One Northstar train breaks down; parts replaced on all of them

Metro Transit is replacing a part on its five Northstar trains after one train broke down on Sunday, just three weeks after the commuter rail service began. The part sends signals to the locomotive engine.

The train that was scheduled to leave Target Field at 2:05 p.m. on Sunday afternoon was broken, so 120 passengers were taken by two buses to each of the five suburban stations, Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said.

It was a 90-minute bus trip to the last stop in Big Lake, compared to the normal 51-minute train ride, he said.

The same train had another outbound trip scheduled for 4:45 p.m., and for that trip a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway locomotive towed the Northstar train from the Target Field station to its destinations, Gibbons said.

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Mechanics determined that the breakdown occurred because of a bad computer signal that was sent to the engine by the train throttle's actuator, Gibbons said.

Metro Transit decided to replace the actuators on all five of its trains to prevent any similar incidents, and four of the trains already have the new parts installed, he said.

"It does point out that these are complex pieces of machinery, and despite your best maintenance efforts they can break," Gibbons said. "It's something you work hard to prevent, but they are pieces of equipment."

The Northstar commuter rail service from downtown Minneapolis to Big Lake started Nov. 16.

The parts that needed to be replaced are still under warranty, so the trains' manufacturer, Motive Power in Boise, Idaho, will cover the costs of parts and labor, Gibbons said.