Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

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JayBee
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Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by JayBee » Tue Feb 05, 2019 6:55 pm

There was a fatal runaway accident on Kicking Horse Pass (CP's Laggan Subdivision) at approximately 1:00 am on 2/4/19. The crew of grain train #301 out of Calgary, AB had run out of time at Partridge Siding and had just been relieved by a new crew after waiting 2 hours for the new crew to arrive. The new crew had just boarded the train when it began to move without the Engineer releasing the brakes. The train accelerated to 50 mph by the time the headend reached the Upper
Spiral Tunnel, but it successfully negotiated the curved tunnel. The speed continued to increase until the lead locomotive left the rails on the curve just before the bridge over the Kicking Horse River. The locomotive fell on its side and slid down the bank and into the river. The Engineer and Conductor were killed on the locomotive, while a Conductor Trainee survived the crash but died in the Ambulance. Due to the very cold weather the train was running in a 1x1x1 setup with two DPU locomotives. According to the preliminary Canada TSB report the train had been sitting a Partridge Siding for 2 hours with the train brakes in Emergency. Train weight was 14,500 tons and 6676' in length. 99 out of 112 cars of grain derailed along with two of the three locomotives, including the mid-train DPU which is a Union Pacific locomotive. Also according to the TSB official in response to a question, said that 75% of the train's retainers were set in the High Pressure position.

Allen Hazen
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Location: Edmonton, Canada (formerly Melbourne, Australia)

Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by Allen Hazen » Wed Feb 06, 2019 1:35 am

I'm an amateur ("railfan") and don't know how retainers work. Is it plausible that standing on a siding in "extreme cold" (I can believe that-- it's been down to about -30 Celsius in Calgary and Edmonton in recent days, and they aren't IN th mountains!) could lead to a spontaneous release of the brakes?

BR&P
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by BR&P » Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:35 pm

From the Canadian Transportation Safety Board preliminary update of February 5th:

"There were no handbrakes applied on the train".

Wow! I thought that lesson was driven home several years ago in Quebec. :(

https://www.railwayage.com/news/cp-grai ... mpaign=917" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

JayBee
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by JayBee » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:08 pm

Allen Hazen wrote:I'm an amateur ("railfan") and don't know how retainers work. Is it plausible that standing on a siding in "extreme cold" (I can believe that-- it's been down to about -30 Celsius in Calgary and Edmonton in recent days, and they aren't IN th mountains!) could lead to a spontaneous release of the brakes?
What likely happened is that the extreme cold caused the gaskets sealing the brake cylinder pistons to shrink this would cause the air to leak from the brake cylinders proper, negating the effect of setting the retainers. The efforts of the relieved crew in turning up the retainers, which would have been better spent applying handbrakes. The relieving train crew should have bailed off the instant the train started moving, before it had a chance to build up any speed, of course this would depend on the relieved crew briefing them that the train was in emergency and not just with a full service application of the automatic(train air) brakes.

Allen Hazen
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by Allen Hazen » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:47 am

JayBee--
Thank you for that reply. I did know that cold weather sometimes causes leakage in the air brakes. The configuration of the train (locomotives at front and back, with a third in the middle) was, I think, an effort to alleviate this problem: in warmer weather CP westbound out of Calgary typically have two units at the head and a D.P.U. further back: separating the first two units was (I conjecture) done in order to lessen the maximum distance between a car's brakes and the air compressor on a locomotive.

Re: "of course this would depend on the relieved crew briefing them that the train was in emergency and not just with a full service application of the automatic(train air) brakes" -- the difference being that ... ??? ... with a full service application it would still be possible to get more braking force by going into emergency, whereas, with the train air already in an emergency application, there was no reserve?

JayBee
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by JayBee » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:08 pm

CP has now issued an order requiring a train experiencing a UDE(UnDesired Emergency) brake application on Kicking Horse Pass to apply Handbrakes without exception.

BR&P
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by BR&P » Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:24 pm

JayBee wrote: What likely happened is that the extreme cold caused the gaskets sealing the brake cylinder pistons to shrink this would cause the air to leak from the brake cylinders proper, negating the effect of setting the retainers. The efforts of the relieved crew in turning up the retainers, which would have been better spent applying handbrakes. The relieving train crew should have bailed off the instant the train started moving, before it had a chance to build up any speed, of course this would depend on the relieved crew briefing them that the train was in emergency and not just with a full service application of the automatic(train air) brakes.
I'm not sure it's that simple. Retainers are more often used on moving trains. Normally, when brake pipe pressure is restored after an application, the brakes on each car release. This release of brakes takes less time than it takes to re-charge the reservoirs on each car. So as the speed increases and subsequent service brake applications are attempted, there is less and less air available in the reservoirs to apply the brakes. Eventually the brakes are ineffective altogether. This is known as "pissing away your air". The retainers delay or inhibit the release of the brakes on the car even when the BP pressure is restored. This should allow a full recharge of the reservoirs to be made.

That may be a bit over-simplified but should give you an general idea.

As for your remark "...this would depend on the relieved crew briefing them that the train was in emergency and not just with a full service application of the automatic(train air) brakes." no briefing would be needed for that. About the first thing an engineer does when entering the locomotive is note the position of the brake handles, and see what pressure is shown on the gauges.

I do agree the doomed crew probably rapidly lost any chance of getting off. I'm not familiar with the exact location they got on, but most of that railroad is solid rock straight up on one side and a cliff straight down on the other. Joining the birds after leaving the crew point may well have been suicidal and maybe they figured they might possibly ride it out.

I'm puzzled by the total lack of handbrakes on the train, especially after Lac Megantic. I have yet to hear anyone official say they SHOULD have applied brakes but it seems to go without saying. Was there some special rule or circumstance there? Extremely deep snow that precluded walking back? Some other reason? A very basic rule is that air brakes alone must not be relied upon to prevent movement of standing equipment. Either there is some specific and unique rule or circumstance which overrides that, or there was an egregious failure by the previous crew. It will be educational to read the final reports when they come out.

JayBee
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by JayBee » Sat Feb 09, 2019 5:20 pm

The first traincrew took over the train at Calgary and in their time on the train managed to get the train from Calgary to the top of the grade at Stephen where they must have turned up the retainers, which is most unusual as retainers are not normally needed. In beginning their descent they were unable to keep the train speed below the maximum allowed speed for heavy bulk trains which is 15mph. Their speed kept increasing until they applied the Emergency Brakes at 20mph, and they got the train stopped at Partridge Siding. With not enough time remaining on their Hours of Service a Dogcatch crew was sent from the next Division point at Field, BC in a crew van. Fortunately Partridge Siding can be accessed off of the TransCanada Highway. It took two hours for the new crew to be called and delivered to the train. It is not specifically mentioned but the crew that ran out of time would have to have taken the same crew van back to Field for their rest, so they would have been present when their replacements had arrived, so the train would never have been unattended. Partridge Siding is above the Upper Spiral Tunnel and there is no big dropoff on the river and highway side of the track. The last radio transmission from the doomed crew was thaat they were doing 50mph and they were about to enter the Upper Spiral Tunnel. It's not that far from Partridge Siding to the Upper Portal of the tunnel so the train must have accelerated very quickly. Some how the headend made it through the Upper Spiral Tunnel, then under the Highway Bridge before derailing on the curve before the Kicking Horse River bridge.

MikeTowpathTraveler
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by MikeTowpathTraveler » Sun Feb 10, 2019 11:26 am

Questions for those knowledgable of CP operations in the Canadian Rockies..... Out here in the east, Norfolk Southern and it's former predecessors Conrail, Penn Central and PRR have employed helper engines for a very, very long time on the Altoona to Johnstown PA grades in the Allegheny Mountains. Stationed out of Cresson, PA on the West Slope, they provide rear end power and braking to the great majority of the large number of trains that go up and down this grade every day. At times they can be placed on the front end of the train. These operations can be viewed by the railcam at Horseshoe Curve national park.

So, my questions to those more and better informed then me: has CP ever had a helper district on this line? What location did the helpers couple onto the back of the trains on the east and west slopes? If ever there were helpers, when did they go away? Why did they go away? Did the advent DPU's ease concerns in those leaders in train operations that helper engines could be removed out of service, freeing up engines and associated salaries?

Hindsight being foresight, etc, I believe a mountain-qualified helper crew would not think securing a loaded train in emergency for over 2 hours while awaiting a crew changeout was the safe way of securing a train. But I write that having a non-railroading background and with full respect for those who do.

With the amount of accidents on this line in recent years, is it time to rethink a manned helper district?

God rest the souls of these railroaders who were lost in this tragedy.

BR&P
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by BR&P » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:20 am

MikeTowpathTraveler wrote: I believe a mountain-qualified helper crew would not think securing a loaded train in emergency for over 2 hours while awaiting a crew changeout was the safe way of securing a train.
Why would a helper crew be any more knowledgeable than a crew on the front of the train? You are either qualified, or you are not.
JayBee wrote:The first traincrew took over the train at Calgary and in their time on the train managed to get the train from Calgary to the top of the grade at Stephen where they must have turned up the retainers, which is most unusual as retainers are not normally needed. In beginning their descent they were unable to keep the train speed below the maximum allowed speed for heavy bulk trains which is 15 mph. Their speed kept increasing until they applied the Emergency Brakes at 20 mph, and they got the train stopped at Partridge Siding.
While this may at first seem to contradict the first part of my post, if the first crew had experienced problems controlling the train with the air, had decided to take the step of turning up retainers which JayBee says is unusual, and then had to use emergency to stop the train at Partridge Siding, to me the "safe course" would have been to wind on about 20 handbrakes and summon a Road Foreman to figure out what was going on.

I have had no experience with DPU's, but wonder whether some malfunction in one of those units was somehow negating the train crew's efforts to control the train. To the extent that a manned helper crew might not have had such a malfunction IF in fact that's what happened, in this case things might have been different.

BR&P
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Re: Fatal Runaway on Kicking Horse Pass

Post by BR&P » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:29 am

MikeTowpathTraveler wrote:
With the amount of accidents on this line in recent years, is it time to rethink a manned helper district?
That's a long way from me and I don't follow CP closely. There have been other problems similar to this?

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