Friday, December 28, 2012

Terrible News

CN Clover Bar yard
The CBC was reporting that 3 contract workers were hit by a train near Edmonton in the morning of Boxing Day (December 26). The three work for A&B Rail Services and were contracted to clear snow off the tracks at the CN Clover Bar rail yard just outside Edmonton. It appears that it happened here... I was right at that spot back in June 2010.

The CBC story says they were using snowblowers and had the appropriate hearing protection on, so there was no way they could have heard an approaching train. They were struck by a train traveling at approximately 40 km/hr. Two are in critical condition and one has minor injuries.

CTV Edmonton is reporting that a stop-work order has been issued and several agencies are investigating, including the Transportation Safety Board (TSB, who issued a brief statement) and Occupational Healthy and Safety.

The Edmonton Journal is reporting that two of the workers will be released soon, but the third, aged 20, is facing a long recovery. The Journal also quotes a TSB official as saying that a Safety Watch should have been in effect to warn the workers of the oncoming train.

There is not much information available online about CN's Safety Watch program. CN's Safety web page has not been substantially updated for a couple of years. As far as I can gather, a Safety Watch requires one worker to be solely dedicated to watching out for trains and other hazards and be in a position to alert the other workers in a timely manner. The Safety Watch person must not do any other work. Time will tell what happened here but clearly the system did not work for these workers.

This situation is reminiscent of the July 2011 incident near Durham, Ontario where one rail worker was killed due to an inadequate safety watch. CN updated its procedures but clearly more needs to be done to ensure the safety of CN workers and contractors.

My best wishes to the injured men and to their families for the recovery ahead.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

CN's Mystery Train

CN 7068 in Saint John

This is a bizarre story.

In early December, the CBC reported on a "mystery train" running biodiesel between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan in June 2010. Apparently the same tank cars were shuttled back and forth without ever unloading them. CN reportedly stood to make $2.6 million moving these cars on CN 503 to Port Huron and CN 504 returning to Sarnia.

The Canadian shipper was apparently Bioversel Inc., whose website has gone dark... however has a copy (it's hard to really delete stuff on the Internet!). The US side apparently involved at least two companies, HeroBX and Northern Biodiesel.

That was all very interesting. At the time I figured there must have been some tax credits involved. I was "on the right track" but not quite correct.

It turns out that biofuel credits were involved, according to the CBC. The article explains that Bioversel stood to gain somewhere between $6 million and $12 million dollars in renewable fuel credits for the 12 train loads of biodiesel that were "imported" into the USA. You should read the article to get the details - it's a bit complicated. According to the article, the loads were sold to US companies as biodiesel, then sold back to Bioversel as ethanol and shipped back again.

CN's role in this was to ship the cars back and forth. According to the article, there are reports from CN employees that they were concerned about the shipments but were told by managers in Sarnia that this was lucrative for the company. The aim was to get as many "flips" as possible in the month, according to this memo. It spells it right out.

CN has vowed cooperation in a probe by the Canadian Border Services Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

I'm sure there will be more to come!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

VIA Rail Holiday Contest

VIA leaving Winnipeg
VIA Rail is running a holiday contest on Facebook. You can go "sound the horn" and enter the contest to win travel credits. So far over 8,000 horns have been sounded.

The site is which redirects you to Facebook. You will have to supply your email address.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


VIA 6400 in McGivney

The CBC is reporting that the northern New Brunswick mayors are pushing to restore VIA's Ocean and keep the CN rail line.

Cities like Bathurst or Campbellton are suffering from the dual loss of half of the Ocean service and the Acadian bus service. With CN's threat to abandon the northern line, only four years after buying it back from the New Brunswick East Coast Railway, the region is in serious trouble. I'm glad to see politicians are starting to step up.

Brian Kenny, MLA for Bathurst, will be moving a resolution in the provincial Legislature on December 20 to urge the provincial government to demand federal assistance for the line. I'm not sure how much impact an opposition MLA is going to have, but every bit helps and kudos to him for stepping up too.

More voices are needed.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Holiday Train Cometh

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
The Canadian Pacific Railway is running its Holiday Train again this year, and it will be in Winnipeg tonight! I plan to go see it, like I did last year.

You can check out the schedule here (Canadian detail here).

The weather looks like it will be decent here in Winnipeg, so hopefully I'll get some good pictures to share.

EDIT: You may have noticed I didn't post any photos. I had the day wrong and it was in Winnipeg on December 5... not the 6th. Oops.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Canadian Pacific Cuts Coming

CP 8776 in Calgary
The CBC is reporting that Canadian Pacific Railways is going to cut 1,700 jobs in the next month and 4,500 jobs by 2016. The cuts are part of new CEO Hunter Harrison's plan to streamline CP to make it more competitive.

CP has posted a "new vision for the future" on their site. Plans including closing hump yards in Toronto, Winnipeg, Chicago and Calgary, improving train speeds, reducing their dependence on leased locomotives and cars, moving their corporate HQ to Ogden Yard, sell off the western portion of the former DM and E, and possibly sell off the Delaware and Hudson.

It's clear that CP needs to improve its operating ratio but I'm sure these cuts are going to be controversial. It seems strange to close hump yards - they are supposed to make switching more efficient - but what do I know?

One might wonder if CP is being reduced and streamlined in order to make it more attractive for an acquisition or merger...

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Canadian: Ghost Train Crossing Canada

Jeff Friesen has a very interesting project. He is taking the Canadian across Canada to photograph it in some very beautiful settings.

Of course I mean the 1955 Canadian Pacific Canadian. And he's carrying it in a Co-Op bag.

How? He is photographing the Rapido Trains Canadian model in some very beautiful locations all across this great country. Check out his gorgeous gallery. My favourites are the Canadian at Lake Louise and the train going under the waterfall. You can buy prints, too.

Photo gallery