Inside Logistics

Train derails in Calgary

Bridge in structural jeopardy


June 27, 2013
by MM&D staff with files from the Canadian Press

CALGARY, Alberta—The City of Calgary is reporting there has been a serious train accident.

Its website carries the following notice which was posted at 4:30 AM:

“Deerfoot Road and Bridge Closures

“Calgary Police, EMS, Fire crews on scene at structural failure of rail bridge over Bow River. Deerfoot Trail & Ogden RD Closed.”

According to Calgary radio station 660 News, the accident involved four CP rail cars leaving the track.

MM&D will post updates as they are available.

UPDATE 9:00 AM EDT

The City of Calgary says the train cars that have derailed on a bridge over the Bow River are carrying a petroleum product.

Emergency management director Bruce Burrell says the cars are not leaking but the bridge is failing and slowly sinking into the river.

Burrell says it’s possible the cars are carrying diesel fuel, but he couldn’t confirm that.

The immediate area around the derailment has been evacuated and officials are making a plan to get the cars off.

Both the Both and Elbow rivers burst their banks within the city when heavy rain pounded southern regions of Alberta last week.

Police have not said, however, if flooding was responsible for the structural failure.

Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg said the train was eastbound when it left the tracks.

“They are all upright,” he said. “There are no leaks reported and no injuries reported as a result of the incident.”

Dozens of police vehicles and fire trucks are on the scene.

UPDATE 9:50 AM EDT

The following statement was just sent to MM&D by CP.

“At approximately 0330MT at eastbound train derailed five cars just outside of our yard in Calgary.

“All five cars are upright and no leaks are reported. The cars are carrying a petroleum-based product.

“There were no injuries as a result of the incident.

“CP emergency protocols were immediately implemented and operational personnel and first responders are on scene assessing the situation.

“We are working closely with local first responders to ensure all the necessary steps are taken in addressing the situation.

“The cause is under investigation.”

UPDATE 10:15 AM EDT

According to CP’s Greenberg, “The bridge was inspected by a qualified bridge inspector on Saturday. The track was inspected on Monday. Follow-up inspections were scheduled.”

UPDATE 10:40 AM EDT

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) just announced it is  deploying a team to the site of a derailment in Calgary, Alberta. The TSB also offered this update on the cars and their condition:

“Early this morning, a CP train derailed 5 tank cars on the Bonnybrook Bridge. All cars are upright: four contain petroleum products and one is an empty car containing ethylene glycol residue.”

UPDATE 10:55 AM EDT

CP issued another update. According to the company, six cars actually derailed. “The five cars we were talking about are carrying petroleum-based products. A sixth car that derailed is empty.”

CP added it is working with “Calgary fire officials to ensure the five cars are safely secured and then the product will be transferred from the impacted cars.”

UPDATE 11:40 AM EDT

During a press briefing the director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, chief Bruce Burrell, and acting fire chief Ken Uzeloc provided an update on the situation.

“The bridge is failing,” said Burrell. “The bridge is compromised and fatiguing.”

He showed a photo of the point of impact and explained “the distance between the failure point and where the bridge decking is, is starting to open up more.”

According to Uzeloc, while it’s not in the water, the bridge “dropped two-feet while I was on scene”, adding that he was at the location of the derailment for about 90 minutes early in the morning, Calgary time.

Worries about the contents of the cars catching fire, an area of approximately half a mile surrounding the derailment site was evacuated. There were few residential homes affected as the area is mainly industrial in usage. A number of roads in the area were also closed. Click here for a map of the closures.

“Each car could have about 80,000 pounds of product in that car and they’re all flammable liquids, so if something does go wrong, we could have a very big pile of burning material. And also then you have the smoke and the combustibles in the air that come off that,” said Uzeloc.

“I don’t want people driving through thick black smoke clouds on Deerfoot Trail that could have the potential of causing other accidents.”

As of  this time, all of the cars remain connected, and the two engines (one at each end of the train) are on solid ground and are off the structure of the bridge. The cars were left connected to help evenly distribute the weight of the train, making it easier for the failing bridge to support the cars. Currently a number of options are being considered as to how to remove the cars from the train. CP has brought in cranes to see if they can lift the cars, but because they are loaded, the weight may pose a problem. Uzeloc said another option would be to disconnect the cars and use both engines in an attempt to pull them off the structure in opposite directions.

Uzeloc said most of the train made it across the bridge before the derailment happened. Once the crew noticed the derailment, they phoned 9-1-1 and safely evacuated the train.

Burrell added that the bridge, like all other bridges in the city, had been inspected after the flood, and noted it was under federal jurisdiction.

The derailment is further stretching emergency crews who have been working flat out for a week dealing with flooding, Uzeloc said.

“If I was at the emergency management college taking the training … I would expect this because this is what usually happens … one on top of another,” he said. “Not really expecting it in real life, so it’s going to be adding on to a lot of responders who have already been working long hours.”

UPDATE 1:35 PM EDT

The City of Calgary has released the following update:

“The bridge condition has stabilized somewhat since 9:00 AM and has not collapsed any further. Our first priority is to secure the cars currently on the bridge and then look to transfer the contents of the cars. There are six cars on the damaged bridge.

“One of these cars is empty and the other five contain petroleum-based materials

“There are two rail bridges over the river. City and Canadian Pacific engineers are assessing both the damaged west bridge and the adjacent bridge.

“Rail cars at the north end and south end have been disconnected from the train and moved. We are working to isolate the cars on the bridge, secure them and pump out their contents. Heavy duty fuel pumps are en route. It is not known how long the process will take.”

CP has also offered a bit of clarification about the chemicals being transported on the train.

“The cars contained petroleum distillate, a product that is used as a diluting agent (diluent) in heavy oil. This product is also used as a solvent used in metal polishes, paint thinner, oil-based stains and paint—among other things. It is not considered a regulated commodity in Canada.”

UPDATE 3:10 PM EDT

Calgary’s mayor says he has a lot of serious questions for Canadian Pacific after a bridge across the swollen Bow River failed and train cars carrying oil products derailed.

Naheed Nenshi says he has concerns about the timing of the bridge inspection in relation to the recent flood and the fact railways are exempt from municipal regulations.

Railways are under federal jurisdiction and are responsible for their own inspections.

“Certainly once this crisis is over, I’ll be looking for a lot of answers from a lot of people,” he said.

“When was that bridge inspected? Why was it not inspected after Saturday? Remember, on Saturday the Bow River was still running higher than anyone had ever seen in their lifetimes,” Nenshi said.

CP issued a statement Thursday that said the bridge had been inspected on Saturday and the tracks on Monday.

“I’ll be very blunt. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this. We’ve seen a lot of people lose their jobs at CP over the last year. How many bridge inspectors did they fire?”

Nenshi said railways are private companies and it’s been a point of contention for municipalities who are powerless to regulate them.

“I will tell you that this has been a constant frustration for every municipal politician in this country forever.”

Rail carriers aren’t even subject to city noise bylaws, he said.

“We have to have a serious conversation about this. This is a private business and other private businesses are subject to (municipal) regulation.”

The mayor said the bridge in question is old and was not built into the bedrock—”something I didn’t know until today”—whereas all the city’s bridges are. He said all the municipal bridges had been inspected three times since the flood and were solid.

Five railcars filled with an oil product derailed Thursday when the bridge collapsed beneath a freight train as it was crossing the Bow.

As Nenshi spoke, emergency crews were undertaking a delicate operation to secure the derailed cars and empty them before they fell into the water.

Acting Calgary fire chief Ken Uzeloc said crews were planning to string a cable through the railcars and secure it to bulldozers on land so that, if the bridge gave way, the cars wouldn’t be carried down the river. He said workers were hoping to use a bucket truck for that operation so no one would have to go on the bridge.

Crews then hoped to pull another train along a parallel bridge so the cargo could be pumped off and the empty cars safely removed.

“The thing we want to do is secure the cars. The last thing we want is these cars floating down the river and causing problems downstream,” Uzeloc said.

Emergency management director Bruce Burrell said the cars were not leaking, but booms were being placed down river in case of any spills.

The immediate area around the derailment was evacuated, including the city’s sewage treatment plant. Nenshi said because of the evacuation, staff had to leave and raw wastewater was flowing through it. He said the city’s water supply is safe, though. It’s primarily an industrial part of the city and there is a large railyard nearby.

Both the Bow and Elbow rivers that run through Calgary burst their banks when heavy rain pounded southern regions of Alberta last week. Authorities have not said if flooding was responsible for the structural failure.

Under Transport Canada safety rules updated last year, the federal government says railway companies are responsible for inspecting railway bridges. The rules state that the railway is responsible for the condition of its bridges and to ensure that corrective action is taken if problems are found. Railway companies are required to use a technically competent railway bridge engineer to conduct inspections, and that person should have the authority to restrict traffic over a bridge if there are concerns about its condition. Railway companies are required to do their own safety audits and maintain their own safety records, which can be requested by Transport Canada.

The rules say each railway’s inspection program should include procedures to deal with any bridge “that might have been damaged by natural or accidental event, including but not limited to flood, fire, ice flows, debris flows.”

CP declined to address they mayor’s comments, but did say,”Our company will be conducting a full investigation into what happened here, as well as cooperating with the Transportation Safety Board.”