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VIA Rail

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

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Miramichi "Ocean" smash occurred in "dark territory"

  : Tuesday February 1, 2000
Incorrectly set manual switches in so-called "dark territory" are thought to have been responsible for a collision between
Collision at Miramichi, NB
photo: CBC
Collision of VIA Rail's "Ocean" at Miramichi NB
a Canadian passenger train and stationary freight cars.

On Sunday, January 30, VIA Rail's "Ocean", travelling between Montreal and Halifax was carrying 127 passengers and 14 crew. At about 10:15, the train left the main line and entered a siding at a yard in Miramichi in New Brunswick. The freight cars were standing in the siding. In the ensuing collision two locomotives and 5 of the train's 10 carriages were derailed. Reports suggest that as many as thirty people were injured.

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada believe that the train was diverted from the main line due to a track switch which was incorrectly set. The switch is manually operated and not under the direct control of a control centre. The system relies on local rail staff following correct procedures when operating the switches. Controllers would therefore have no idea if anything was wrong. Areas such as this, which because of the manual switches are outside of central control are known within the rail industry as "Dark Territiory".

The switch should be locked in the correct position for normal running on the main line. However, the switch at Miramichi was locked in the wrong position causing the train to enter the siding where the freight cars, containing wood chips were standing.

According to a VIA Rail spokesperson, 5 people received serious injuries, although none were life
Ocean route
map: Via Rail
Route of VIA Rail's "Ocean"
threatening. One of the injured was a train crew member who received serious burns. He had been working in the kitchen.

Reports indicate that the remoteness of the area and the terrain, made difficult by snow hampered rescue work. It is understood however that all the injured were transported to hospital.

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Earlier story:
Web sources:
VIA Rail Canada press release
Thirty people hurt in Canadian train crash
Yahoo 30/01/2000
Dozens injured after train rams into box cars in Miramichi City
Calgary Herald 30/01/2000
Canada Train Crash Injures 26
Newsday 30/01/2000

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This file last updated: Tuesday, 01-Feb-2000 11:04:24 EST
Copyright © David Fry 1999

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