7 February 2011
Trains and Graders
Can't be in Same Space
Lacombe Alberta - A 50-year safety record has been shattered with two collisions in two weeks
between Lacombe County road graders and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. locomotives.
Fortunately, the equipment took the brunt of the impact and the operators were not injured in either collision, says the county's operations manager.
There have been close calls, but no actual collisions in the past, Phil Lodermeier said on Friday.
In the first incident, a CPR locomotive crossing a rural road in the Forshee area north of Bentley on 19 Jan 2011 collided with the front of a grader that had
been working at the crossing, said Lodermeier.
Two weeks later, on 2 Feb 2011, a locomotive travelling on the main line south of Lacombe struck another grader that had been clearing ice from a crossing on
Range Road 27-1, alongside Highway 2A about three kilometres south of Lacombe.
While the locomotive and the grader both took heavy damage, rollover protection and a safety belt saved the operator from serious harm, he said.
The grader operator, who has been working in the area for 15 to 20 years, was familiar with the intersection.
He had observed safety procedures including opening his doors, shutting off his radio and listening for whistles as well as looking both directions twice, said
He had lifted his blade and wing to cross the track when he saw the train and would probably have made it, but couldn't move quickly enough because of icing at
the crossing, he said.
"The reason we work in close proximity to the crossings is to try to get the ice off so that cars don't skid into the trains.
You have to do the work there, or people's lives are at stake."
CPR is responsible for maintaining the actual crossing, but graders must come within one metre of the tracks to keep the road clear for motorists, said
Ironically, county representatives had already scheduled a meeting with CPR that evening to discuss safety at level crossings.
"We actually had one scheduled with them a week ago and they postponed it, and we had it Wednesday night, which is the day of the accident."
Lodermeier said the meeting was productive in helping the county operators improve procedures for working at railway crossings.
They learned, for example, that locomotive engineers blow their warning whistles 20 seconds before reaching a level crossing.
"So, now our operators know that they have 20 seconds to do what they need to do and get out of the way," said Lodermeier.
Lacombe County has 108 crossings, of which just over half are considered "unfriendly" for various reasons, including visibility, slopes, and the
angle of the tracks.
The crossing where the 2 Feb 2011 collision happened is among them, said Lodermeier.
"There's a blind corner where the train comes around the bend and there's trees in the way. The grader is going up a slight incline, there's ice on the
road, there's trees and a bend in the track to the north, where the train is coming from," he said.
Although locomotives generally inflict more damage than they suffer, there are never any winners when people or vehicles collide with trains, said CPR
spokesman Kevin Hrysak.
Crews operating the train involved in the 2 Feb 2011 collision were relieved from duty afterward.
The were also offered additional time off and counselling, which is standard protocol, said Hrysak.
Some crew will take the time off while others prefer to go back to work, he said.