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Fire on train disrupts CTA Brown Line north of downtown Chicago

Fire under train halts Chicago Transit Authority's Brown Line during rush hour
Fire under train halts Chicago Transit Authority's Brown Line during rush hour 01:50

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A train on the Brown Line caught fire—trapping passengers onboard and delaying others right in the middle of the evening rush.

It reached the point where some people decided to evacuate the smoky train themselves.

Before 6 p.m. Thursday, the fire broke out beneath a train near Chestnut Street—about a city block north of the Chicago Avenue/Franklin Street stop.

Both the Brown and Purple Lines ended up grinding to a halt.

"We were definitely on the train for about an hour stuck," said CTA passenger Michael Gordon.

Gordon did not immediately discover that the train he was riding was delayed due to a fire on another one, but the conductor kept him up to speed.

"We're stopped. The train ahead of us is on fire," Gordon said. "They cut the power to the tracks, and, 'Sorry for the inconvenience.'"

Gordon's inconvenience was nothing compared to those on the train. Photos showed flames coming from underneath.

Supplied to CBS 2

The power was cut—meaning no air conditioning during the delay.

Images showed passengers standing on the elevated track with the doors open, trying to catch a breeze.

Supplied to CBS 2

Some took it upon themselves to exit the train, walking down the tracks.

"What's really going on?" said passenger Versie Hodges.

The Chicago Fire Department said the brakes on the 'L' overheated, causing the scare. Thick smoke was visible from downtown high-rises.

Passengers were safely removed from the burning train and bused to the next stop—while those stuck on other trains sat for over an hour.

"Then conductor announced that they put the fire out, then we were still stuck," said Gordon.

Passengers said despite being on another train, the burnt aroma was very strong.

"By that time the train that was in question came pass us smoking, so we smelled it," said Hodges.

"With doors closed from the next train, we still smelled the smoke," Gordon said.

Thankfully, no one was injured during the fire or evacuation process.

By 10 p.m., Brown Line service was back to normal.

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