TSB finds inadequate drainage caused VIA Rail derailment on CN track

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor

In its investigation report, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) determined that inadequate water drainage led to the collapse of an embankment, causing the derailment of a VIA Rail Canada train near Togo, Saskatchewan.


On April 28, 2013, a westbound VIA Rail train was passing over a raised portion of Canadian National track when the crew observed a section of track where some of the roadbed ballast was missing. The train emergency brakes were applied, but the train could not stop in time. As the train passed over this location, the embankment further collapsed causing the two locomotives, a baggage car and the first passenger car to derail upright. The fuel tanks on each VIA locomotive came into contact with the rail, causing the tanks to rupture. The fire that ensued damaged both locomotives and although the locomotives had been recently rebuilt, they were not equipped with newer puncture resistant fuel tanks.

A track inspection conducted about 4 hours before the arrival of the train did not note any defects at this location. Subsequently, it was determined that a culvert at the derailment location had been blocked by an ice plug for some time. The plugged culvert, in combination with a sudden, rapid melting of surface snow in the area, led to water saturation and destabilization of the embankment. The embankment began to fail prior to the passage of the train. The investigation determined that the track inspectors responsible for this location had not received any significant training in identifying indicators of potential ground hazards. Without such training, track inspectors may not detect unstable ground conditions in a timely manner, increasing the risk of a derailment.

Following the occurrence, CN produced a video on spring readiness inspections and two supporting documents were produced, providing additional information specific to signs of potential track embankment instability. The material was provided to all track inspectors and supervisors as a refresher.

Categories: Ballast, Ties, Rail, Class 1, Safety/Training