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DC Rail Split
Oct 22, 2004

Rare Rail Fracture Shuts the Red Line
A highly unusual break in a section of rail forced a shutdown of part of the Red Line yesterday during the peak of the morning rush, delaying thousands of commuters and adding to mounting frustration with deteriorating Metro service. A 54-inch horizontal fracture was discovered on a rail inside the tunnel at Judiciary Square Station about 7:40 a.m., after several trains reported an unusual noise and a bumpy ride. Part of the fractured rail broke off and was lodged under the high-voltage third rail, where the segment started to smoke. This was the first horizontal rail crack -- a rarity on transit systems -- in Metro's 28-year history, puzzling track specialists. Vertical fractures are much more common because of how trains exert pressure on the rails. The fractured rail was manufactured by Bethlehem Steel, installed in February and expected to have a life span of at least 20 years.