Life Imitates Art Imitating Life

Red line trainThis is nuts. On Thursday, an MBTA Red Line train in Boston took off without its driver (who had stepped out of the cab to throw a switch under the car). The train ran through three stations inbound from Braintree, with no one at the controls, until dispatchers cut the power to the third rail and brought it to a coasting stop.

Reports emerging from the investigation indicate that the driver had not properly set the brakes before exiting the car, and further had tied off the “dead man” lever that controls the train’s movements. (This has not yet been officially confirmed, so we’re going here by reports from The Boston Globe.)

This could be a remarkable instance of life imitating art, said art having already imitated life.

UnstoppableIn the 2010 movie Unstoppable, a runaway freight train endangers an entire city, due to its load of toxic chemicals and the sharp curve it is thundering toward. Only the heroic actions of engineer Denzel Washington and conductor Chris Pine save the day. The cause of the runaway: a dunderhead engineer* getting out of his locomotive to throw a switch without properly setting the brakes, and (I forget exactly how) leaving the controls in such a position that they start the train rolling under power.

That movie, in turn, was inspired by a real-life incident in which a freight train in Ohio, carrying dangerous cargo, rumbled along without anyone in the cab for 66 miles before finally being brought under control in much the same way as in Unstoppable.

It would be very hard to make this stuff up and have anyone believe you.

*In the film, the engineer was clearly a dunderhead. I’m not suggesting that the driver of the T train was. That’s for the investigation to decide.

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