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