The derailment of an eastbound freight on CN's Kingston Sub on March 15, 1980 blocked both mainline tracks. At 0345, a broken drawbar led to six loaded auto racks and two CN combination-door boxcars of canned goods derailing at Mi 182 in Amherstview, just west of Kingston. Two freights and the westbound 15-car overnight VIA Cavalier behind were held at Queens West.
A front-end loader drove down the north track and pushed the crazily-tilted CN 557410 over so it was no longer fowling the north track. Shattered trucks and draft gear littered the south track. Two Geeps and a caboose arrived from Belleville to haul away the last 25-30 cars of the train. This was all presided over by at least three 'white hats', one of whom reported on the situation using a telephone rigged into lineside wires. This was the pre-cell phone era.
With the north track clear and all but the derailed cars on the south track, repair of damaged ties began. Section forces from around the area were on scene. A slow order would remain in place at this location for two weeks.
A March break Saturday, a cool day with clear skies, and good visibility from soccer field to the south and farm fields to the north made monitoring the crews' progress easy. A signal maintainer moved lineside wires to the top cross-arm, to allow more room for the cranes to operate during re-railing:
At 1100, the Toronto Auxiliary arrived. Some of the auxiliary crew huddled on the boom car, and as they passed the site, they had a look at what they'd soon be contending with. Consist:
60113 tie car
57551 lighting flatcar
50397 auxiliary crane
59012 auxiliary tender
60337 cable/tool car
43621 generator/clothes dryer boxcar
41410 white fleet boarding car
78338 wooden caboose complete with marker lamps
No-one was in a particular hurry to do anything. Methodically, safely, the work proceeded with an air of "Oh, we've done this before". The auxiliary consist was shuffled in Kingston, then returned to the site in the early afternoon with 50397 in the lead, ready to go into action:
Road-rail crane RC-10771 also arrived, and operated on the south, then north tracks rerailing auto racks. Outriggers and timbers were used to stabilize both cranes on the super-elevated curve. A special sling was used by 50397 to lift the tall trilevels:
Dozens of fine Chrysler products would soon arrive safely at their respective car lots due to the careful handling of the crane crews. Only a few days earlier on March 9, an eastbound CP freight derailed 12 cars at Blair Road near Cardinal, ON, destroying 500 feet of track.
Passenger trains were allowed through first (though some VIA trains had detoured over CP between Montreal and Toronto.) A plethora of pent-up freights then cleared the bottleneck in eastbound and westbound fleets, including 2322-9537 westbound at 1603, passing the auxiliary train flatcars carrying portable lighting and extra trucks:
Today, such derailments are cleaned up by contractors with side-boom Cats, and it's unlikely that access by the public would be tolerated as it was back in March, 1980. Ironically, a 5-car derailment occurred at this same location in July, 2008. For that derailment, a gravel road was laid north of the tracks, west from Coronation Boulevard to allow easy access to the site by road equipment. CN's Toronto Auxiliary would not be making any more appearances.
The derailment in this post took place less than one month after the closing ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
CP and KCS business car trains are staged at an emptied CP Burrard Inlet yard, also the centre of my Vancouver Wharves layout. Rumours abound about Union Pacific and BNSF sending business car trains north as well for Olympics hospitality. Who needs overpriced, overbooked hotel rooms?
How about those opening ceremonies, eh? Coulda done without the bad-hair-day fiddlers and giant floating canoe. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, Donald Sutherland, Jacques Villeneuve, Barbara Ann Scott, Ann Murray, Julie Payette, Betty Fox, and best hockey player in the history of hockey Number Four Bobby Orr did us proud carrying the Olympic flag.