.

"I would say the Brown Line is kind of the epitome of that," Auxier said. "It was built through some very, very existing neighborhoods – and in order to do so, it has some of the sharpest curves of any major subway line."

CTA representatives told us they are still investigating what caused the ground fault, but that "speed was not a factor" – adding, "Trains traveling through this junction/intersection are restricted to a speed that ensures both safe operations and a comfortable riding experience."

Harley says he will continue to use the CTA to commute to work.

We also reached out the CTA workers' union – the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241. They say they're investigating the incident, but from experience, they know the section of the train line where the stall-out happened is prone to power problems.

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