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Saturday, August 19, 2006 - Page updated at 06:40 PM

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Seattle Monorail's blue train stops on the tracks

Seattle Times staff

For the second time since it reopened earlier this month, a Seattle Monorail train came to a standstill on the tracks at the corner of Denny Way and Fifth Avenue late Saturday afternoon.

People on the ground below could see passengers looking out the windows, and calling on cell phones. A fire truck was on the scene, and the red train pulled up alongside. At about 5 p.m., passengers began crossing a ramp to the red train, to be taken back to the Seattle Center station.

The first passengers to arrive back at the station said that initially, it was the red train that had had a problem. It wouldn't start at the station, so officials had all the passengers move to the blue train, which then stalled.

Debarking passengers said they were on the packed train for about 30 minutes before help arrived. They complained that the temperature became increasingly uncomfortable and it was 15-20 minutes before there was any word from the train operators about what was happening. One couple from New York said that as passengers' distress grew, they pulled out a Monorail brochure and called the number listed there.

Last Sunday, one of the Monorail trains stalled for about 15 minutes around Fisher Plaza, just two days after a $3 million repair had returned the trains to service.

As they did today, stranded passengers last week walked across to the other train. Service was then suspended for the afternoon. Workers diagnosed the ailment last week as a minor glitch in a compressor, which automatically tripped the braking system.

Last week's fix "was equivalent to rebooting a computer," said Regan Erskine, Seattle Center spokeswoman.

Until its recent return to service, the monorail service had been undergoing repairs since the two trains sideswiped on Thanksgiving weekend. The damage was repaired and an automatic braking system was installed that is designed to prevent a similar crash.

Seattle Center tried to reopen the line July 18, but doors and air-braking systems malfunctioned during a test the night before — postponing the restart by four more weeks.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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