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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Unhappy Runaway train at Trail; engineer killed

    Hmm I have a cousin who works as a trainman on CP Rail.....

    Runaway train at Trail; engineer killed

    Gerry Bellett and Jeff Lee, CanWest News Service Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    TRAIL — It was the noise and thick smoke that witnesses remember most about the runaway Canadian Pacific train that hurdled down what is called the steepest grade in North America Monday, derailing on both sides of the highway into this southwestern B.C. town and killing the engineer.

    “I couldn’t see the trestle for the smoke from the brakes,” said Mike Duckworth, who watched the train race by. “In a matter of seconds it was gone.”

    By the time he climbed up the embankment, “all I could see was a cloud of dust and the wreckage in the distance.”

    What Duckworth and others witnessed was a catastrophic derailment that killed the engineer and injured a conductor and a trainman, who both jumped from the train as it sped down the five-kilometre spur line between Warfield and Trail. Dan Holbrook, rail safety manager for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Tuesday the grade is the steepest in North America.

    For more than 24 hours Canadian Pacific and its employees held out hope that the engineer had escaped but Tuesday evening searchers pulled his body from the wreckage.

    Reality hit home as cranes began to lift the two locomotives from where they had plowed into an embankment after crossing a trestle over Highway 22, the main route into Trail.

    Just up the tracks on the other side of the highway, 10 other cars, including seven filled with fertilizer, had broken away from the engines. Only three empty ammonia tank cars were left on the track. The rest lay in an accordion-like mess, with some of the cars split open, spilling the white fertilizer down the embankment.

    Duckworth, whose small-car repair shop lies in the shadow of the trestle near Warfield, had watched in astonishment as the 13-unit train careered down the track.

    “I see them go over that trestle dead slow. But this time I’d never seen it go that fast. I couldn’t see the trestle for the smoke off the brakes. It was going at least 50 miles an hour.”

    Shortly after the train raced by the conductor and trainman, bailed out.

    Kelly Hutchison, a foreman at a nearby cement factory, was just stepping down from a forklift when he looked up to see the train flash by.

    “At that point, he was going three times faster than I’d ever seen a train go on this line,” Hutchison said. “I didn’t think he’d make the corner around to the (highway) trestle. I’d heard his whistle blow and I could hear the brakes screeching. It was a runaway for sure.”

    The accident occurred about 3 p.m. Monday as the two engines were supposed to slowly make their way down the steep, winding line, a private spur owned by Teck-Cominco. The train was coming from Teck’s fertilizer plant and was to be marshalled into a larger train in Trail.

    At some point along the line, the engines appear to have lost control. The train screamed down the winding track as the engineer tried to gain control.

    Further down the line Alex Reid was building a rockery outside his house when the sound of squealing brakes made him look up to the rail track atop a 40-metre high ridge at the back of his home.

    “The trains make a lot of clanging and banging when they come down and we’re used to that. Normally they just come down here slowly but he was coming down way too fast. There was nothing but a pile of smoke from the brakes,” said Reid.

    The derailment happened almost in front of him. The only three cars to stay on the track were left on the embankment just before the tracks turned and crossed over the highway.

    “I’d say he was moving about five times faster than he should, and then we heard this loud bang, and then another bang,” he said.

    Reid and his neighbour Elsi Millin climbed up the embankment to help, but by the time they reached the top workers from the plant had already come down the line and shooed them away.

    “We saw these three tank cars still on the tracks but the other cars had derailed and spilled fertilizer and the two locomotives were further down on the other side of the highway,” said Reid.

    Mark Seland, a CP spokesman, said the accident is under investigation and the railway company wants to examine the so-called “black box” event recorders that each locomotive carries. He said the devices were not damaged in the accident.

    “We don’t know what caused this. We will be doing a thorough investigation and we want to listen to the event recorders to see what kind of information is on them,” he said.

    Seland said the two survivors will be interviewed in the next day or two to see if they can shed any light on the cause. He said Teck-Cominco officials told him Monday night they have not had any accidents on the line in more than 40 years and that they are at a loss to explain what happened.

    The Transportation Safety Board has also sent two investigators to the scene to recover the event recorders and begin a federal investigation into the cause.

    Dan Holbrook, the safety board’s rail safety manager, said from Ottawa the accident occurred on what he called an “enormous” steep grade.

    “My understanding . . . is that a small train was descending a very steep grade — somewhere in the neighborhood of four per cent, which in railway terms is enormous, as a mountain grade is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1.8 per cent,” he explained.

    “The movement became uncontrolled and two crew members, a conductor and a trainman left the locomotive and survived.”

    At least three Transport Canada railway inspectors are also on the scene and are investigating whether the accident involved violations of the Railway Safety Act or the Canada Labour Code, according to Transport Canada spokeswoman Sau Sau Liu.

    She said the line was “not operating under any particular notices or orders at this time.”

    It was the second runaway train derailment in B.C. in a year. In July, 2006 a Canadian National train descending another of the longest and steepest grades in North America — 2.2 per cent and 51.5 kilometres long — lost control near Lillooet and plunged down a steep embankment. One person was killed and two others survived.

    Holbrook said an investigation into that accident is not complete but the TSB is looking into whether the engine in that case suffered from “brake fade” due to high-friction heat on the braking system.

    Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs, who has lived in the city since 1961, said it was the first incident he knows of involving a runaway train between Warfield and the main plant.

    He said the town was fortunate the train didn’t derail while on the trestle and crash down on the highway.

    “Having them derail on one side of the highway and then on the other side was a blessing in disguise. We’re very fortunate it didn’t involve the highway. Thank goodness too that there were no hazardous goods involved,” said Bogs.


    For those that are not familiar with Trail, its located in south eastern BC, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Mostly mining and logging area, with a population of roughly 10 or 15,000. I think....

    www.trail.ca for anyone who might be interested.
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  2. #2
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Wow. First random thought, I'm going to guess a failure of the dynamic braking system on the locomotives. Given that the "brakes were smoking", they were obviously working and getting over worked. This leads me to believe the dynamic was not working and in the absence of that, the service brakes were overloaded, overheated, and well we can all see what happened next.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  3. #3
    Forum Member RspctFrmCalgary's Avatar
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    The two other crew members' have said that he saved their lives by insisting they jump.

    I'm not familiar with the area, but it was said that the Engineer stayed with the train in order to avert an even worse disaster.

    I can't recall his name, but he was described as a career railroader, 51 years old.

    Very sad.
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  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Our thoughts go out to the family of the engineer.

    Lots of rumor floating around at this stage, but I heard from a local source that the locomotives had just been through a major service. They are obvioulsy looking closely at the records and the wreckage too see what role, if any, that may have played.

    Lots of potential factors in this one, so I'm interested to see what comes of the investigation.
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  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    I'll bet, Marty. This is kinda close to home for you, both geographically and in terms of a similar potential event happening in your neighbourhood too, right?
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

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  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MalahatTwo7 View Post
    I'll bet, Marty. This is kinda close to home for you, both geographically and in terms of a similar potential event happening in your neighbourhood too, right?

    Thankfully no rail in our district (a little too high up the mountain), but our primary M/A has a busy line running right through the center of town. Obviously a serious derailment in an urban setting is an "all-hands" call.

    We had a derailment from CN about two years ago, right outside town in the watershed. Thankfully no injuries, or serious leaks on that one.

    I grew up in a very busy railyard town in Northern Ontario, so I have been through a lot of derailments over the years as a resident. Most are little more than conversation starters. But then there are always these ones...
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  7. #7
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Uh Huh...........

    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Wow. First random thought, I'm going to guess a failure of the dynamic braking system on the locomotives. Given that the "brakes were smoking", they were obviously working and getting over worked. This leads me to believe the dynamic was not working and in the absence of that, the service brakes were overloaded, overheated, and well we can all see what happened next.

    Good Point. I would think that on a grade like that you would shut down, then come back in dynamic within a few seconds, if you wanted to maintain maximum control. Coming down a 4% and depending on a 10 pound trainline reduction, even with the retainers turned up, just won't cut it.
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  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    HA HAHAHA I knew it! I just knew that when I put this story up someone would come along and start talking "Trainese" heheheehehehehe

    Coming down a 4% and depending on a 10 pound trainline reduction, even with the retainers turned up
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

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  9. #9
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Train brakes are quite fascinating. Failsafe as long you don't do something stupid.

    From the sounds of it, the loco's brakes were smoking and the rest of the cars were not. OK, so the engineer was laying on the independent brake. This leads me to believe the cars were either not braking enough or not braking at all. How the cars could have no service braking and no emergency braking is beyond me at the moment (besides the engineer having done something stupid). Even with full dynamic on two locos, I doubt that is enough to stop 8 hoppers loaded with fertilizer and 3 empty tank cars on a 4% grade.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  10. #10
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Unhappy And.........

    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Train brakes are quite fascinating. Failsafe as long you don't do something stupid.

    From the sounds of it, the loco's brakes were smoking and the rest of the cars were not. OK, so the engineer was laying on the independent brake. This leads me to believe the cars were either not braking enough or not braking at all. How the cars could have no service braking and no emergency braking is beyond me at the moment (besides the engineer having done something stupid). Even with full dynamic on two locos, I doubt that is enough to stop 8 hoppers loaded with fertilizer and 3 empty tank cars on a 4% grade.
    Agreed. I'm wondering if the Anglecock never got opened after the cars were made up........... You're SUPPOSED to do a brake test after any car has been cut in to (or out of) your Train, before proceeding..... And, with a grade like that, additional steps like turning up the retainers and setting up the Dynamics should be a no-brainer...... I'll be looking forward to the official report.....
    Last edited by hwoods; 04-27-2007 at 11:22 PM.
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  11. #11
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Yea. I suspect the answer will come pretty quick, there aren't too many things that can go wrong. Something like "oops I forgot to open the anglecock" will be pretty obvious.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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