Coney Island F train derailment caused by missing bolts, misaligned track: MTA

A misaligned train track combined with missing bolts caused the derailment of an F train in Coney Island earlier this month, MTA officials said Monday.

As first reported by the Daily News, the R160-model train car that jumped the tracks of the Culver Line on Jan. 10 was missing four bolts that were supposed to hold the radius arm — a key suspension component — to the train.

No one was injured in the derailment along the elevated tracks near the W. 8th St.-NY Aquarium station in Coney Island.

“This was a confluence of two different events,” NYC Transit president Richard Davey said Monday. “One was loose or missing bolts on the radius arm of the truck on the fourth car on the F train, and then, coupled with that, a track non-conformity in this vicinity.”

Subway service was partially suspended in Coney Island on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, when an F train jumped the tracks near the W. 8th St.-NY Aquarium station in Brooklyn.

“Independent of one another, we strongly believe that would not have caused a derailment,” Davey said. “Four cars on that F train actually went over that rail anomaly without issue.”

Though the portion of track involved in the derailment had passed a walking inspection the day before and was cleared for use, there was a known issue with the track, where one section of rail was misaligned by an eighth of an inch.

It remains unclear whether the bolts —four high-strength grade 8 fasteners — failed and broke, or whether they had been improperly installed. They’ve yet to be recovered, Davey said.

“We’ll look at the [remaining] bolts for any metallurgy issues — our impression is there really wasn’t [any],” he said. “On this particular truck, it might suggest a workmanship issue in the past.”

Photo from the scene of last week's F-train derailment, showing the truck that jumped the track. The radius arm on the right wheel is missing bolts and detached from a bushing on the truck. (obtained by NYDN)
The scene of this month’s F-train derailment, showing the truck that jumped the track. The radius arm on the right wheel is missing bolts and detached from a bushing on the truck. (Obtained by the Daily News)

Multiple transit sources told The News earlier this month that all four bolts were missing from the radius arm when crews responded to the derailment.

Davey reiterated that his team has conducted a full inspection of all R160s in the fleet as well as the similar R143 train cars.

R160s serve on the J, M, Z, L, E, F, G and R lines. R143s run on the L line.

“The first thing we did is inspect all of those — it was 59,968 [bolts] to be exact,” he said.

When properly installed, the bolts have a metal cotter pin in place meant to keep them from completely backing out.

Three loose bolts were discovered across the fleet during the inspection, Davey said, and all three still had the cotter-pin safety mechanism in place. None of those three loose bolts were on the same radius arm.

What the bolts are supposed to look like, on another R160. (obtained by NYDN)
A photo of an R160 radius arm. (Obtained by the Daily News)

“We’re going to continue to monitor this particular radius arm in these two car classes, but I’m very confident — given the yeoman’s work that the car equipment team did over the last couple of weeks to inspect all these bolts — that we don’t have a systemic issue,” Davey said.

Though there was a known, minor misalignment on the section of track, Davey said it had been cleared for service by inspectors.

The tracks had also passed inspection by one of the system’s two track geometry cars in November.

Following the incident, crews immediately prioritized the 103 similar track issues across the system, Davey said.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve actually fixed 99 of those 103 as of this morning,” he said Monday.

“I am incredibly confident that we have a deep handle on what occurred here,” Davey said, adding, “no fleet-wide or track-wide issues were identified.”

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