Last week, reddit user redfrobro spotted something unusual. Aboard an oversized flatbed truck sat one of the Metro’s distinctive brown-striped railcars, boarded up and without wheels. The truck was towing it down a wide avenue… in Lawrence, Kansas.
Lawrence, Kansas. Photo by reddit user redfrobro.
With hundreds of 7000 series railcars on their way this year and not enough space to store them all, WMATA has been parting with its old, damaged, and otherwise unusable railcars.
The car redfrobro saw, number 3216, was one of 12 damaged in a 2009 collision at the Falls Church yard. You can see some of the breakage next to the door on the driver’s cab. While its final destination remains a mystery for now, it’s likely car 3216 won’t just be scrapped given how far it’s traveled.
Out of respect to those lost and their families, WMATA quietly dismantles railcars involved in fatal accidents. Those involved in less significant incidents typically get stripped for parts, repurposed for other uses, or sold to somewhere outside of the Metrorail system.
By and large, that new use is for emergency training. In 2012, a number of problematic 1000 series cars arrived at the Guardian Centers, a facility in Perry, Georgia, which includes a 1600-foot mock subway tunnel and station (complete with Foggy Bottom signage).
Many of these cars are used for first response training, but some have undergone simulations of more damaging scenarios, like this explosion designed to simulate the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
The Department of Defense also uses at least two Metro railcars at its Asymmetric Warfare Training Center, a mock city used for terrorism training in Fort A.P Hill, Virginia. Those cars were declared unfit for carrying passengers after they derailed at the Brentwood yard in 2013.
Metro itself uses two damaged railcars at its own emergency training center in Landover, Maryland. The press recently got access to this facility after January’s fatal smoke incident outside L’Enfant Plaza.
Metro still uses some damaged cars in its rail system, just not for revenue service. After an 1982 accident outside Federal Triangle station, vehicle 1028 was orphaned from its married pair and repurposed as a “feeler car” for testing clearances around tracks and tunnels. Four 1000 series cars also got new numbers and now serve as “money trains,” which collect fares from stations around the system.
Dozens of Metro cars have met an early end over the years, and a lot more are about to join them as the 1000 series begins its mass retirement. Metro will store 50 of these tired workhorses as a contingency fleet, but hundreds more will need to find new homes.
Assuming they don’t simply get scrapped, it’s going to be fun to see them pop up in more unexpected places around the country.