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Freight car problem thought to be cause of Avondale wreck
STELLARTON – A Stellarton street was blocked off Wednesday by the second train derailment in Pictou County in less than a week.
Stellarton Police were called to North Foord Street yesterday around 11 a.m. when two rail cars slipped off a track owned by Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway.
Police say no cars were overturned and no spills were reported. Railway crews removed some of the cars blocking the roadway shortly after the derailment so traffic could move through the area.
Police say the roadway was completely open to traffic by mid-afternoon as workers removed more cars and continued to work at the site.
Peter Touesnard, vice-president of Rail America Inc., said the cars were travelling at a very low speed and it was not considered a serious incident.
Meanwhile, investigators are still looking into the cause of a 14-car derailment in Avondale this past weekend.
On Sunday 14 cars tumbled off about 300 metres of track operated by the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, a subsidiary of Rail America Inc., including six carrying either propane or butane and one car that had a residue of hydrogen peroxide. The other derailed cars were carrying paper.
Touesnard said a mechanical problem with a freight car is the likeliest cause of the derailment that forced the evacuation of seven families in the area. His company has ruled out criminal activity, track conditions or the handling of the train as possible causes. He said a more complete inquiry will be needed to pinpoint the mechanical problem, but the problem is in the undercarriage of a freight car.
“Typically, it’s a problem with the wheels or suspension,” he said.
Touesnard said the railway inspects the cars in the 72-car freight run, but
they are owned or leased by other firms.
“Our train crews would perform an inspection as we load and unload the cars
... and, like our personal automobiles, some things are relatively easy to
uncover and some are more challenging,” he said.
He said the company plans “rigorous” inspections of all its trains as a
followup to their initial findings.
The company’s last derailment was 2 1/2 years ago in Havre Boucher, when a mechanical problem with a box car caused several cars to derail. The railway also had a serious derailment in April 2004, when nine cars carrying propane and butane rolled off the tracks, forcing the evacuation of two schools and several homes.
In the 2004 incident, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada determined
the accident was due to problems with the track on a curved section.
Touesnard said the incident in Avondale is quite different as inspections show the track in the area is in good condition. Track inspections carried out since the Avondale incident and two days before the derailment show the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia track was within regulated standards, he said.
Compared with other railways, Touesnard said, the Cape Breton and Central
Nova Scotia line has a “very strong safety record.”
“We’ve moved 60,000 carloads ... that’s the volume that’s moved over that
line since our last accident,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, a Transportation Safety Board investigator said the
agency is looking into the Avondale derailment.
Don Ross said the inquiry will include an examination of the condition of
Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia railway tracks in the area. However, he
said it is too early to determine what caused the accident.
The seven families evacuated from their homes are staying with friends or at cottages in the area. Touesnard said he expects they will be able to return home later this week.
Hazardous materials crews were emptying the propane and butane tankers on Wednesday, he added.