Canadian safety agency issues update on investigation of St. Clair Tunnel derailment

Safety letters issued by Transportation Safety Board include two addressing potentially defective bathtub gondola cars
Trains Industry Newsletter
Get a weekly roundup of the industry news you need.
By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine. View our privacy policy.
This bathtub gondola is believed to have been the first car to derail in a June 2019 derailment in the St. Clair River railroad tunnel, leading to two of the four safety advisory letters issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada regarding the accident.
Canadian National, via Transportation Safety Board of Canada

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reports it has issued four safety advisory letters during its ongoing investigation into a June 28, 2019, derailment of a Canadian National train in the St. Clair River tunnel connecting Sarnia, Ontario, and Port Huron, Mich.

In an investigation update issued Monday, the TSB reports 46 cars derailed in the train of three locomotives, one a mid-train distributed power unit, and 140 cars. The first car to derail appears to be the 53rd car, a bathtub gondola, in which the A-end appears to have collapsed, and analysis by both the TSB and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board determined the initial point of derailment occurred in Canada. Among the cars to derail was a tank car loaded with sulphuric acid, which was breached; most of its load of 12,000 gallons spilled in the tunnel.

The safety advisory letters include two issued in 2019 and two issued in September of this year. Those letters:

— Ask Transport Canada to ensure that railroads have instructions in their emergency procedures on how to inspect a train carrying hazardous materials after a derailment in a tunnel. In the June 28 incident, the conductor left the locomotive to inspect the train following the derailment per CN rules, and could not be reached by other crew members on the radio when those crewmen were informed that the tunnel’s toxic gas alarm had activated. Fortunately, no injuries occurred.

— Advise Transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration of potentially defective bathtub gondolas, and requests such cars — particularly those used in scrap metal service — should be inspected and, if needed, repaired.

— Ask that Transport Canada and the FRA to ensure that bathtub gondolas built by Berwick Forge are located and examined to ensure safe operation. It is estimated there may be 2,500 such cars in operation in North America.

— Advise Transport Canada to ensure all railroads have adequate practices in place to effectively manage in-train forces.

The derailment closed the tunnel for 11 days, leading to rerouting of CN trains on CSX Transportation tracks and an extensive backlog of traffic [see “Michigan-Ontario rail tunnel reopens after June derailment and acid spill,” Trains News Wire, July 10, 2019]




Leave a Comment
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Please keep your feedback on-topic and respectful. Trains staffers reserve the right to edit or delete any comments.


The Genesee & Wyoming 

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy
Subscribe Up To 58% off the newsstand price!
Subscribe To Trains Mag Today