Thousands of riders were stranded on the No. 7 line for hours after a train lost power when the rails froze over at a major Queens station during Monday morning's commute, killing service on the entire line for most of the day.
The train was carrying about 2,000 passengers when it lost power at 9 a.m. at the Queensboro Plaza station, causing riders on four other express 7 trains, plus more on the local track, to wait hours until they could get off, according to the MTA.
The power loss, which cut heat to the train, was caused by ice on the third rail that froze when trains were briefly stopped to remove an umbrella on the tracks, according to the city's Office of Emergency Management. Transit officials couldn't confirm that.
While power was restored at 11:33 a.m., the repercussions of the stalled train were felt for hours afterward.
"Nobody expected how long it was going to be," said Diana Ledesma, a 32-year-old Sunnyside resident who had to stand on a 7 train near 33rd Street-Rawson Street station for more than an hour. "Everybody kept quiet and calm, luckily and fortunately."
Christina Lu, 24, from Flushing, said she had to wait more than three hours until her express 7 train was able to pull into Queensboro Plaza from near the Junction Boulevard stop.
"Once I got off at Queensboro Plaza, I just immediately ran to a corner and Ubered home," said Lu, a social content producer for IBM.
She said riders were calm for the most part and that there were confusing messages from over the loudspeaker and from other straphangers about when they could leave the train and at what station.
"It was like one big telephone game," she said.
Limited service on the No. 7 line started at 4:15 p.m., with trains running on just half of the well-traveled line, between Flushing-Main Street and 74th Street-Broadway. Shuttle buses took riders between 74th Street-Broadway and Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue in Long Island City.
The MTA was cross-honoring MetroCards on the LIRR at Penn Station, Hunters Point, Woodside, Mets-Willets Point and Flushing, with transfers available on the N, Q, F, R or to one of the bus lines along Queens Boulevard.
The freezing rain and snow made de-icing the third rail tough for MTA crews.
"It's dangerous, it's very cold and it's very icy and slushy," said MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan.
No. 7 train riders were forced to take to social media to complain.
"Stuck on overcrowded, oversweaty 7 train for nearly 30 mins due to power failure. Things are getting bad. We may have to enact train law," tweeted Bridget Carey.
With the full 7 line completely shut down at the time, riders looking for alternative ways to continue their trek hit a roadblock outside Queensboro Plaza.
In the early afternoon, people filled the sidewalk, standing on curbside mounds of snow, outside the busy station. As N and Q trains dumped riders out of the station, people lined the stairwell to get out of the nasty weather while they waited for shuttle buses that were coming just one at a time.
"They should have them running back-to-back on the regular," griped Henry Cooper, 44, of Washington Heights.
Samuel Johnson, 41, missed a job interview at a Fresh Direct office near the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue stop because there were no shuttle buses going from Queensboro Plaza toward Long Island City.
"The MTA may have cost me a job," said Johnson, who is up for a driving position.
People waiting for a shuttle bus asked each other questions about nearby bus stops and train stations, but there were no MTA personnel in sight to help them.
"The conditions out here are bad," said Natalie Davis, a Bronx resident on her way to deliver a tiome sheet for a job at a nursing facility. "I don't see one MTA worker."
For many who depend on the 7 to get to Grand Central, a busy Monday work day was interrupted.
"We got on the train and the train was full of people and then they made the announcement and everyone had to get off," said Joe Schramm, president of Schramm Marketing Group, whose office is near the terminal. Schramm said many were turning to the shuttle train, which stops at 42nd Street and Park Avenue.
"It is a pain in the butt. Now we are going to get really wet," Schramm said.
The MTA had no details Monday morning as to when the tracks were last de-iced.
In an unrelated incident, an AirTrain was stalled around noon between Federal Circle and Howard Beach on the JFK-bound line. All passengers were taken off the train and are being bused between stations, according to Port Authority spokesperson Lenis Rodrigues. Buses were still running between the two stations about an 45 minutes after the train first stalled, Rodrigues said.
The cause of the stalled train is still unclear, Port Authority said.
-- With Heather Senison