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Worn rail car components contributed to August 2014 derailment and collision near Gananoque, Ontario
Richmond Hill, Ontario, 11 February 2016 — In its investigation report (R14T0180) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) determined that worn components on a rail car led to the derailment and collision between a Canadian National (CN) freight train and a VIA Rail (VIA) passenger train near Gananoque, Ontario, in August 2014. There were no injuries, but rail cars on both trains were damaged. The fuel tank on the VIA locomotive was punctured, releasing about 1000 litres of diesel fuel. The last six cars on the CN train derailed.
On 01 August 2014, a CN freight train was proceeding eastward on the north main track of the CN Kingston Subdivision when it derailed just east of Gananoque. The CN crew subsequently made an emergency radio broadcast. At about the same time, a VIA passenger train was proceeding westward on the south main track. Upon hearing the emergency radio broadcast, the VIA crew initiated an emergency brake application. As the two trains were slowing to a stop, a derailed centre beam bulkhead flat car from the CN train struck the lead locomotive of the VIA train and then scraped along the north side of the VIA locomotive and the 5 passenger coaches.
The investigation determined that the derailment occurred as a result of excessive truck hunting on the empty centre beam bulkhead flat car. Truck hunting is the side-to-side movement of wheel sets within a freight car truck. Under certain conditions, the truck hunting can become excessive which can lead to wheel lift or wheel climb, either of which can cause a derailment. In this occurrence, the excessive truck hunting was influenced by the type of car, the speed of the train, the worn condition of the constant contact side bearings (CCSB) and the friction wedge, as well as by the truck type. When inspectors visually inspect these rail cars, they look for contact between the CCSB and the car body underframe. However, the investigation determined that visual inspections alone may not have been enough.
As seen in this occurrence, and in another similar derailment (R14T0160), certain older cars with worn and ineffective CCSBs are at risk of derailing due to excessive truck hunting. Further, there are about 48,000 bulkhead flatcars and centre beam bulkhead flatcars throughout North America that may remain susceptible to truck hunting. As such, the Board is concerned that current detector systems and visual inspection programs may not identify those cars more susceptible to truck hunting prior to them encountering conditions known to initiate excessive truck hunting, increasing the risk of derailments.
Following the occurrence, both CN and Canadian Pacific reintroduced speed restrictions for all empty centre beam bulkhead flat cars. Furthermore, CN undertook a program to upgrade the CCSBs on two series of centre beam flat cars.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
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