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Flooding Erodes Bridge, Derails Train

Monday, July 1, 2013

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A corroded bridge over a flooding river gave way, derailing a train carrying flammable petroleum products in Alberta.

Six cars became stuck on the Bonnybrook bridge over the Bow River southeast of downtown Calgary. Five of the cars were carrying a petroleum distillate used for solvents, metal polishes, paint thinner and household paint. The sixth was empty.

The incident happened around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday (June 27) when the bridge started to fail as the train was passing over it. No injuries were reported.

Canadian Pacific
The Canadian Press / Jeff McIntosh

A train carrying flammable petroleum products derailed on an eroded bridge after it gave way in Calgary on Thursday (June 27). Crews spent just under 24 hours removing the cars.

Flooding has placed Calgary under a state of local emergency that was still in place on Friday (June 28).

Sagging Bridge

The mixed cargo train was 11,000 feet long with 82 loaded and 22 empty cars. Heading from Edmonton to St. Paul, MN, the train was travelling at 8.9 miles per hour over the bridge, which is a 10 miles per hour zone.

The sagging bridge led to an intense rescue operation and a half-mile area near the site had to be evacuated, including the Bonnybrook wastewater treatment plant.

Acting fire chief Ken Uzeloc said a stabilization train was coupled to the damaged rail cars to anchor them on the dangling bridge. 

Crews pumped fluid out of the cars and removed them from the bridge by 2 a.m. Friday (June 28). None of the petroleum contents leaked, but booms were deployed down river in case of any spills.

"[T]hey lifted up and decoupled them and then they pulled in both directions and they broke the coupler in the middle, so three of the damaged cards went one way and three went the other and they pulled straight across the tracks with no incidents at all," Uzeloc told the Edmonton Journal.

18 Recent Inspections

The bridge had been inspected 18 times since flooding began on June 20, including numerous daily inspections of the track infrastructure and deck.

Mark Seland, Canadian Pacific Rail spokesman, told Canada.com that materials around the bridge foundations had eroded from the flooding, causing a pier to weaken.

Calgary train derailment
The Canadian Press / Larry MacDougal

Officials said they had inspected the bridge 18 times since the flooding started a week before, but had not sent divers in to inspect the piers because it was too dangerous.

Canadian Pacific said it usually checks the bridge twice per week.

"Because the scouring was on the bottom, it made it impossible to inspect and detect this problem," Seland told Canada.com.

"We probably wouldn't do much else differently. We inspect our bridges vigilently, and in the past week, we've inspected more vigilently than usual. But you can't put a diver in murky, fast moving water," said Seland.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called into question the number of bridge inspectors that had been laid off by the railroad company, but Seland said the same number of inspectors and guidelines remain unchanged despite widespread layoffs.

"I'll probably get in trouble for saying this. We've seen a lot of people lose their jobs over the last year. How many bridge inspectors have they fired?" Nenshi said, according to several media reports.

The Transportation Safety Board investigator, James Carmichael, said the department will look for records and see if there were cameras installed on the train. The board will also ask Canadian Pacific for inspection records.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Erosion; Infrastructure; Railcars

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