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Traveling on the Red Line was a nightmare for many Wednesday

At least three windows on a Red Line subway car shattered and plumes of smoke were sent into Andrew Station after a train motor failed Wednesday morning, leading to the shutdown of the station and the deployment of shuttle buses.
At least three windows on a Red Line subway car shattered and plumes of smoke were sent into Andrew Station after a train motor failed Wednesday morning, leading to the shutdown of the station and the deployment of shuttle buses.

The Red Line was a transit nightmare on Wednesday, as service was interrupted at three busy stations in Boston for hours after a train motor failed, the train derailed, and a stretch of track was damaged.

At least three windows on a Red Line subway car shattered, and plumes of smoke were sent into Andrew Station, leading to the closure of the station and the deployment of shuttle buses between Dorchester and South Boston, T officials said.

The last car of the six-car train derailed as it headed north approaching Andrew Station around 9:20 a.m., the MBTA said in a statement.


The car then “re-railed itself as it entered Andrew Station before stopping,” the statement said. “Once stopped at Andrew, customers safely unloaded from the train; the train was immediately taken out of service, and exited the station under its own power.”

The statement continued, “An initial assessment found that approximately 300 feet of third rail was damaged as a result of this incident. When the train arrived at Andrew Station, the train operator reported an indication of a motor failure in the last car of the six-car train.”

No injuries were reported.

One passenger who was on the train described a harrowing scene.

“The train hit what felt like a bump, then it kept bucking off the tracks, like flying up then slamming back down. Sparks were flying outside the window. Then the window started imploding. It happened in pulses, shooting shards of glass into the train right where I was sitting,” said Kyle Hemingway, 30, of Dorchester, who was on his way to work, in a Twitter message sent to the Globe.

“The train kept bucking off the tracks and then we pulled into Andrew, the car was smoking and I assumed it was on fire or something worse was imminent, so I just ran out of the station.”


Red Line service was interrupted at JFK, Andrew, and Broadway stops for about 7½ hours. About 50 buses shuttled passengers in both directions.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an e-mail that longtime workers in the  MBTA’s subway operations unit could not recall a similar incident happening before.

Pesaturo did not have an estimate as to how many riders were affected by the Red Line problems. The cause remains under investigation by the MBTA, he said.

Hundreds of people crammed into Broadway Station as shuttle buses arrived and departed around midday.

Judy Humble, 63, described her commute from Quincy in one word: “Hell.”

Humble said her normally 15-minute commute to Broadway Station from North Quincy took 90 minutes.

“If the accident was severe, they’re doing what they can,” Humble said. “But it still is very annoying. It’s just happening too much.”

Jackie Logan, 26, of Quincy said she commutes from Braintree three days a week and there are often delays or stops in service. By the time she reached Broadway on Wednesday, she was already almost 90 minutes late to work.

“Every one in three trips is a nightmare on the T,” she said. “I feel that if they’re going to have such unreliable service, they need to have a better backup plan.”

Commuter rail trains made added stops at JFK/UMass, Quincy Center, and Braintree stations to accommodate Red Line passengers, T officials said.

Red Line service was restored to the Broadway, Andrew, and JFK/UMass stations shortly before 5:30 p.m., according to a statement from the T.


Still, the evening commute was marked by lengthy delays.

Diana McGraw, 53, said she was trying to get home to Braintree, but had been waiting for over an hour to squeeze onto a bus outside Broadway.

“I just kept getting pushed back,” McGraw said, motioning to the crowded sidewalk. “I don’t really think this is all that unexpected. I think if everyone just cooperated, this would run a lot smoother.”

Some commuters, like Drew O’Connors, gave up on the MBTA and opted for ride-hailing services.

“I don’t want to get on a bus,” O’Connors said. “I’m a little shocked. I’ve been on shuttle buses before, but it hasn’t been this crazy.”

According to the T’s data, the Red Line averaged 275,000 weekday trips in November.

A spokeswoman for Governor Charlie Baker said in an e-mail that the governor “appreciates the public’s patience as the MBTA investigates this serious incident.”

Some public transit advocates said the service disruption reflects the T’s aging fleet.

“Red Line and Orange Line cars are well past their useful life,” said Stephen Silveira, former chairman of the state’s now defunct Transportation Finance Committee. “The fact that we’re this far past their useful life, no one should be astonished that something like this happened.”

Chris Dempsey, director of Transportation for Massachusetts, an advocacy coalition, said problems like Wednesday’s meltdown are far too common, and reflect “decades of underinvestment in the system.”


Dempsey, 35, said some Red Line cars “are older than I am.”

“There is a day in the not too distant future when we’ll have an entirely new Red Line fleet,” he said. “But that’s little consolation today for commuters.”

Globe Correspondents Laney Ruckstuhl and Elise Takahama, and John R. Ellement and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.