Thursday, September 23, 2021

CN Derailment at Amherst View, September 2021


I was awake for a mere 20 minutes on Wednesday, September 22 and preparing for the arrival of our grandson for the day when the phone rang. It was my son notifying me of a CN derailment in Amherst View at the foot of the Loyalist Township water tower there. This sports field is the very site at which my railfanning career began, so I tuned into the online coverage right away. Many early-morning VIA trains never left their cities of origin and CN had freights staged on both sides of the derailment, which occurred around 0600. It's amazing how one car can bring the country's busiest line to a screeching halt. [My kingdom for a nail! - see below]
I nipped out and made my way to the site around 1140 during our grandson's nap. (Don't worry, his grandmother was at home keeping an eye on him!) Most of the local Twittersphere, alerted to the derailment around 0600 by the Ontario Provincial Police, was interested in which level crossings were blocked on their way to work. Coronation Boulevard, just to the east was blocked mainly for putting on hi-rail equipment, opened to traffic at 0830. I wanted to know more - train ID, circumstances, plans for clean-up and other nuts-and-bolts information! Trackside Treasure inquisitive minds need to know! This John Wilson photo was posted to Twitter:
The train was CN No 368, that left CN's Toronto MacMillan Yard for Montreal at 2300 hours on September 21. The train was 162 cars in length, and the rear part still remaining at the site, on the south track, was empty paper/lumber boxcars and centrebeam flat cars. This area is known for slack action and a see-saw profile. A train full of empties is a challenge here. I arrived at the sports field via Fairfield Boulevard, staying clear of the mass of CN vehicles on both sides of Coronation Boulevard!
Reports of a single derailed car did not mention that it was TBOX 660669. It was now considerably more perpendicular to the roadbed than in the Twitter photo! The east end had been rerailed, and news reports indicate it was loaded with tomato paste! Two excavators were working on its west end. The east-end drawbar was found an estimated three carlengths away, between the rails.
CN's road-rail crane (above) and Belleville road repair truck (below) were on the north and south tracks, respectively. Notice the new ties needed for the estimated 200 feet of torn-up track structure, dropped off by the local section forces from a boom-equipped hi-rail truck.
Steadying the TBOX with a hi-rail Railavator brought to Coronation Boulevard on a float truck, and pulling out parts of the running gear:

Progress was relatively swift. Foreman Brent was in charge of the site, and Signal Maintainer Leonard released the north crossing at Coronation Boulevard just to the east at 1230. CN No 518 was light power; CN 5783-8825 had come east from Belleville via Ernestown around 0920. They were ready to take the tail-end of the train west to Belleville yard. I believe the TBOX and its adjacent boxcar were set out in Millhaven. (The head-end had continued east toward its destination.) They coupled on, having waited a few carlengths west of the tail-end at Mile 183:
The above photo is taken from a well-worn path across the tracks in five seconds. 
The locomotives were NOT moving!

It was a busy day for the Rail Traffic Controller in Edmonton (No Problem!) and local section forces. Train movements through the site:

  • CN No 271, empty auto racks, halted near Queens at 0800, was recrewed and OS 1500 past the site. It reached Doncaster at 2200.
  • CN No 121, Halifax-Toronto intermodal, stopped near Leeds around 0900, OS 1600. Having left Turcot at 2200 on September 21, it reached BIT 24 hours later!
  • VIA No 40 was more or less on time, and was the first train through the site, heading east from Ernestown past No 518, after the north track was released at 1230.
  • VIA Nos 65 and 64 were through next.
  • CN No 731's westward progress was expedited due to its crew being short on time, 848 axles OS 1450. Interestingly, it passed Aldershot at 2115.
  • VIA No 42 was the first train through the south track. There was a 10 mph restriction on this track between Mi 183-182.
  • VIA No 47 was next on the north track.
  • CN No 120 with 624 axles, OS 1615. Nos 120/121 are normally nocturnal!
  • CN No 109 was making its way west at Kings around 1700.
  • CN No 377 and 376 were approaching, plus the regular evening VIA trains were on their way.
I can recall two other derailments in this area. In March, 1980 this train also derailed some boxcars at the sports field. On August 1, 2008 seven cars of corn derailed, east of the 1980 site. As my brother wryly noted, perhaps such slack-generated derailments have been occurring in this hog's-back profile since the days of the Grand Trunk Railway! Here is your humble blogger with a broken knuckle discovery nearby in spring, 1979. (L.C. Gagnon photo - his late afternoon shadow visible at left.) Also, note the clean and clear right-of-way with two white wooden whistle posts, mileboard on telegraph pole, and white concrete milepost visible in the distance:

Running extra...

I hope you voted and that your vote counted in Monday's election. Turnout was brisk despite Canadians generally grumbling about government. I found poll workers knowledgeable and helpful. And good news - I haven't heard about anyone storming our Parliament to overturn the results!

This unattributed saying "For Want of a Nail", looms large in terms of little things becoming Brobdingnagian: 
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the battle was lost;
For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost—
All for the want of a horse-shoe nail.


  1. Good, timely reporting....Thank you....greatly appreciated.
    Fred mills

  2. Glad you enjoyed the post, Fred. I was happy to see CN having derailments that are well-timed for my weekly posting schedule. Out and home in 30 minutes!

    Thanks for your comment - great to have you aboard!

  3. Allow me to second what Mr.Mills stated. Indeed that stretch of the Kingston subdivision had been affectionately tagged as knuckle alley by many of the steam era engineers I worked with in the 70’s and 80’s. To point where CN issued specific train handling instructions requiring reduced throttle settings through that area eastbound.

    That stretch of trackage emphatically illustrated how slack action could morph a freight train into a musical instrument. Suddenly it became an accordion ��

    Your story was an interesting read. Thanks Eric.

    Pointe Claire Quebec

  4. Thank you, Ken! I have a 1931 CN employees' timetable that contains an instruction to limit speed to 25 mph at Collins Bay station eastbound and to cut off the steam 2.5 miles before that. Exactly what you mentioned.

    I'm going to have to find that photo of a younger version of me with a knuckle at that very spot! Probably the one we brought home for posterity and historical preservation purposes!

    Thanks for your comment!

  5. Thanks very much for this report
    David, Ottawa

  6. Great report, Eric! I'm glad there were no injuries.

  7. Thanks, Ken and Steve. I am left to wonder whether there were any cans/buckets/barrels of tomato paste harmed in the making of this derailment.



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