Cause of train derailment still under
Published: December 12th 2008
Source: The Regina Leader-Post
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-- A Canadian Pacific Railway crew continued to pick up the pieces
Friday of the CP train which derailed a night earlier near Grand Coulee.
The crews were working diligently to clean up the 30 potash railcars
that derailed around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and Mike LoVecchio, senior
manager of media relations for Canadian Pacific Railway, said the
cleaning process should be complete in a few days.
“We’re going to take the time necessary to do it properly,” LoVecchio
said. “Not only do we want a clean site for the community, but we want
to ensure that the track is safe to use again.
“In the meantime ... we have quite an extensive network of track in
Saskatchewan, so we are able to reroute trains over our other tracks.
Grain producers will be wanting to know that shipments are still
The cause of the derailment is still under investigation. LoVecchio said
the derailment didn’t pose any danger to the town or the environment.
There was a small leak in one of the locomotive fuel tanks, but it was
pumped out overnight and was being cleaned up Friday.
“Potash is not a regulated commodity, so there was no need to evacuate
the town,” he said. “Had this been a regulated commodity, (there are)
plans in place to work with the local community, and those plans would
have been activated had it been necessary.”
Grand Coulee resident Jim Pratt had a front row seat to the accident. He
was maintaining equipment in the fire hall when he heard a loud
screeching sound. He looked outside and saw the train trying to brake.
“At first I thought maybe they hit a vehicle or hit something because
his brakes just locked,” Pratt said.
He watched as 30 of the 130 railcars piled into each other and fell off
“All of a sudden I realized they derailed,” he said. “I could see that
there was quite a bit of commotion; snow dust flying in the air and cars
coming off the tracks.”
Pratt called the RCMP, and officers arrived in the town within five
minutes. His biggest concern was that he wasn’t getting any notification
as to if he should inform the town to evacuate.
Resident Elizabeth Paul wasn’t a witness to the derailment, but when she
saw the devastation on Friday, it reminded her of an incident years
earlier. Paul explained that her car broke down on the railway tracks,
near where the current derailment occurred. She exited her vehicle and
called CP to get them to stop the train, but it was too late.
“It just hit the car,” she recalled. “It took two tow trucks to pull it
Paul said the train is the most annoying part of living in the town. The
train whistles wake her in the night, her house shakes when trains pass,
and she said they travel too fast.
“They rip through here all hours of the night. They’re so heavy, so help
me, that when they go by the house itself, it’s like an earthquake the
way it rocks. I’m not surprised that it derailed,” Paul said.
Thursday’s train accident reminded Paul of a previous derailment near
the town in 1978. She believes it’s only a matter of time before
something serious happens.
However, LoVecchio would argue that two derailments in 30 years is
actually an enviable safety record. According to him, tracks across the
network are inspected weekly, through visual and computerized track
inspections. Train crews are also informed to report any concerns they
have with track conditions.
“CP is North American’s safest railroad, it has been for the eight of
the last 10 years,” LoVecchio said. “Something of this magnitude is