Mechanical problems and track conditions are to blame for a train derailment in the heart of Strathroy last summer, according to a newly released report by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) that also clears train operators of wrongdoing.
It was around 4:20 a.m. on July 19 that 14 cars of a CN freight train heading westbound through the heart of Strathroy went off the rails. An investigation revealed that trouble began as the train entered the community, just west of Carroll Street.
“A wheel on the 109th car in the train, a covered hopper car loaded with cement, had climbed the north rail of a slight left-hand curve,” said a news release.
The front wheels of a residue tank car behind it, the 110th car, also derailed. Both cars continued travelling west like this for nearly two kilometres until the train crossed Caradoc Street and reached the downtown train station.
“At that point, the cement car re-railed itself, but the residue tank car remained derailed. Upon reaching the platform of the Via Rail station in Strathroy, the residue tank car separated from the cement car, leading to the derailment of 13 additional cars.”
All but one of the cars that came off the tracks were empty. Though one of the empty cars was a dangerous goods residue tank that had last contained liquefied petroleum gas, no harmful chemicals were released.
The board said its investigation revealed six different issues, related to the conditions of the track and the mechanics of the 109th car. All of those issues were “non-condemnable,” it said.
One of the issues was excessive side bearing clearance on the cement car, which “reduced the car’s ability to restrain dynamic rock and roll movement,” the report said. Another was that there’d been an unusual amount of rainfall in the three months leading to the derailment, which led to uneven track stiffness and track deterioration.
The entire train consisted of 126 cars, 86 of which were empty and six of which were residue cars. It weighed around 7,500 tonnes and was almost three kilometres long. It was being operated by a locomotive engineer and a conductor, who were “qualified for their positions,” the report said.
The derailment snarled vehicle traffic at several railway crossings and disrupted passenger trains for several days between London and Sarnia. No one was hurt.
Full TSB report into 2017 Strathroy train derailment.
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