"All of a sudden, iron rails and wood and debris were falling from the tracks and they bounced off my cab," Tobias said. "It was the most frightening thing I was ever under because it was hitting the front, it was hitting the top, it was hitting the back.
Overhead an Orange Line train had derailed and was pulling out steel rail fasteners along a stretch of inner track at Van Buren and LaSalle streets, causing them to spill onto the street below, according to transit officials.
The curved steel fasteners slide into brackets that hold the tracks into place. CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the derailment "caused some of them to become dislodge. Not every single one. They fell in multiple places."
He said the fasteners fit into the brackets like dead-bolts and it's rare for them to be pulled out during a derailment. "It would take a great deal of force, which is what apparently occurred when the wheels derailed," he said.
Tobias said she became more frightened as the train kept biting into the tracks above. "There were a lot of cars on the train," she said. "I didn't know what to do. I panicked a little bit and pulled to the left to get out of the way."
She said she struggled through traffic and finally found an opening on the side of the street as debris continued to bounce off the cab she had rented for the evening.
"I'm watching the train continue on and its going pop, pop, bing, bing, pop, pop all the way down Van Buren," she said. "People were all in shock over it. All I could see was the iron nails, it was like raining nails. It didn't break the windows but it damaged the cab, there are dings all over it."
Like others she called 911.
Tobias considers herself lucky that she didn't get hurt, but the accident still cost her. She said she had to file a police report and by the time she was done, it was about 9 p.m and her shift ended at midnight. She said she was too distraught to pick up any fares.
Today she had to return the car to the company to see if it is drivable, bringing along one of the green metal rail fasteners that hit the taxi.
Joseph Williams, 65, of Flossmoor said he had parked his 1998 Lincoln Town Car while waiting to pick up his wife from her job at Federal Plaza.
"When it first hit the car, it sounded like a gunshot," said Williams, a U.S. Navy veteran. "It was like I was in Vietnam again."
Williams, who also called 911, said he started to get out of his car but thought better of it when he saw all of the debris falling from the tracks. "It was like the sky was falling," he said. "When the metal hit the street, you could hear it."
He said he waited for the train to pass overhead before he left his car.
"The train was screeching all the way down, the wheel was cutting up the tracks as it went down the tracks," he said. "The wood started falling, it was like a buzz saw going down the tracks and cutting up the tracks into bits and pieces."
He noticed dozens of the fasteners on cars, on the sidewalk and on the street.
He said his car was left with dents, scratches and scrapes and he expects the whole car will have to be repainted. He expects the damage to run between $700 to $1,500.