A derailment of two grain cars on a train full of tanker cars carrying dangerous goods in downtown Revelstoke last week has sparked worries of what could have been.
“Obviously there is a concern,” said Mayor Mark McKee. “It was just lentils but take lentils out of the picture and put in propane and it becomes a different story.”
The CP Rail train derailed across the street from the Visitor Information Centre on Thursday, Apr. 2, at about 2 p.m.
George Hopkins witnessed the train derailment. A retired railroader, he and his son were watching the train slowly pass by when they heard a bang and it jumped the track. They both rushed to contact CP Rail.
Lorraine Beruschi and Marie-Eve Bruchig, who work in the visitor centre, said they didn’t hear anything, but right away people came rushing in to say what happened.
The derailed cars were carrying a grain of some sort. They were preceded and followed by a long line of black containers cars that generally carry oil, gases or dangerous goods.
One car was lying on its side; one set of wheels was completely detached from the car and remained on the tracks with its load of grains spilled. It had rammed into the car in front of it before flipping onto its side. The car behind it was only partially jerked from the tracks.
Numerous CP Rail personnel were on scene. Revelstoke RCMP and Fire & Rescue Services also attended the incident.
Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Chris Krepski said they were not deploying to the scene but would be monitoring the situation. When asked why the TSB was not investigating a derailment within city limits, Krepski said the TSB would re-consider if there were any new developments.
Many people gathered on Victoria Road to watch the scene unfold. A few retired railroaders remarked it had been many years since a train derailed right downtown. Many people speculated what could have happened if one of the tanker cars came off the tracks.
It was the second derailment within city limits in the past year. A train derailed in the Big Eddy last September. While local emergency personnel weren’t notified of the last derailment, this time it couldn’t be hidden.
CP Rail crews could be seen replacing the section of tracks following the derailment. Salem Woodrow, a spokesperson for CP Rail said this was standard procedure following an incident.
“Typically when there is an incident like this, there could be some track damage,” she said. “If there is track damage, we will replace a section of the rail and make those repairs before we open it to traffic.”
The cause of the derailment was still under investigation as of press time. Woodrow would not say what products the train was carrying.
Last month, Mike Lovecchio, the CP Rail director for government affairs was in Salmon Arm to address the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Board of Directors about rail safety. He said CP Rail was leading the pack when it comes to rail safety, but that it was also moving more dangerous goods.
LoVecchio said crude oil is one of the more dangerous commodities but assured directors not a lot of it moves through the regional district directly.
But other commodities do — including various hydrocarbon liquids, propane and chlorine.
“At the end of the day, these are the products you as communities use,” he said.
“Society is using it and we are moving it, and under the Railway Safety Act, we are obligated to move it safely.”
CP Rail recently held a training session with Revelstoke Fire & Rescue Services to address the possibility of a dangerous goods spill.
Kathy Fox, the chair of the Transportation Safety Board, expressed concerns about the safety of some tank cars in an interview with the Financial Post that was published the day of the derailment.
The CPC-1232 cars are supposed to be tougher than the ones that ruptured at Lac Megantic, but Fox called them into question after four seperate oil trains derailed and caught fire in less than a month, the Financial Post reported.
She also said more train and track inspections were needed.
David Wilks, the MP for Kootenay-Columbia, said the government was taking steps to improve rail safety, such as requiring re-inforced tanker cars.
When asked about a Financial Post article, he said that Lisa Raitt, the Federal Minister of Transport, is putting plans into action to ensure more inspections happen.
“We’ve increased the amount of inspectors that will be doing that duty and we put that in the hands of the Transportation Safety Board,” said Wilks.
McKee said he was aiming to speak to CP Rail officials this week and would address the issue at the city’s administration, industry partnerships and communications committee.
“It’s a concern for a lot of people in the community and it’s something we have to be vigilant and stay on top of,” he said.