A CP Rail manager, who directed staff to leave a train parked east of Revelstoke without hand brakes in Feb. 2015, has been found guilty under the Railway Safety Act.
Tim McClelland was found guilty on two counts while CP Rail, which was also charged, was found not guilty.
“I am satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that the Canadian Pacific Railway Company exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of the offences,” said Judge Richard Hewson in his decision document.
Mark Jackson, superintendent of the mountain subdivision of CP Rail at the time, was also found not guilty.
Hewson said that though Jackson made a mistake, it was reasonable given the information Jackson was provided by McClelland on the day of the incident.
On Feb. 15, 2015, the crew of CPR Train 401 left 58 rail cars, 19 with oil and two with ammonium nitrate, unattended on the main track at the Greerly staging point, east of Revelstoke. Only emergency brakes were applied.
“The crew left the cars in that condition because they acted on their understanding of direction relayed to them by the Rail Traffic controller, who had received those directions from two members of the railway’s management,” the judge said.
Under the Transportation Ministry’s Emergency Directive, key trains–trains with more than 20 cars with dangerous goods–cannot be left unattended on the main track. The directive also specifies the number of hand brakes required to be applied to unattended railway equipment, based on the grade of the rail line and the weight of the train.
The two crew members were called out at 5:35 p.m. and directed to re-crew Train 401 and return it to Revelstoke. The Teamsters Union had called a strike that day, to begin at 10 p.m., but crews are required to finish a trip before striking.
However, the Revelstoke rail yard was full and an alternate plan was communicated on where the team was to tie down Train 401.
The plan could be accomplished in five distinct movements, which Hewson described in his judgment.
- The Westbound train is stopped on the south main track at the Greely staging point sign and the train is cut just behind car 94, the last of the cars containing fuel oil.
- The head end of the train is moved forward about three miles through the Greely crossover, until it is completely west of the Greely crossover and on the north main track.
- The head end of the train is then reversed into the Greely backtrack and the 19 cars containing fuel oil are separated and tied down.
- The head end of the train is then pulled forward, leaving the 19 cars containing fuel oil in the backtrack. It pulls forward until it is entirely west of the Greely crossover again.
- Finally, the head end of the train is pushed back east, through the Greely crossover back on the south main track, until it reaches the point at which the tail end was left in the first movement. The head end and the tail end are re-coupled. The train, now containing only two dangerous goods cars and no longer a key train, can be tied down on the main track.
Both of the crew members testified at the trial that the switching movement was unusual and complicated, however the greatest complication was adhering to Transportation Canada’s Emergency Directive and apply handbrakes to the equipment that was left unattended.
“As Train 401 moved west toward Revelstoke…the crew made several radio calls to the rail traffic controller with questions and concerns about the movement as they understood it,” Hewson said.
The traffic controller referred to McClelland for clarification, who asked Jackson for advice. The court saw recordings and transcriptions of those communications as exhibits in the trial, which took place May 7-10, 14 and 15 in Revelstoke.
In one recording, which was quoted by the judge in his decision, McClelland asked whether or not the crew needed to apply the 40 handbrakes before pushing the cars in and then knock them off and then tie on another 40 when they come into Revelstoke.
Jackson said “No, no, no” and agreed with McClelland that the crew could leave the train in emergency.
The crew, confused by these directions, repeated them to the traffic controllers in order to ensure they fully understood what they were being asked to do.
In the end, the crew reluctantly followed the directions given to them, leaving the tail end of the train standing on the south main track, east of the Greely staging point sign, unattended and without hand brakes, which contravenes the Emergency Directive.
The train was later moved without incident.
Transportation Canada opened an investigation into the incident, which included a team sent to Revelstoke as well as a raid of CP Rail’s headquarters in Calgary.
They charged CP Rail, McClelland and Jackson in January 2017 and the first court appearance was Feb. 1, 2017. McClelland will appear in court again on July 25 to fix a sentencing date.