'Senseless acts' could have cost lives, police say of railway vandalism

Published on July 28, 2010
The path of a derailed Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway locomotive is clearly visible where indicated by New Glasgow Police Service Const. Ken MacDonald. The switch in the background was vandalized along with another switching device farther along the track. Ray Burns – The News

NEW GLASGOW – If the words 'minor derailment' conjure up an image of something insignificant the New Glasgow Police Service and Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway say that's not the case.

"Both incidents were senseless acts of vandalism that could have led to loss of life or lives," said New Glasgow Const. Ken MacDonald.

MacDonald was speaking in regard to Monday evening's two incidents of railway vandalism. The first saw a propane tank that was placed on the tracks near George Street struck by a train. The tank did not explode. A few hours later that evening, a locomotive derailed near Maritime Steel after someone tampered with a switch. A lock and chain was broken on that switch and another lock was broken on another piece of equipment.

MacDonald said things could have quickly escalated in either incident depending on the train's cargo and the seriousness of a derailment.

"They didn't know what the train was carrying.… It could have been a different circumstance."

MacDonald stressed that railway property is private property and trespassing on it is illegal.

As if to illustrate the fact that people do tresspass on the railway lines, a man was seen off in the distance pushing his bicycle along the tracks.

"The key focus is to protect the public, it's in the interest of public safety," said MacDonald. "These trains can't stop on a dime and they weigh, literally, metric tonnes. That's why it's a concern to us. All these incidents relate to someone coming on private property."

That property belongs to Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway and general manager Shannon Toner echoed MacDonald's words of frustration.

"We're very, very concerned.… It's concerning for our crews and it's concerning for the public…. It's a little disheartening. I can't remember the last time we've had something this serious."

Toner said she is glad the New Glasgow Police Service is undertaking this investigation and going to lengths to make the public understand the seriousness of the incidents.

She said Operation Lifesaver is conducted to spread the message of railway safety.

"We are trying to educate students and adults how you have to be careful, respect signage and be careful."

MacDonald said the investigation is in its preliminary stages and anyone with information can contact the New Glasgow Police Service or Crimestoppers.

"We're certainly seeking the public's help," said Toner.