When a southbound Caltrain locomotive collided with an unoccupied 1950s-era white Austin Healey convertible on the railroad tracks near Fair Oaks Lane in Atherton on the evening of Feb. 10, the collision occurred some distance from the spot where the Fair Oaks Lane crossed the tracks, said officials who investigated the incident.
Before the train arrived on the scene, the driver – a former Atherton resident in his 70s whom officials will not identify – had been heading east on Fair Oaks when, for unknown reasons, he turned right as he was crossing the railroad tracks and began driving south on the railroad bed, according an account by transit police as told to Caltrain spokesman Dan Lieberman.
The driver, unable to turn off the tracks and aware of the train coming toward him, left the car on the tracks "a few hundred feet" south of the intersection and alongside the Atherton train station, Mr. Lieberman said.
After the collision, the locomotive, now with the car on fire and entangled under its grill, pushed it for about a quarter-mile before coming to a stop just north of the Watkins Avenue crossing, officials said at the time.
The accident left the car destroyed and the locomotive with more than $100,000 in damages, Mr. Lieberman said. There were no reports of injuries.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze and transferred more than 300 Caltrain passengers to another train.
Fire crews then worked to disentangle the car, much of it reduced to twisted metal and debris, from underneath the locomotive, fire officials said.
Transit police said they have no plans to identify the driver, or to charge him with a crime, Mr. Lieberman said.
People in similar situations have claimed that their GPS devices told them to turn onto the tracks, Mr. Lieberman said, adding, "Regardless of what the GPS is telling you, there's never a good time to be ... on Caltrain tracks."