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BY MARY WISNIEWSKI The Ride
CTA post-fire analysis: Replace lubricant
Mon Jul 5, 2010 03:41
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CTA post-fire analysis: Replace lubricant
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July 5, 2010

BY MARY WISNIEWSKI The Ride

The CTA is looking for a new lubricant for its L wheels and rails that is less likely to catch fire, in the aftermath of a June 20 fire on the Red Line.

The fire was caused by an electrical arc between the running rail and the restraining rail at a curve near the Clark and Division subway stop, said CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney. The arc set fire to lubricant used to keep the wheels running smoothly.
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Nineteen people were taken to area hospitals as a result of the fire, which terrified passengers and sent plumes of thick black smoke billowing into the street from vents. There were no serious injuries.

The arc may have been caused by an energy build-up, resulting perhaps from a problem with a section of cable, according to Gaffney. "We do have an aging infrastructure," she said.

The agency wants a lubricant with a higher flashpoint, or the temperature at which it will burn. The current lubricant's flashpoint is 300 degrees. The CTA tested a grease with a higher threshold last year, but it didn't perform well.

"In the interim, we're increasing inspections on our equipment and reducing the amount of lubricant we use," Gaffney said.

Derrick L. Patterson, 44, a 21-year CTA veteran who was a manager at the agency's control center, was dismissed as a result of the fire. Sources offered different reasons why he was fired -- with one version saying he didn't adequately communicate with CTA staff, and another saying he was scapegoated.

Both Gaffney and Patterson declined comment about the dismissal.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/transportation/2464458,CST-NWS-rideb05.article

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