Over the years, the TSB has investigated a number of similar runaway accidents. A summary of several of the more significant accidents is appended below:
- R96C0172 (Edson) – On 12 August 1996, all 3 three occupants in the operating cab of the lead locomotive of Canadian National (CN) westward freight train No. 117 were fatally injured when their train, which was travelling at about 54 mph, collided head-on with a cut of 20 runaway cars moving eastward at about 30 mph, some six miles east of Edson, Alberta. The runaway cars had been left on a track in Edson Yard by a crew who had applied hand brakes to 2 covered hopper cars. The crew had little supervision to ensure that the company’s car securement procedures were being correctly applied. The performance of the hand brakes on that type of car was found to be highly variable, and the variability was not commonly known amongst operating employees. Although the crew thought the cars had been secured, the resultant brake shoe force on the two cars was insufficient to prevent movement. Thus, the cut of 20 cars slowly moved east and accelerated toward the main track.
- R09T0057 (Nanticoke) – On 11 February 2009 at 2118 Eastern Standard Time, the Southern Ontario Railway 0900 Hagersville Switcher, consisting of 4 locomotives and 43 cars, ran uncontrolled from Mile 0.10 to Mile 1.9 of the Hydro Spur track. The train reached a speed of 20.7 mph before travelling over a split switch derail and derailing 9 loaded dangerous goods tank cars. Three tank cars loaded with gasoline (UN 1203) were breached and released approximately 31 000 litres of gasoline. Two nearby homes were evacuated; there were no injuries.
The investigation determined that the accident occurred when the crew left the train unattended on a one per cent descending grade, without the train being properly secured. Subsequently, the train rolled uncontrolled downgrade for 1.4 miles, across an unprotected crossing, reaching a speed of 20.7 mph before it encountered a split switch derail and derailed the nine tail-end cars. With only one crew member left at the end of the shift, the other crew members did not have an opportunity to verify whether the train was properly secured.
- R11Q0056 (Doree) – On 11 December 2011, as freight train LIM-55 was descending a long steep grade, the locomotive engineer, unable to control the train speed using the dynamic and automatic brakes, applied the emergency brakes at Mile 68.00 of the Wacouna Subdivision to stop his movement. One hour later, the train ran away, descending the grade for a distance of almost 15 miles and reaching a maximum speed of 63 mph. The train finally came to a stop at Mile 52.80. No one was injured and there was no derailment.
The investigation determined that 1 hour after the emergency brakes were applied and the train came to a stop, the air brakes released and, because the braking force applied by the hand brakes was insufficient, the train ran away. Without specific instructions that take into consideration local conditions, there is a risk of underestimating the number of hand brakes required to secure a train on a steep grade and preventing it from running away.
- R12E0004 (Hanlon) – On 18 January 2012, at 1212 Mountain Standard Time, 13 loaded coal cars, which were running uncontrolled northward from the Hanlon siding, Mile 41.7 on the Grande Cache Subdivision, collided with stationary train A45951-16 at Mile 44.5. Nine of the 13 cars and the 3 leading locomotives from the train derailed. Two crew members sustained minor injuries and were treated on site. The 3rd crew member was seriously injured and was air lifted to hospital in Hinton, Alberta. Approximately 2800 litres of fuel and 740 tons of coal were spilled. About 250 feet of track was damaged.
The investigation determined that the conductor’s belief that the cars were on level ground likely led to the conclusion that 1 hand brake was sufficient to secure the cut of cars. When the braking force from the train brakes was sufficiently reduced due to bleeding off of the air in the cars’ brake cylinders, the retarding force of the 1 applied hand brake could not resist the gravitational force of the 13 loaded coal cars. In addition, because the brake effectiveness test was conducted by attempting to push the cars upgrade, it did not adequately verify if the braking force of the hand brake application was sufficient to hold the cars.