Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1991, February 6 - A VIA Rail Ottawa to Toronto train comes close to a head on with a CP Rail switching movement
just outside Smiths Falls

It was recorded on this  video 1991SmithsFallsNear
Ottawa Citizen 8 February 1991

Engineers jump for their lives as trains nearly collide
By Mike Blanchfield Citizen police reporter Two engineers Jumped for their lives from a moving VIA passenger train after they spotted a freight train headed towards them on the same tracks, railroad officials say.
"They were bearing down on a heavy locomotive. Had they hit they would have been the first to feel it," Ken Truesdell, an investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said this morning.
He said one the engineers suffered minor injuries after he rolled in a ditch. Emergency brakes had been applied on the passenger train and the CP Rail freight train and they came to a stop without colliding.
The trains were travelling no faster than about 30 kilometres an hour, said Truesdell.
Via spokesman Dianne Graham and CP spokesman Paul Thurston said they did not know how far apart the trains were. when they eventually stopped.
Truesdell said a full investigation was to start today. He would not comment on whether an error played a role in both trains being on the track.
"All we know (now) is the VIA train had rights to that track at that time," said Thurston.
Three crew members on the CP Rail train were shunting freight cars near the Smiths Falls station to create a larger, main-line train.
While the engineers had the scare of their lives, for the 147 passengers the near miss was only a minor inconvenience, stopping the train for about three minutes, Truesdell said.
"I'm sure as far as anyone on the train is concerned, nothing happened," he said.
The train was travelling from Ottawa to Toronto on Wednesday afternoon.
The freight train backed up and switched to another track, allowing the VIA train to continue to Toronto.
It arrived 20 minutes late.

Ottawa Citizen 12 February 1991

Near crash of VIA, freight train probed
It may take months to discover why a freight train and passenger train almost collided head-on near Smiths Falls Wednesday, transport officials said Monday.
Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have to analyse recorders and dispatchers' tapes and interview witnesses before compiling their findings in a report, said safety board spokesman Jim Harris.
"There's quite a lot of work ahead of us," he said.
The report will include recommenda-' tions on how to avoid a similar incident,,; and will be submitted to a Transport Canada board.
The board then has 90 days to respond to the recommendations, said Peter Schnobb, public affairs liaison with Transport Canada.
"If there's a safety problem, we'll act on it right away," he said. "Otherwise we'll bide our time and wait for whatever the report comes out with."
Crew aboard the Toronto-bound VIA Rail train carrying 147 passengers and a CP Rail freight train sighted one another and engineers applied emergency brakes.
The CP Rail train had stopped and was beginning to reverse when one engineer jumped out of the VIA train, according to VIA Rail spokesman Malcolm Andrews. The conductor suffered a minor injury to his hand.
Andrews defended the engineer's decision to jump as a moral one. "Once the train's emergency brakes are applied, there's nothing more the engineer can do," he said.
Though the brakes were hit, Andrews said, the wheels probably slid along the tracks and caused him to panic.
"He can't serve the passengers' interests by staying there and waiting for the impact."
VIA Rail, CP Rail, and CN Rail will also conduct internal investigations to trace the cause of the incident.

Colin Churcher (Chief Railway Safety Inspector) rode with the engineer involved a few weeks after this. He mentioned that coming round the curve he was able to spot the headlight of the CP movement through the bushes which were not yet in full leaf. A couple of weeks later in the year and the headlight would not have been visible, the brakes would have been applied later and a collision could very well have happened.

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Updated 17 August 2020