Train Derails East of Winnipeg

A westbound CN train derailed on the CN Sprague subdivision near Deacon’s Corner outside Winnipeg on the evening of July 30, 2020. Train train B781 had cleared the Lorette siding and was on the final stretch of track toward Symington Yard in Winnipeg when the centre of the train derailed.

Derailed potash cars outside Winnipeg
Derailed potash cars outside Winnipeg

26 cars of fertilizer derailed. I am assuming that since this was a westbound train, the cars were empty as it would be heading to Saskatchewan to load. I didn’t notice any spilled product initially, but I can see it in the photos. The train was carrying monoammonium phosphate, also known as ammonium dihydrogen phosphate. It’s relatively benign, if I am reading this MSDS sheet correctly. It’s often included in home crystal growing kits.

A small fire was started by the friction from the derailment but it was extinguished by local emergency response crews. Fire, ambulance and police services were on scene.

Head end of the train
Head end of the train

When I arrived just after 7 PM, the entire train was still present with CN 3033, CN 3254 and CN 3247 at the head of the train. From this angle everything looked normal.

It appears that the first few cars were still on the rails but the derailed cars were not far behind the locomotives. I drove down a side road to photograph the scene from a grid road.

Derailed rail cars
Derailed rail cars

A lot of heavy equipment was already working to clear the tracks, and as I watched more cranes and backhoes were arriving. There were a few people checking out the wreckage from this side.

Checking out the derailment
Checking out the derailment

I flew my drone briefly to record the scene from the air, taking care to stay well away from the scene to not interfere or distract anyone from their work.

Derailment scene
Derailment scene
Topsy turvy cars
Topsy turvy cars

I drove around the train using back roads, and tried a few angles.

Honestly, if you had to choose a location to derail a train, this was pretty good. There were no houses near the tracks and the highway provides easy access to the site.

Wheatfield derailment
Wheatfield derailment

I found the tail end just clear of the west end of Lorette siding.

Tail end of the train
Tail end of the train

CN crews were on hand there at the crossing. In the distance to the east I could see headlights of an approaching train.

Blog reader Cliff showed up and we talked for a bit. The approaching train turned out to be CN 3285 running light.

CN 3285 to the rescue
CN 3285 to the rescue

They carefully went through the intersection – with the conductor flagging it as the crossing was not activated – and stopped close to the tail end of the train.

CN 3285 approaching the tail end
CN 3285 approaching the tail end

The end-of-train device was removed, then CN 3285 coupled onto the tail end. After a bit of time, presumably to pump up the air and do a brake test, they slowly pulled east with the tail end cars that were still on the track.

Pulling the non-derailed cars out
Pulling the non-derailed cars out

They crossed the road and went into Lorette siding with the rescued cars. I didn’t realize these locomotives had rear ditch lights!

The tail end goes into Lorette siding
The tail end goes into Lorette siding

I believe CN 3285 came from train CN 119. I don’t know where the rest of CN 119 was. I went looking for it to the east but it was not in Lorette, so it must have been left further east.

Returning to the scene, I photographed some of the work from the shoulder of the highway, noting that the head end locomotives were gone, presumably driven to Symington Yard with the head end cars that were still on the rails.

Cranes and crews cleaning up
Cranes and crews cleaning up

Some of the cars seemed upright but I could see that at least one rail had shifted underneath the train.

Only a little derailed
Only a little derailed

The eastbound traffic on the Trans Canada Highway was going pretty slowly – lots of gawking.

Gawkers and the setting sun
Gawkers and the setting sun

Two different operations seemed to be going on. Cranes were rerailing cars where they could, while other machines were basically shoving fully derailed cars to the side.

Open wide
Open wide

Everything seemed to be well organized and professional. Everyone was calm and working methodically and safely to clean things up.

There were several truckloads of prefabricated track, ready to install once the cars are cleared away and the roadbed fixed up.

Prefabricated track
Prefabricated track

Let’s hope this gets cleaned up quickly so trains can roll again. I’m glad nobody was hurt and the damage wasn’t too severe.

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7 thoughts on “Train Derails East of Winnipeg”

  1. In your photo of AEX 21884 it appears to be loaded, based on spring compression. Which makes sense, to me at least. A lot of fertilizer comes into Western Canada from the States, both on this line and the Emerson Sub. And it’s almost always in these ‘beater’ cars. I’m just surprised that none of the cars that tipper over made a mess!

    Reply
  2. wait, nevermind. In the 6th shot from the top of the post (the drone shot) it looks like the car on the far right spilled some product.

    Reply
  3. Pretty neat to observe how this is cleaned up. How each part of a derailment has a particular response and how much could be accomplished in that span of time.

    Reply

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