on the rails could happen yet again
Published: February 21st 2009
Source: Belleville Intelligencer
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It was only six years ago today that the skies over Melrose and Lonsdale
lit up with flames and black smoke after a thunderous explosion occurred
when a CP Rail train derailed, collapsing several cars in on themselves.
Nearby residents, fortunately, were several hundred metres away from the
explosions, but the force of the blast was sufficient to shake homes and
scare the heck out of folks for miles around.
Could it happen again? Possibly.
Could it happen right here in Belleville? Possibly. Rail officials
assure us trains reduce speeds in
built-up areas, detectors for burned out or "hot" bearings on wheels are
rigidly monitored and train crews are trained to react swiftly to such
All of that is no doubt true, but the sheer number of trains carrying
all manner of hazardous materials through our neighbourhoods is
Consider the crash five years ago today. The principles were Canadian
Pacific Railway train
410-16 and another CPR train, No. 251-19. Due to an overheated axle
bearing on train 410-16, the 27th car derailed to the south side of the
track. Though derailed, the car st toward a switch point and re-routed
into a siding area where train 251-19 was idling.
The derailed car, one of seven filled with propane, struck the front
corner of the locomotive on train 251-19.
There were two crew members on the train who escaped, barely, with their
lives. While they sustained burns, neither man had life-threatening
The collision -- and resulting explosions, including one that blasted a
tanker car half a kilometre from the wreck -- was later attributed to
two main issues: the overheated bearing and the locomotive engineer's
"decision not to slow the train down to 5 mph or less when travelling
over the facing-point switch." The train's crew, a report by the
Transportation Safety Board of Canada noted, were notified of the
overheated bearing through an automated alarm system. They hadn't heeded
the warning in enough time to slow the train to minimize the
There are several occasions each day when trains loaded with materials
identical to those that caused the explosions in Melrose roll through
They roll through our backyards, past our schools, hospitals, where we
work and fields where kids play.
We've been fortunate none of these trains have left the rails in our
Imagine an exploding train in downtown Belleville, and a loaded tanker
car of propane flying from such a scene and landing on a school, the
hospital or a seniors' home? It could make the recent crash landing of a
Bombardier turbo prop airplane on a house in Buffalo seem minor in
We have only our faith in the national Transportation Safety Board, the
rigid standards in place for railroads in Canada and the strict
enforcement of them to allow us to sleep at night in a place like
Belleville where two rail lines see freight trains rumble through our
midst each day.
But, we have always been a railroad town and there are hundreds of
people in this city who know well the hazards of rail transport. Some of
them have expressed alarm, in recent years, at what they see as relaxed
standards for the length of trains, the cargo carried on them and the
diminished numbers of crew members who are the watchdogs to ensure a
Melrose crash doesn't happen again any time soon.