Today marks the 25th anniversary of the collision at Hinton, Alberta on February 8, 1986, in which twenty-three people were killed in the worst train accident in Canada since the 1947 Dugald accident.
CN westbound freight train 413 ran a red light at the end of the double-track and ran into the eastbound VIA Super Continental / Skeena. All four head end crew members were killed, as were 18 of the 36 occupants of the coach behind the two VIA engines and the baggage car. One of the two occupants of the dome car behind the coach was also killed. 82 people were injured.
The reason why the freight ran the red light will likely never be known. The freight was going over the speed limit of 50 MPH when it passed the clear-to-stop signal (yellow over red) and did not slow down as it approached the red signal at the end of double track. The lead locomotive, CN 5586, a GP38-2W, was equipped with a dead-man's pedal but not a Reset Safety Control (RSC) switch. A dead-man's pedal can be fooled by jamming something on it. An RSC switch requires an action to be performed periodically, or the train will be brought to a stop.
This disaster led directly to the requirement that the lead locomotive of all trains in Canada be equipped with an RSC. This was phased in, probably because there were insufficient locomotives available to implement the order on all trains. CN committed to all passenger and "through" freight trains would lead with an RSC-equipped locomotive by January 1, 1988, and all trains would lead with an RSC-equipped locomotive by January 1, 1989. Yard service was excluded.
The VIA train had the following consist: FP7A 6566, F9B 6633, Baggage 617, Coach (Snack Bar) 3229, Skyline 513, Sleeper Ennishore, Sleeper Elcott, FP9Au 6300, Steam Generator 15445, Baggage 9653, Dayniter 5703, Cafe-Lounge 757, Sleeper Estcourt, Steam Generator 15404. The entire first half of the VIA train was retired (up to and including the Elcott).
The CN freight had CN 5586 leading and two SD40s trailing, 5062 and 5104. All units were destroyed in the crash. Unfortunately the SD40s were equipped with RSC devices but were not leading, presumably for reasons of crew comfort.
Hopefully this will remain the worst train accident in recent Canadian history.
A news article remembering the disaster: Edmonton Journal.