TRACKSIDE TREASURE TRACKS BUFFER CARS
Trackside Treasure has tracked (pun intended) the buffer car implementation since the additional cars were first observed. You'll find posts tracking the buffer cars over the past six months, the secretive testing performed for VIA, the initial HATCH engineering report, national media and trade press articles trying to get to the bottom of what was occurring, and my retrospective post showing daily changes to the Corridor HEP consists. From what I've seen, Trackside Treasure has hosted the most comprehensive coverage of buffer cars.
Why? I have to ask myself why this has become such a pursuit for me, besides my obvious interest in daily VIA operations as a VIAphile. The answer is - secrecy. It's been frustrating to see interested parties try to divine 'the answers' while others fan the flames with speculation. In the course of this implementation, several 'sources familiar' and silent partners, some from within VIA itself, have shared information. Rail enthusiasts, consist-takers and videographers have posted consists, photos and observations. All the while, VIA has remained silent for all intents and purposes, or so it seems. For example, the cars for compression testing were sent to Ottawa at night, stripped and wrapped, apparently to make visual identification impossible.
After the issuance of the Transport Canada ministerial order, and the passage of the reporting dates set out by the order, it has only been through Access to Information (ATI) requests that I have been able to personally obtain definitive data from VIA.
This is disappointing to me. I'm a taxpayer, and you are likely one, too. We're all potential VIA passengers. Many of us have VIA trains passing through our communities, sharing tracks with freight and other trains. We are owed some sort of accountability, if not transparency. Imagine the outcry if similar deficiencies were found in the national airline fleet and kept quiet by the air carriers, or detected by auto manufacturers without recall notices being issued! Fortunately, there is recourse for individuals in the face of this silence, and it's thanks to existing access-to-information legislation.
FINALLY - VIA PROVIDES INFORMATION!
In response to the aforementioned ATI requests, VIA fulfilled its responsibilities under its own Governance & Ethics policies. I have found their responses professional and responsive. No restrictions were placed on sharing this information by VIA.
I'm a railfan, not a professional engineer, or even a locomotive engineer! I'm interested in car names and numbers, the future of VIA's fleet that I can observe and photograph, and more generally, safe and reliable rail transportation within Canada. The reports provided to me are engineering reports, and more complex than I'm used to dealing with. So I'm not able to divine details from graphs nor parrot a lot of engineering terminology that I'll either have to define, or that you need to Google! Elements from the reports are contained in the following sections. Let's get to the results!
REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE MINISTERIAL ORDER
- 1 - Implement buffer cars (October 19, 2022)
- 2 - Engineering simulation of predicted HEP car collision performance (October 31, 2022)
- 3 - Tear-down inspection of four HEP cars with structural defects (January 31, 2023)
- 4 - Static structural test of two unrepaired HEP cars (January 31, 2023)
- 5 - Final report incorporating 2, 3, 4 (March 31, 2023)
- 6 - Static structural test of one repaired HEP car (December 31, 2023)
- i) a complete strip-down of each car,
- ii) accessing by cutting and cleaning inspection visually inaccessible areas, and
- iii) detailed inspections.
Both cars successfully passed the structural criteria of the tests, based on three pass/fail criteria:
- There were no visible cracks, fractures, separations or permanent deformation within the vehicle structure.
- Strain gauge readings showed no stress values exceeding allowable yield strength of structural members.
- Residual strain readings are below defined criteria after removal of maximum load, confirming no permanent deformation.