Four More Canadian National Railway Derailments

•August 27, 2014 • Comments Off

Railroaded CN logo oldThere seems to be no end to the number of Canadian National Railway derailments lately.

This morning, a CN derailment south of York University in Toronto caused delays for several hours on the Barrie and Richmond Hill GO Transit train lines (City News Toronto). As  a result, there was no train service to York University today; shuttle buses were used instead.

Yesterday, two CN cars full of propane and a third empty car toppled off the tracks in Emerson, Manitoba (CBC News). About 40 people who live near the derailment were forced to evacuate from their homes until the derailed cars could be hoisted back onto the tracks again.

Eight CN cars derailed August 20 at Regina’s Co-op refinery, Saskatchewan: 6 tanker cars full of residue, an empty asphalt car and an empty coke car (CJME).

On August 12, 11 empty CN sulfur and centre beam cars  jumped the tracks near the Parsnip River about 145 km northeast of Prince George, British Columbia (CBC News250 News).

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments. Rail safety experts, environmentalists and hundreds of thousands of residents who live near rail lines are becoming more and more concerned about the growing number of CN derailments and other accidents.

Canadian National Railway Routinely Does Not Report Derailments

•August 27, 2014 • Comments Off

Recent comments by Canadian National Railway public affairs spokespeople confirm concerns expressed in the past by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada that CN routinely does not report derailments.

Emily Hamer of CN recently responded to a question by the media why the public was not informed of a derailment in Regina by saying it is not CN’s practice to release derailment information unless asked by the media (CJME). She also said findings from CN investigations into derailments are generally not released.

Jim Feeny of CN recently told the Edson Leader that derailments are not uncommon and are often not reported by CN.

Such under-reporting of derailments by Canadian National Railway certainly has an impact on the perceived safety record of the rail giant, and on its stock performance. It would be interesting to know how existing and prospective shareholders of CN stock would respond if they were made aware of the actual number of derailments, spills and other accidents incurred by the corporation.

CN is currently being sued by several parties for allegedly manipulating data to improve safety and productivity statistics and for allegedly misleading shareholders.

Railroaded has just updated the document CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents which provides a small sample of the number of CN derailments in Canada and the United States.

Rash of Canadian National Railway Derailments

•August 10, 2014 • Comments Off

Seven cars of a 105-car Canadian National Railway train derailed and overturned on a main line August 1, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Times-Picayune and other sources). One derailed car was full of difluoromethane residue which is a refrigerant and a dangerous product. (Railway companies erroneously consider a tank car with residue as “empty”, whereas such a tank car can actually contain up to 2,000 gallons of dangerous product.) Two of the derailed cars carried lube oil, one car carried fiber board and three cars were full of plastic pellets that spilled onto the tracks. The derailment shut down local traffic. Local Haz-Mat crews, state Department of Environmental Quality and Louisiana State Police investigated the derailment.

A Via Rail passenger train struck a derailed Canadian National Railway train August 1, 2014 just east of Gananoque, Ontario (Wall Street Journal and other sources). Six cars of a 120-car CN train had derailed on the main line, one car carrying lube oil and five empty lumber cars. The Via train hit one of the derailed lumber cars, puncturing the Via locomotive’s fuel tank and spilling an undisclosed amount of fuel. One of the 300 Via Rail passengers was injured. Via cancelled all trains August 1 between Toronto and Ottawa and between Toronto and Montreal.

Also on August 1, 16 Canadian National Railway cars carrying grain derailed near Lacombe, Alberta (Global News). One road had to be closed due to the derailment and the main track was closed for at least a day.

Two CN cars carrying lumber fell off the tracks in the Edson CN rail yards July 26, 2014 (Edson Leader). There were two other CN derailments in the same yard during the previous few weeks, with no details available. Jim Feeny, CN Public Affairs spokesperson, said derailments are not uncommon and are often not reported by Canadian National Railway. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has expressed concern in the past about CN not reporting derailments.

On July 25, 2014, a CN train rammed into a logging truck at an uncontrolled crossing west of Burns Lake, British Columbia, knocking 22 train cars and two locomotives off the track (CTV News). An undisclosed amount of diesel fuel was spilled.

Meanwhile, a family is living in tents near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, claiming that Canadian National Railway ruined their home during the major derailment January 7, 2014 of 19 CN cars and a locomotive (CBC News). Resulting fires burned for four days. About 150 people were forced to evacuate within a 2-kilometre radius of the fires. Five rail cars were loaded with crude oil and four were full of propane. The Levesque family claim the repair work to their home, paid for by CN, has left their house worse than before the repair work due to poor craftsmanship. The Levesques had obtained a quote of about $160,000 to repair the damage due to the derailment, whereas CN offered only $2,500.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for additional examples of CN derailments.

Oil Train Accidents on Rise as U.S. Proposes New Safety Rules

•July 24, 2014 • Comments Off

More than 1.1 million gallons of oil spilled from rail tank cars in the U.S. in 2013…more than the total volume spilled from 1975 to 2012 combined (New Republic).

These data, together with the disastrous oil train derailment, explosions, fire, spilling of 1.6 million gallons of oil, and the deaths of 47 people last July in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, have brought tremendous pressure on the U.S. and Canadian governments to get back in the business of regulating rail safety, after years of letting the rail industry essentially regulate itself.

Railroaded hazardous materials sign imageYesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed the phasing out of thousands of older DOT-111 tank cars within 2 years. These tank cars have been known for decades to puncture easily during derailments and other accidents. The phase-out period for replacing or retrofitting the DOT-111 tank cars is shorter than Transport Canada’s phase-out period of 3 years for the same cars, announced a few months ago (Edmonton Journal). However, rail safety experts and environmental groups in the U.S. say 2 years is too long to wait. Similar criticisms have been made of the 3-year phase-out period in Canada.

Until sturdier tank cars are phased in, the new U.S. rules would also reduce the speed limit for high-hazard trains to 40 miles per hour. It’s been suggested that even sturdier tank cars traveling at speeds of 30 m.p.h. may not be able to avoid getting punctured. Karl Alexy, the staff director of the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety said, “When you begin to look at cars that are derailing at speeds of 30, 40 miles an hour, it’s very difficult, it’s a big ask, to expect that a tank car get hit and not be breached”.

The proposed new U.S. rules  would also require better labels on hazardous cargo and require rail companies to perform a risk assessment before choosing routes for the transport of hazardous goods.

Railroaded no exploding oil trains imageFred Millar, an independent rail safety consultant, said the rules for new tank cars and speed limits are “very weak”. He criticized the Obama administration for not requiring more transparency on the oil train routes and the risks they pose to public safety and security.

It’s no surprise that the Association of American Railroads and the American Petroleum Institute are complaining about the proposed rule changes, arguing that lower speed limits are unnecessary and would cut into their profits.

See this link for more information on the many risks associated with shipping oil and other hazardous goods by rail.

Canadian National Railway Train Derails and Spills Fuel

•July 21, 2014 • Comments Off

Three Canadian National Railway locomotives and 3 CN cars derailed, striking a Wisconsin and Southern train last night at a rail crossing in Slinger, Wisconsin, causing at least another 7 cars to derail. About 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from one of the locomotives (Washington Times plus several other sources).

A CN locomotive engineer and a conductor were taken to hospital with unspecified injuries. One hundred people were evacuated because of the spill and a temporary shelter was set up at a local middle school. Hazmat crews were on site, and 6 separate fire departments responded to the disaster.

The derailed CN cars were carrying frac sand which is hazardous to the human respiratory system. The Wisconsin and Southern train was carrying steel, lumber and plastic pellets. Some of the lumber spilled during the derailment. The extent of environmental damage caused by the fuel spill was not disclosed.

Crews worked this morning to upright the derailed cars.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many more examples of CN derailments and spills.

Common-Sense Way of Decreasing Train Noise

•July 17, 2014 • Comments Off

Railroaded noise imageRail and Reason has recently posted this article on a simple, common-sense, and inexpensive way for decreasing disturbance caused by loud train whistles or horns, especially at night.

In Tasmania, a local railway company, TasRail, was so inundated with complaints about loud train whistles at road crossings that they did something about it. TasRail announced they would use a low-note horn between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., reduce the minimum duration a horn must be sounded as it approaches a road crossing (from 4 seconds to 1 second), and stop using a horn within TasRail’s operating and maintenance facilities in certain circumstances.

Our Canadian rail industry and Transport Canada could certainly learn a thing or two from this Tasmanian common-sense solution to a very aggravating problem.

Another Canadian National Railway Derailment in Alberta

•July 14, 2014 • Comments Off

Railroaded CN derailment Three Hills image July 12 2014The fifth reported Canadian National Railway derailment in 6 weeks in Alberta occurred July 12 north of Three Hills, about 60 kilometres northeast of Calgary (CBC News). 15 cars derailed, causing disruptions to transportation services in the area. Most of the cars carried general consumer merchandise, while 2 carried chemicals for household and industrial use. Alberta Emergency Alert indicated a local road was closed for an undisclosed length of time.

Other reported CN derailments in Alberta during the past 6 weeks include:

1. July 4: 6 cars carrying crude oil, methanol, lumber and gravel derailed and flipped over near Whitecourt.

2. June 27: 11 grain cars derailed near Chisholm.

3. June 11: 20 cars carrying dangerous goods residue, grain and lumber derailed near Faust.

4. May 30: About 50,000 litres of molten sulphur spilled from 3 of 7 derailed cars north of Lac La Biche.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional CN derailments in North America.

The number of main-track and non-main-track derailments in Canada has recently been reported to be increasing significantly since the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster that killed 47 people last July.


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