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TSB releases report on 2015 Huron Central derailment

Drainage issues, rail joint defects cited for crash

Poor track conditions and inadequate drainage were cited as important factors in the November 2015 derailment of Huron Central Railway freight train near Spanish.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada released its investigation report on March 8.

On November 1, 2015, at 10:50 p.m. the westbound freight train was proceeding westward on the Webbwood Subdivision at 25 miles per hour when the engineer tripped the emergency brake at Mile 72.08, near Spanish.

The derailment destroyed about 225 feet of railway roadbed. No dangerous goods were involved and there were no injuries.

Three locomotives and the first eight cars of the train derailed when the roadbed collapsed and the north rail joint broke apart under the train.

Five empty cars near the middle of the train also derailed due to “compressive in-train forces” when the rail cars hit one another as the train rapidly decelerated during the derailment.

The TSB determined that the rail carrier’s track inspection and maintenance program “was not effective in dealing” with dealing with drainage issues, track instability, and rail joint defects.

In this instance, several days of rain had blocked a culvert, allowing water to pool and flow to the railway embankment to saturate the subgrade material.

The federal agency said track inspectors were not provided with appropriate training to spot unstable ground conditions that might have prevented the derailment. Investigators also found several rail joint defects that were allowed to remain in service without performing regular follow-up inspections.

Go-slow orders were issued on sections of identified track where there were defects. The order was only lifted after repairs were completed and inspected by a supervisor.

The Huron Central is a short-line railway that operates on Canadian Pacific-owned track between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.