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Metro-North Makes Short-Term Control Switch Repairs

The railroad says the control house in Cos Cob destroyed by a May 10 fire could be replaced by year's end instead of 18 months.

A workman makes repairs to the Metro-North control switch house that was destroyed by fire in Cos Cob. Photo: MTA.
A workman makes repairs to the Metro-North control switch house that was destroyed by fire in Cos Cob. Photo: MTA.

Metro-North Railroad officials say a temporary replacement of control switches destroyed by fire earlier this month have been made but rebuilding the damaged control house in Cos Cob could take until the end of the year.

On May 10, a fire destroyed a control house near the Cos Cob station which housed control switches for a nine-mile stretch of track between Stamford and Port Chester. The automated switches allowed a Rail Traffic Controller in the railroad's Operations Control Center in New York City to change track directions during peak travel periods.

However, there is a limited ability to switch trains from one track to another to get around operational problems if any arise in this area, according to Metro-North. 

In a statement, the railroad said, "The highly complex process to restore limited switching capability at Greenwich has progressed and an emergency locally-controlled manual panel was installed Friday May 23rd, tested and is currently operating in the damaged control house.

This panel allows a signal maintainer to be stationed at the site at all times to work with a Rail Traffic Controller before the peak periods to manually change the direction of trains. This will allow us to make three of the four tracks available for  AM Peak (inbound) trains and PM Peak (outbound) trains. This will ease train congestion caused by the control house fire.  

Since the fire, "in order to switch trains from one track to another due to an operational problem to reduce train delays, we have to perform this work manually out in the field which may take up to 30 minutes," the railroad said in a statement. 

Rescue locomotives are on standby to assist should any train become disabled.

When fully operational, the control house at Greenwich allows trains to switch between all four tracks in the area. During peak periods, trains normally use three of the New Haven Line's four tracks to travel in the peak direction. 

Although initial repairs allowed for trains to operate safely through this area, they did not provide full functionality. As a result of the fire, peak-direction trains were limited to two of the four tracks in the nine-mile stretch between Stamford, and Port Chester, NY resulting in a bottleneck that created congestion-related delays through that area.

Long Term Plan
This plan consists of rebuilding the damaged control house utilizing equipment from another location that will be modified to provide required functionality at this location.

We are working to implement this expedited solution by the end of this year.

Typical replacement time for a control house is at least 18 months or longer. The standard process requires design, fabrication, installation, and testing before it can be installed and made fully operational. 

Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan said, "We have not yet finalized cost estimates for restoration of the facility or for the operations procedures. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but as of this stage it does not appear that it resulted from the actions or inactions of any individual or individuals."

A message seeking additional information was left with the Greenwich Fire Marshal who is investigating the cause of the fire.

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