Canadian Pacific considers building new siding on Kicking Horse Pass following fatal derailment

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Canadian Pacific's twin Spiral Tunnels near Field, B.C., opened in 1909, reducing the grade to a maximum of 2.2 percent, compared with 4.4 percent before their opening.
Canadian Pacific
CALGARY, Alberta – Canadian Pacific President and CEO Keith Creel says the railroad is considering building a new siding on the Lagan Subdivision where trains can be inspected prior to descending the 2.2 percent Kicking Horse Pass, site of a fatal derailment earlier this year.

Creel made the statements during the CP’s annual shareholder meeting in Calgary on Tuesday.

The CEO started his remarks with a moment of silence for the three railroaders killed on Feb. 4, when a loaded grain train derailed near Field, British Columbia.

“It’s a heartbreaking loss,” Creel says. “Words cannot express the sorrow I feel for the loss of these railroaders.”

During a question and answer period toward the end of the meeting, a shareholder asked how new Transport Canada rules regarding the application of hand brakes on trains in mountainous territory was impacting the railroad. The rule, which requires the application of hand brakes immediately following an emergency brake application, was implemented just four days after the derailment. CP and Canadian National both appealed the order and Creel further explained on Tuesday the company’s reasoning for the protest.

Creel says the new rule actually endangers railroaders and does little to increase safety.

“Transport Canada felt like they need to act and in their mind they’re acting in the best interest,” Creel says. “But when a railroader has to apply more hand brakes than necessary, you are injecting additional risk. To climb up and down a rail car when it’s 30 below zero to apply a hand brake that does not need to be applied injects (unnecessary) risk.”

Creel says there are better ways to safeguard the movement of trains in mountainous territory, including using technology to catch problems before they happen. He also says the railroad will consider building a siding near the summit of Kicking Horse Pass where trains can be safely parked if there is an issue and fully inspected before descending the grade.

Trains News Wire reached out to the railroad for additional information about the plan but a spokesperson says details are not yet available.

Late on the night of Feb. 3, a westbound grain train began to exceed the speed limit going down Kicking Horse Pass on the Alberta-British Columbia border. Unable to slow the train down, the crew made an emergency brake application near the summit. A few hours later, three men – conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell, and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer – relieved the grain train crew. A few minutes after getting on the train, and before getting clearance from the dispatcher, the train began to roll downhill on its own. The crew was unable to stop the train and it rolled downhill for about two miles. The train derailed at about 1:30 a.m. after exiting the Upper Spiral Tunnel. All three men aboard the train were killed.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the derailment.

Kicking Horse Pass, home the CP’s iconic Spiral Tunnels and known to local railroaders as “The Big Hill,” has been the site of numerous derailments and runaways in the past century. In fact, one of the first construction trains to descend the grade when it was completed in 1884, derailed along the Kicking Horse River, killing three people.

“This is one of the most challenging railroad territories in all of North America,” says James Carmichael, a senior investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The TSB has investigated at least three incidents on the Laggan Subdivision between Partridge and Field, B.C., in the past 23 years, including a derailment inside the Upper Spiral Tunnel in January.
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