Fortunately, none of the more than 100 passengers on the southbound train was hurt when the incident happened at 12:45 p.m. and service on the Red Line, which was shut down for almost two hours between Howard and Belmont after the incident, was restored well before the evening rush period, officials said.
None of the cars tipped over, although the last car of the train came to rest straddling two sets of tracks, angled away from the rest of the train just north of the Granville station.
“There was a derailment here,” Mark Nielsen, assistant deputy commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department, said at the scene. “What the CTA did with four cars that were involved in the derailment, they split. We’ll get these four cars back on track. The remaining four (cars) took all the passengers that were on board to the Loyola stop.’’
As the investigation proceeded, however, CTA officials determined that no derailment occurred because wheels never lost contact with rails.
The problem was that a track switch was misaligned, causing the train, which was traveling on southbound track No. 2, to start crossing over to northbound track No. 3, said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase.
The operator immediately recognized the problem and stopped the train, Chase said. The operator then walked to the last car of the train and attempted to back up the train to get the front car off track No. 3 and off the crossover switch and back onto track No. 2, Chase said.
But the attempted maneuver was halted, leaving the wheels on the front end of the train on the northbound track and the wheels at the rear of the train on the southbound tracks, officials said.
“The train did not derail because the consist never left the track. (But) the wheels were not where they were supposed to be,’’ Chase said.
Another CTA spokeswoman, Catherine Hosinski, subsequently characterized the incident as a train that took an incorrect route.
The reason that the track switch was incorrectly aligned to move the train from one track to another, instead of continuing straight, was not immediately known and it remains under investigation, said CTA spokesman Brian Steele.
He said it was too early to determine whether a mechanical failure or human error caused the problem.
Inspectors found some damage to the tracks, Steele said. The rail cars were also inspected and six of the eight cars were returned to service, he said.
“It’s rare for trains to make a movement like this,’’ Steele added.