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South Shore Delayed After Power Wire Damaged

Commuters report waiting on train for nearly two hours.

BY JOHN O'CONNELL Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Electrical problems delayed at least four eastbound South Shore trains during rush hour Friday, one for nearly two hours.

At about 6:15 p.m., passengers on four trains, which were lined up near Kensington Avenue, had no idea why they weren't moving. Passengers on the first train, which left Chicago at 4:22 p.m., said the conductor told them that no information was available.

John Melby called The Times from the train on his cellular telephone. Melby, whose stop is in East Chicago, said he would miss a softball game because of the delays.

"I'm so fed up with the South Shore," Melby said. "Unfortunately, being from Indiana, this is my only means of transportation."

Tammi Pecenica, who also exits the train in East Chicago, said the delay has cost her big-time bucks.

"Most moms who have children in day care have to pay a late fee," she said. "I'm no exception."

She said her late fee is $10 for every 15 minutes she is late.

John Parsons, a spokesman for the South Shore, said the power problems were caused by a Metra train as it passed the South Shore line near Roosevelt Road. He said the Metra train must have had a warped pantograph -- the metal piece that makes contact with overhanging power wires. He said the pantograph on the Metra train probably pulled the wires out of position, causing damage to connections on a South Shore train that left Chicago at 3:58 p.m.

When the train pulled into the Hegewisch station, South Shore workers turned off power and climbed to the roof to tie down pantographs that may have been damaged. The electrical circuit would not re-energize when the workers initially turned the power back on. They finally managed to get the power to work, but South Shore management feared that the circuit problems were caused by damage to the power line. So the trains were rerouted on a westbound track to continue east toward Michigan City.

"This doesn't happen often," Parsons said.

Melby called back on his cellular phone when he finally arrived in East Chicago. He said the train was diverted back to the correct track once it got to the Hegewisch station.

"We should have been here at 5 p.m. Now it's 7 p.m.," he said. "There was no communication with the passengers. It would have made it a lot better if they would have just communicated with us."

John O'Connell can be reached at or (219) 852-4310.

-- (, July 15, 2000

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