Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Cataraqui Spur Derailment - March 4, 2020

CN's Belleville-Kingston turn No 518 derailed several cars, partly or fully, upright, on a tilt or fully horizontal on and just south of Kingston's east-west Bath Road shortly after 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 4. This train serves Kingston's Invista plant on the Cataraqui Spur every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at midday before heading west from Belleville. The train brings raw materials hexamethyldiamine in tank cars and adipic acid in covered hopper cars to supply feedstock to the plant's nylon production. The train reverses direction at Queens at Mi 175 Kingston Sub, then heads west on the south track, backs down the Cataraqui Spur crossing Tanner Drive, Centennial Drive, Armstrong Road, Bath Road, Front Road and the plant access road to reach the plant.

I wasn't the first to photograph the derailment's aftermath, but I was the last to photograph the train's head-end a minute or two before the derailment. In the top photo, CN 9427-9461 are crossing Centennial Drive, shown from Tanner Drive. After the derailment, the head-end was stopped just east of Armstrong Road. Take a look at that trackwork, or lack of it!
I'm attempting to social-blog this incident in less than nine hours after its genesis. That means, crank out a blog post using a social media 'happening-now' timeline but with slightly more information than the usual scant amount shared by social media. Back in newspaper days, the city beat reporters and photographers visited the scene,  interviewed and photographed, then headed back to the paper to type out just the facts, submitted it for editing, waited for the photogs to soup their photos, then published a fact-checked, backgrounded, edited story in the next day's edition. Nowadays, social media locals post a couple of photos, and CBC, Global and others contact them in real time to ask whether they can use the photos. Submitted photos and Googled information hurriedly gathered together, and the media outlets post their reports on a scene they've never visited.
Closeup of the Geeps, with Bayswater Drive apartments in the background. The train is backing through a curve on a trestle here, before crossing Bath Road. A 1995 derailment on the trestle resulted in more piles being added to the trestle. Backing south, a trainman rides the last (now first) car to call out crossing status to the head-end. I recently profiled the south end of this operation. In this case, news reports show a female trainman conversing with police and fire at Bath Road.
A local plaza backs onto the conservation lands and trestle here, and provided an OK location for locomotive photography. Interestingly, both locomotives feature the CN North America paint scheme and have been holding down this run since late January. 
 The full consist:
-CN 9427
-CN 9461
-JTIX 103 and five more black GACX gondolas from Kingston's Kimco Steel
-Seven tank cars with hexamethyldiamine
-Nine covered hoppers with adipic acid including:
-INVX 38761 ended up on the crossing
-MGTX 50164 derailed
-one more derailed covered hopper
-MGRX 50226 derailed
-MGRX 50100 derailed
-MGTX 50077
-KLRX 525094

UPDATE March 14: the following cars from the train are at the team track at the top of the Cataraqui Spur, with blue flag protection:
-INVX 38761 - east drawbar looks bent
-MGRX 50164 - east truck with mud on it. roofwalks damaged likely during rerailing
-MGRX 50226 - west truck with mud on it, one hatch damaged, wrapped with plastic, roofwalks damaged
-MGRX 50100 - hatch damage, side damage

Nearby was trailer CNRZ 300106 carrying container CNSU 300631 with 12 axles on it
 A view of the stopped gons and tank cars:
A view from Armstrong Road at Bath Road, the latter blocked off east of Armstrong Road and west of Queen Mary Road. This was taken about 35 minutes after the derailment.
A view across the Cataraqui Creek conservation lands with the Bayswater Apartments in background. Apartment-dwellers interviewed by local media presented contrasting police orders to evacuate or not evacuate during the unfolding aftermath. National media describe the minimally-leaked adipic acid as 'food grade' but I wouldn't sprinkle it on my Corn Flakes or add it to a Southwest Salad. It is used in cherry Jell-O, and some medicines, however 60% of adipic acid production goes to nylon-producing facilities. The stuff is a mild skin irritant and mildly toxic, and is often described by those in the field as 'pretty nasty stuff'. Rectangular UN 3077 orange labels applied to cars that carry adipic acid denotes their special lining and use to carry environmentally hazardous substance, solid, not otherwise specified, not including waste. UN 3077 placarding is also used for these nickel shipments on the CN Kingston Sub.
The angled cars and the horizontal one. It would appear problems started with the southward movement as it crossed Bath Road. After the CN eastern Canada shutdown that ended service to the plant from February 5 until February 28, the plant has only been switched February 28 and March 2. Today would have been the third post-shutdown train. Now add a few more days until shipments can reach the plant after the impending contractor cleanup.

As close as I could get. Other interested citizens began to take in the aftermath as well:
Most of the running gear from the derailed cars was in rough shape, with loose axles and truck sideframes visible in media reports. Not the first time this has happened here! 
Back to the present:
Leaving the area on Bath Road from Centennial, traffic was being rerouted up Centennial Drive. Check out that new, unreadable blue Ontario licence plate on the red crossover! The controversy over these plates originated with Kingston Police Sergeant Steve Koopman. My arrow shows the location of the southward train in this eastward-looking view of the scene.
UPDATE March 4 2300 CN Road-rail crane on the crossing working, front-end loader dumping stone for equipment access on east side of spur.
UPDATE March 5 1800 Eastbound lanes of Bath Road open. Westbound lanes were open earlier in the day.
UPDATE March 31 1200 Four cars still on team trackage at top of Cataraqui Spur. Trailer-load of axles nearby. Most of the minimal damage is on the far side (left of photo):

Conspiracy theories abounded, in typical social media fashion.:
  • green eco-terrorism
  • sabotage
  • materials placed on track to cause derailment
  • freeze-thaw cycle in swampy terrain
  • somebody wanted to see the [curling] Brier
  • CN blocked again - now my trip on VIA is off. This is NOT the mainline
  • debris in flangeways (FTW)
Lots o' links:
A 1950's aerial view of the area, showing the current location of the VIA station, the Cataraqui Spur trestle curving down towards Bath Road and the derailment site as a red 'X'. The spur was built during wartime and in the pre-strip mall era when agriculture still ruled:

Running extra...

Thanks to Andrew, Dave, Karen and Paul for the heads-up about this derailment!

Hopper cars were dropping like U.S. Democratic presidential candidates, today. If Super Tuesday was their downfall, where a good ground-game was important, this was On the Ground or Waterloo Wednesday for this tiny train. Nobody can summarize the daily ups and downs of the seemingly never-ending campaign like non-Canadian Stephen Colbert. I am tempted to do an entire post on his word-salad lead-ins to his 'MEANWHILE' segments!


Drew Makepeace said...

I didn't realize motive power of that size was used on that spur. Were trains always backed along the spur in the past, or was there previously some means of switching the motive power to the other end of the train down by the Invista/DuPont plant?

Unknown said...

As to your question about Narcity. It is an internet site that takes content (rail photos) without permission. :)


Eric said...

Short of GMD-1's and GP-9's, this is the lightest roadswitcher power CN has now. In other posts on the Cataraqui Spur, you'll see some trains that headed down power first. It's possible that they did a run-around move on the team track near the former KMart, the grain elevator siding or in-plant trackage at Invista. But the vast majority of trains backed down and headed up.

I guess I'm no fan of Narcity. Perhaps Larceny would be a better name.

Thanks for your comments, Drew and Dave!