Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

2021, September 2 - Two CNR freight trains collide at Prescott, derailing four locomotives and 16 cars, one minor injury

This video gives excellent coverage of the restoration work although some details of the accident are erroneous 

The collision occurred where the spur to the Kriska Warehouse complex joins the main line CNR Kingston subdivision
Locomotives involver:
CN 149 - CN 3046/3102
CN 532 - CN 4799/IC 9629

CBC News 2 September 2021

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is investigating a collision between cargo trains in Prescott, Ont., that left one person with minor injuries.
Firefighters, paramedics, police and officers from the Canadian National Railway (CN) responded to the site, about 90 kilometres south of Ottawa, just after 10:30 a.m.
CN says four locomotives derailed, including two that ended up on their side, and about 16 cars in total were derailed in various positions.
One crew member on a train suffered minor injuries, but the whole crew was taken to hospital as a precaution, according to a statement from CN.
The TSB has deployed a team of investigators to the crash site.
(Click here to see TSB Investigation)

Ottawa Citizen 3 September 2021

2021, September 2 - Two CNR freight trains collide at Prescott, derailing four locomotives and 16 cars, one minor injury.
The collision on the main CN Rail line just west of Edward Street startled residents and workers with a loud bang shortly before 10:30 a.m., leaving two locomotives on their side near the town’s water tower and containers strewn across the immediate area.
In a statement, CN indicated four locomotives had derailed and approximately 16 cars had also “derailed in various positions.” It appeared that the damaged cars extended just east of the overpass. There was a minor fuel leak from one of the locomotives.

Ontario Provincial Police said one person was hurt.
"One individual only from incident with minor injuries," the OPP reported via Twitter.

CN confirmed that one crew member was in stable condition; the other crew members were taken to hospital as a precaution.
While there was no sign of a fire at the scene, police were keeping curious onlookers at a distance as officials tried to confirm whether any chemicals were involved.

“No fires or dangerous goods have been reported,” according to the CN statement.
A notice on the town’s website confirmed there is no danger to the public.
“None of the overturned box cars were carrying hazardous substances and following a meeting of the Town of Prescott Emergency Management Group, there are currently no concerns for the safety and well-being of residents,” the statement noted.

Prescott Towing owner Steve Rainey was at his business on Churchill Road West when the collision occurred.
“I thought it was an earthquake,” he said. “It shook the ground, for sure.”

Other bystanders from different parts of town also reported hearing the crash.
The Edward Street overpass was closed as of noon, but reopened to vehicles and pedestrians by 1 p.m. Rail cars on the north track were blocking the Boundary Street crossing, but the Sophia Street crossing was open to traffic. The Boundary crossing remained closed into the evening.

There were no longer rail cars blocking Boundary Street as of early Friday morning, and the barricade at Churchill Road had been removed. A crew was on the scene and appeared to be testing the crossing signals.

“I am very thankful that the train derailment in Prescott has not resulted in loss of life, and that we fortunately managed to avoid even more serious consequences earlier today,” Mayor Brett Todd stated in a revised town release on Thursday afternoon.
“While our thoughts and best wishes are with the injured CN employee, a walk through the scene of the collision made it clear that this could have been much worse. I am also grateful to have avoided significant damage to Prescott infrastructure like our Edward Street rail overpass and utility connections in the area, and that this incident did not involve hazardous materials.”

CN indicated the cause of the collision is under investigation. As for the cleanup effort and when the main line might reopen to freight and passenger rail traffic, no details had been provided as of mid-afternoon. Heavy machinery had started arriving by late afternoon; the clean-up effort was in full swing early Friday morning.
Although the overpass is open, the public is being asked not to congregate there. Dozens of people were standing on the overpass at about 6 p.m. There were barricades at the top of the overpass to keep northbound and southbound vehicles away from pedestrians on both sides of the structure.

“The company apologizes to local residents for the inconvenience caused by this incident,” the statement read. “CN thanks the first responders at the scene.”

Thursday’s incident was the worst local derailment in 16 years.
It was a hot Monday afternoon in early July 2005 when an eastbound freight train with about 50 empty tanker cars derailed just east of the Edward Street overpass. No injuries were reported. About 2,000 feet of main track was destroyed. An investigation concluded that a portion of track had buckled in the heat.

Bob Moore writes 2 September 2021
Attached is a "track plan" of the layout at Prescott.  The northernmost track is a "passing siding" that lets the local freight, #532, pull off the North mainline to do its switching into the "Kriska" spur.  The Eastern entrance to this passing siding is shown on the map. 

Typically, #532 will park cars on the passing siding and do its work in the industrial complex.  When it's finished, if it has no further work to do East of Prescott, it can run around the train on the North main west to Sophia St (not shown on the map), enter the passing siding, couple up to its train, and head back West to Brockville.
This is the route that #149 took.  It was on the North track, entered the passing siding, and hit #532 was coming out of the "Kriska" spur according to some bystanders.  However, it's not clear exactly where #532 was when it was hit.  It could have been parked on the passing siding west of the switch into the "Kriska" spur.
The 2nd locomotive on #149 is on its side.  As you can see from the attached photos (not mine), freight cars East of the Edward St bridge are still on the tracks ... there are a couple of exceptions.  Cars west of Edward St are all over the place. All 3 tracks ... passing siding, North Main, South Main ... are all torn up.
I drove by the site on our way back from Brockville this evening.  Best view is from the West side of the Edward St bridge.  However, don't try to get up close.  Police, CN watchmen, and rerail contractor are all over the place from Sophia St to East of Edward St.  Freight cars from #149 hadn't yet been moved.
#530 picks up and drops off tank cars at the former DuPont plant - Hydrogen peroxide and other goodies.  It also drops off full LNG cars at the ethanol plant in Johnstown, a bit East of Prescott. It could have been a lot worse.

Don Whiting writes as follows on 5 September 2021

It was suggested to me that I send you an eye witness report of the CN collision at Prescott on Sept 2nd.

I was at the old Prescott station that morning taking photos of train movements as I usually do when I drop my wife of for her hair appointments.

I had just watched a VIA pass at around 10:10 east bound and shortly after a CN passed going east bound.  As I waited in the car, I heard the crossing bells at the crossing and the whistle from another train.  I ran to my usual spot to see what was coming with cell phone ready to take a photo.  It was a CN west bound.  For a split second, it looked out of place on the mainline.  Suddenly it veered to the left and the collision happened.  Cars were going every which way and a grey hopper car went up on end and came down on the east bound track.  Even where I was the noise was terrible.  I froze for a second from what I seen, and then two quick photos as a cloud of dust went up.  At that point I called 911 and spoke to the OPP which took a statement from me as to what I witnessed. This collision could have been a lot worse if one of the previous trains had been passing the location at the same time, or if it had been a west bound VIA.

Don Whiting photo

Other pictures of the wreck

Photo by Don Whiting

Photo by Luc Lanthier

Photo by Luc Lanthier

Photo by Luc Lanthier

Photo by Luc Lanthier

Photo by Luc Lanthier

Photo by Luc Lanthier

The Follow Up
Brockville Recorder and Times 3 September 2021

Prescott Derailment Cleanup Continues

3 Septermber 2021 Prescott Ontario - Crews remain at the scene of a train derailment in Prescott on Friday morning.
Many of the "approximately 16" cars that derailed in the Thursday morning collision involving two cargo trains had been cleared from the scene just west of the Edward Street overpass by 07:00, Friday, CN officials said.
One crew member was injured in the incident, OPP and CN reported on Thursday.
The Boundary Street crossing, which had been blocked into the night, reopened by early Friday morning.
The Recorder and Times is awaiting an update from CN on the cleanup and investigation.
Rail tracks just west of the overpass had also been removed by early Friday morning.
Two locomotives remained on their sides on the northern edge of the main line.
The collision and derailment did not cause a fire, and no hazardous materials were reportedly involved.
There was a minor fuel leak from a locomotive, according to CN.
"I want to thank our dedicated Prescott Volunteer Fire Department for such outstanding work on the scene, along with our always impressive partners with the Grenville OPP, all other first responders, and of course, CN," Prescott mayor Brett Todd stated in a town news release Thursday

Bob Moore Writes 3 September 2021
I spent the day down in Prescott doing my usual sidewalk superintending.  The South main line got reconnected with panel track, ballasted and tamped..  Shipping containers and well cars were moved out of the way.  Most busted containers were loaded on flatbeds and trucked off to Montreal.
However, it was quite a while before things started happening with #3102, the 2nd locomotive on #149. Early in the day, they moved a side-boom alongside #3102 on the North side. They then moved the crane in to do whatever but decided that wasn't going to work.  So it got moved out of the way and a 2nd side boom came alongside #3102 on the South side. 
The two hy-rail power shovels then picked up a 75'- 95' chunk of track from the south main that had been pushed out of the way on the south side and lifted/ dragged it up to #3102.  After the lads replaced missing ties, the two power shovels pushed and shoved the track about halfway/ a third of the way underneath #3102.  The rear truck of #3102 was then placed on the track. One of the side booms then went to the front end, along with another larger power shovel.  I guess the idea was to lift the front nose of #3102 and push it onto the rest of the track. 
In the meantime, the young lads started laying panel track from the switch on the passing siding up to the end of the rail that #3102 was on.

Bob Moore photo

Bob Moore photo

Bob Moore photo

Photo by Luc Lanthier

Bob Moore writes 4 September  2021

I reappeared on the scene this morning.  #3102 and #???? had been moved to the back track part of the passing siding.  The two locos on #532 hadn't been touched.  Crews were working from the East end of the passing siding and from the Kriska spur to join them together so that customers in the Kriska spur could be serviced by Monday. 
The side booms were being dismantled and loaded onto floats for trucking away.  I guess the two switchers will be moved another day.  They're well out of the way where they lay.
The grey blob that you see on the left side of the last of my photos you posted is a covered hopper that was moved out of the way.  When #149 hit that car, the car flew up in the air and did a 180 degree flip, then landed on its back.  No attempt is being made to move the cars from #532 that were parked on the passing track as they're out of the way for now. 
First train thru last night westbound on the South mainline at 20:30.  North mainline is all connected and ballasted but as of 12:30 when I left, no trains had been over it.  An intermodal went thru on the south mainline track around10:00.  After that, the ballast tamper and regulator were reworking the ballast on the South mainline so no further trains while I was there. 
Shipping containers have mostly been trucked away although some are being chewed up on site.  Wheels, bogies, well cars still have to be trucked away.  Piles of scrap rail and ties still have to be cleaned up.  Amazing to see a well car bent 90 degrees from the impact.

Ottawa Citizen 4 September 2021

Crews remain on the scene of a train derailment just west of the Edward Street overpass in Prescott - 4 Sep 2021 Tim Ruhnke.

Rail Tracks Back in Service After Prescott Freight Train Derailment
4 September 2021
Prescott Ontario - Most of the cars that had derailed in the Thursday morning collision involving two freight trains just west of the Edward Street overpass had been cleared from the scene as of late Friday afternoon.
One crew member was injured in the incident, OPP and CN reported on Thursday.
The process of clearing what CN had indicated were about 16 derailed cars continued through the night and Friday.
Rail tracks just west of the overpass had been removed by early Friday morning.
A section of damaged track just east of the overpass was being replaced late Friday afternoon 
Two locomotives remained on their sides near the siding on the northern edge of the main line on Saturday afternoon.
In an update issued late Friday afternoon, CN indicated that the south track was scheduled to return to operation by 20:00, Friday.
Partial service was indeed restored on Friday night as trains at reduced speeds began to make their way through Prescott again.
By mid-afternoon on Saturday, the north track had been replaced and was in use.
"Both tracks have now been safely reopened and train circulation has resumed," CN stated in a release on Saturday.
"Crews will continue to work with local first responders to safely clear the remaining derailed locomotives and cars."
The collision and derailment did not cause a fire, and no hazardous materials were reportedly involved.
There was a minor fuel leak from a locomotive, according to CN.
"I want to thank our dedicated Prescott volunteer Fire Department for such outstanding work on the scene, along with our always impressive partners with the Grenville OPP, all other first responders, and of course, CN," Prescott Mayor Brett Todd stated in a town news release Thursday.
Todd also said the outcome could have been much worse, noting that infrastructure such as the overpass was spared serious damage.
The investigation into the cause of the collision and derailment is ongoing, CN Rail indicated.
"CN would like to apologize for the inconvenience resulting from this incident."
The company has not confirmed in its statements how many rail cars in total were on the tracks at the time of the collision and derailment and how many crew members were involved.
All were taken to hospital as a precaution, CN reported on Thursday.
Although the overpass was open to vehicles and pedestrians, the town had asked the public to avoid congregating on the structure and near the derailment scene.
There were dozens of people standing on the overpass and watching the activity below late Friday afternoon.
There were about 20 people there late Saturday afternoon.
The Boundary Street crossing, which had been blocked by rail cars on the north track following the collision and derailment, reopened to traffic late Thursday night.

CP Rail Safety Flash 2 September 2021

Transportation Safety Board Investigation

Rail transportation safety investigation R21H0114

This is the introduction to the above investigation:

Canadian National (CN)
Mile 113.3, Kingston Subdivision
Prescott, Ontario
2 September 2021

The occurrence
On 2 September 2021, a Canadian National (CN) freight train (CN 149) was proceeding westward on the CN Kingston Subdivision when it collided head-on with train CN 532, which was stationed on the north main track in Prescott, Ontario. As a result of the collision, the head locomotive on both trains and a total of 16 cars (14 on CN 149 and 2 on CN 532) derailed and sustained significant damage. Approximately 1000 feet of the south main track and north main track, and a spur track nearby were destroyed. Two crew members involved sustained minor injuries and one crew member sustained serious injuries. The TSB is investigating.

CBC News 13 March 2024

Alcohol a Possible Factor in Prescott Train Crash

Prescott Ontario - The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says alcohol was a possible factor in a serious collision between two trains in Prescott two and a half years ago, but a rail safety expert says the watchdog's report falls short by failing to include recommendations.
Three crew members were injured, one seriously, in the head-on crash on the morning of 2 Sep 2021, when a CN freight train pulling 202 double-stacked container cars crashed into another CN train consisting of two engines.
TSB Investigation Report R21H0114 released Wednesday found the rail traffic controller (RTC), who was stationed in Edmonton at the time of the collision, had an elevated blood alcohol level hours after the crash.
The RTC's blood-alcohol level likely ranged from 0.064 percent to 0.109 percent when he started his shift earlier that morning, and from 0.044 percent to 0.069 percent at the time of the collision, the TSB found.
According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, that's enough alcohol to affect one's judgment and diminish their attention.
A report by the chief medical review officer "indicated that the RTC was either drinking alcohol at the beginning of his shift or had significant alcohol intake the early morning, or the night before work," the TSB said.
"This was an accident that resulted from a convergence of several factors, not just the consumption of alcohol.
But certainly that was a red flag for us, a warning, that more needs to be done to reduce the risk of railway employees conducting their activities, their work, while impaired," TSB chair Kathy Fox told CBC News.
3 Injured in Head-On Crash
Those factors also included the RTC's busy workload and his ability to override the safety system despite a warning.
The TSB found the RTC asked the utility train to clear the main track around 09:47 and wait on a spur line to allow the freight train to pass on its way to Toronto.
A little over 30 minutes later, the crew of the first train asked the RTC to allow it back onto the main track to continue toward Brockville.
That involved a crew member manually switching the track, the TSB said.
The RTC approved the request despite a warning showing on his monitor that another train was within a 23 kilometre limit of the switch.
Instead of pressing "abort" on the screen, he pressed "continue," allowing the track to be switched, the TSB said.
As the westbound freight train approached the switch, the crew realized the error and attempted to brake.
However, the train was forced onto the spur line where it collided head-on with the waiting train at around 60 kPh.
One crew member on the utility train suffered serious injuries and had to be hospitalized, while two others on the same train suffered minor injuries.
No one on the freight train was hurt.
"It was significant because it was a head-on collision between two trains," said Fox, who noted one of the trains involved consisted only of two locomotives
"But it could have been a train carrying cars with dangerous goods. It could have been a passenger train," she said.
Four engines, two on each train, were heavily damaged and derailed in the collision, and 14 freight cars also derailed.
The crash caused significant damage to a total of about 300 metres of both the main track and the spur line, the TSB said.
"That's a major collision, that shouldn't happen," said Ian Naish, a rail safety consultant and former director of rail investigations for the TSB.
"I'm surprised nobody died."
CN Expert Question Lack of Recommendations
Naish said he had two big takeaways from the report that show "significant safety deficiencies."
The first was the presence of a manual switch, when he believes electronic switch locks could have prevented the collision because they would have identified that there was already a train on the tracks.
The second issue, said Naish, was that the TSB didn't make any recommendations on the switch system or impairment rules for rail employees.
"It shouldn't be that big a deal to make a recommendation," Naish said, adding that he would have done so.
"There's nothing wrong recommending Transport Canada to take a look."
Fox, the TSB's chair, said while the board stopped short of making recommendations in this case, it did express concern that at the time of the collision there was no policy under the Railway Safety Act prohibiting employees from consuming alcohol within a certain period before their shift.
She said the federal transport minister can change rules prohibiting alcohol or drugs without having to amend the act.
Transport Canada said it's working on a response after CBC requested an interview.
The TSB also pointed out that CN has zero tolerance for impairment, but "individuals are expected to self-assess and determine if the effects of alcohol have sufficiently diminished to be fit for duty."
In contrast, it found aviation regulations prohibit the operation of aircraft within 12 hours of consuming alcohol, and prohibit air traffic controllers from drinking within eight hours of their shift.
In a statement to CBC, CN said it's disappointed the TSB didn't issue any recommendations concerning drug and alcohol consumption.
"CN remains firm in its belief that random testing employees in safety-critical positions is the only way to deter impairment at work," it said.
Fox said the TSB has investigated five incidents in the last 29 years in which alcohol or drugs were considered a factor, but weren't necessarily the cause.
Author unknown.

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Updated 14 March 2024