A trolley bus Monday (June 24) morning caused an overhead wire—potentially coursing with 600 volts of electricity—to fall onto the westbound roadway of the 1400 block of West Broadway.
The fact that this did not result in tragedies, or injuries—just 60 minutes of slowed rush hour traffic (while the break was repaired)—is due, first and foremost, to the quick-thinking of one off-duty bus driver.
He luckily happened to be in the 1400 block.
Another uneventful event involving 600 volts of electricity
Just before 9:50 a.m., a trolley bus in the westbound lane of the 1400 block of West Broadway had a spot of trouble.
The “shoes” on the business end of the trolley’s two long power poles, which draw electric current from parallel overhead wires, hit a spot on the wires that threw off a shower of sparks.
The bus advanced no more than a few metres before one of the two overhead wires snapped.
The break was accompanied by such an incandescent flash and loud bang that a pedestrian on the south side of the street was seen to reflexively duck and cover their head with their hands.
It was only a few minutes before a bus driver (not the driver of the trolley that brought the wire down) was placing orange caution triangles in the roadway to divert traffic around the the fallen wire.
But it was the instant response of another bus driver—who appeared to be fortuitously waiting around for a driving shift—that averted possible injury in the critical first moments after the wire came down.
The initial flash of sparks brought me out onto the sidewalk. As the wire fell I asked this bus driver if she thought that it was the one carrying 600 volts of electricity.
She said that it was and ran out into the roadway to wave oncoming traffic around the hazard of the difficult-to-see wire.
Thanks to this bus driver’s presence of mind, not even one unwitting commuter ran the risk of accidentally brushing their vehicle against one of the bare ends of the downed electrical wire.
What followed was just a lot more routine professionalism
At 9:53 a.m.—within four minutes of the wire falling—three orange caution triangles were in place. I believe these came from a westbound 99 B-Line bus.
I’m fairly certain that at this point the driver and passengers of the originally affected trolley bus were still sitting tight as a safety precaution.
At 10:06 a.m.—13 minutes after the break—a Coast Mountain Bus Company Trolley Overhead crew of three arrived to begin repairing the broken wire.
The wire that hadn’t broken was so firmly wedged into the shoe on the end of the trolley bus’s power pole that the two had to be hammered apart by brute force.
Each end of the wire that had broken was gathered gingerly and literally at arm’s length and then attached to the dangling end of a cord held by and then drawn up by the two crew members in the platform atop the Trolley Overhead truck.
By 10:50 a.m. the Trolley Overhead crew—having apparently hammering out a kink in the original wire—were more or less finished repairing the break.
By 11 a.m. all traffic in the westbound lane was moving freely again.
This trolley wire break in the 1400 block is the first that I have noticed in 2019 but it follows at least two breaks that occurred along the same stretch of wire in 2018; both in the month of April.
I was informed by email on June 25th that the quick-thinking bus driver mentioned in this post will be commended by the employer.
A note about the “operator stepping up on customer safety and directing traffic at a fallen wire” will be placed in their file, according to an operations supervisor with the Coast Mountain Bus Company—the division of the regional transportation authority Translink that directly employs Vancouver’s bus drivers/operators.