CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby GTWChris » Wed Jul 03, 2019 9:45 am

Steve B wrote:Which agency does the investigation and report-- NTSB or Transport Canada-- depends on whether the accident started in Ontario or Michigan. This isn't clear yet, or at least hasn't been made public.

I believe TSB is the lead agency.

Looking like sometime this weekend for reopening.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby 12Bridge » Wed Jul 03, 2019 10:34 am

Is there even an investigation? I thought they only did those if there was loss of life or a significant environmental oops.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby Super Chief » Wed Jul 03, 2019 10:44 am

I believe the above poster meant STB not TSB? Also there should be an investigation as sulfuric acid in that amount is not a minor thing. Things change so fast in todays world, electric cars, driverless trucks, Boeing software and DPUs, one should step back and analyze each accident as more are on the horizon. Remember the placard misplacment on all the shale oil cars, I called the FRA and said as a 1st responder we need to know what were up against and the placards are wrong in North Dakota that there putting on the cars. $9000 fine per car was implemented.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby chapmaja » Wed Jul 03, 2019 10:54 am

TSB - Canada would be correct. This is the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) would handle the investigation as this train was leaving Canada and had not yet entered the USA completely.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby Steve B » Wed Jul 03, 2019 11:21 am

I didn't notice it until now; the Port Huron Times Herald said two days ago that "officials have ruled it happened on the Sarnia, Ontario side."
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby hoborich » Wed Jul 03, 2019 5:07 pm

They dragged the DPU out at some point Monday afternoon, from what was posted on Facebook.


So, there is no crew or engineer on the DPUs?
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Jul 03, 2019 5:34 pm

hoborich wrote:
They dragged the DPU out at some point Monday afternoon, from what was posted on Facebook.

So, there is no crew or engineer on the DPUs?

Distributed Power Units are not manned, they are radio-controlled from the lead locomotive. This is the distinction from the manned helper locomotives of yore. DPUs are generally intended to stay on for the entire run of the train from origin to destination, rather than just over a certain segment of the road as is typical with manned helpers.

A few more notes on the discussion above:

As far as losing communication with the DPU, I'd imagine CN has installed repeater antennas inside the tunnel to handle DPU, EOT and PTC communications. Most tunnels of that sorta length get that treatment, and I'd imagine due to the sag in the tunnel it would be even more necessary.

It does sound like Canada will lead the investigation due to the point of derailment determined to be on the Canadian side of the border, NOT because the train hadn't made it 100% into the US yet.

As for not allowing DPUs in the tunnel due to the grade, that's kinda absurd. DPUs are usually added specifically to help longer trains tackle grades and curves. Running 12000' manifests in the tunnel would probably be more difficult without DPUs than with them.

<begin speculation>
The primary issue running long trains through the tunnel, and potential cause of the wreck, is the play in slack, whereas the train is stretched coming out of the tunnel but bunched up going in. Traditionally crews would probably have used the "stretch-braking" technique with a slight brake pipe reduction to keep the train all stretched out by slightly applying the brakes throughout the train. But with the DPU involved, they likely keep the DPU in dynamic braking until it reaches the bottom of the tunnel, thereby keeping the train stretched out, as the headend would begin pulling somewhere around the bottom of the tunnel. These are my presumptions, I should add, I have never spoken with anybody who has operated a train through this particular tunnel.

Thus, it is possible that the engineer flubbed up the coordination between the headend and DPU power. Perhaps this caused a pull-apart, and subsequent collision inside the tunnel, as the headend (going uphill) would slow down faster than the still-descending rear-end. A hit at high enough speed could cause cars to derail, and it would be on from there.

Other causes could lie in track conditions, a mechanical failure such as a broken wheel, or the aforementioned failure of DPU communication inside the tunnel.
<end speculation>
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby 12Bridge » Wed Jul 03, 2019 7:30 pm

Let thy railfan speculation begin.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby GreatLakesRailfan » Thu Jul 04, 2019 8:18 am

Super Chief wrote:I believe the above poster meant STB not TSB?


I wrote TSB. The lead agency hadn't been announced (to my knowledge) when I wrote the post. It was just a guess, personally I'd much rather see the NTSB conduct the investigation.

Considering how much damage there is on the other side of the river, I'll be greatly surprised if the Americans are allowed to do the investigation.

On a completely unrelated subject, does anyone know if the price of scrap is higher or lower in Canada than the US this week?


I'm not sure how stretch braking plays into things in the tunnel, but the general theory is that as the back half of the train goes into the tunnel, it's pushing the front half of the train up/out of the tunnel. It's not uncommon to hear the slack run in as a westbound train is slowing down to stop on the west end of the yard.

Outside of the DPU use, I've heard a couple engineers talk about using a steady speed for the entire trip through the tunnel lately. Essentially they don't cross 16th Street at track speed and slow to a stop over the next mile and a half, which I believe puts additional stress on the equipment. Instead it's supposed to be a more controlled movement, with less overall speed changes. It's been a while since I heard about it, but at the time it sounded like it was a new idea around here.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby chapmaja » Thu Jul 04, 2019 3:22 pm

GreatLakesRailfan wrote:
Super Chief wrote:I believe the above poster meant STB not TSB?


I wrote TSB. The lead agency hadn't been announced (to my knowledge) when I wrote the post. It was just a guess, personally I'd much rather see the NTSB conduct the investigation.

Considering how much damage there is on the other side of the river, I'll be greatly surprised if the Americans are allowed to do the investigation.

On a completely unrelated subject, does anyone know if the price of scrap is higher or lower in Canada than the US this week?


I'm not sure how stretch braking plays into things in the tunnel, but the general theory is that as the back half of the train goes into the tunnel, it's pushing the front half of the train up/out of the tunnel. It's not uncommon to hear the slack run in as a westbound train is slowing down to stop on the west end of the yard.

Outside of the DPU use, I've heard a couple engineers talk about using a steady speed for the entire trip through the tunnel lately. Essentially they don't cross 16th Street at track speed and slow to a stop over the next mile and a half, which I believe puts additional stress on the equipment. Instead it's supposed to be a more controlled movement, with less overall speed changes. It's been a while since I heard about it, but at the time it sounded like it was a new idea around here.



I wonder if speed through the tunnel will be related to the work that's going to be done on the west end of the yard with the crossovers and connections. Could the changes being implemented around Port Huron be related to concerns CN had over the operations through the tunnel. They were trying to change things on the west end of the yard to prevent something like this from happening, but it happened first.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby GreatLakesRailfan » Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:16 pm

Changes at the west end of the yard would be related to operations. They added a bunch of lights and upgraded a couple yard tracks supposedly to improve something relating to a traffic pattern that was supposed to change, but I don't know exactly what it was. If trains have the ability to cross over further from the yard (i.e. down by the current Range Road crossing, it will probably make pick ups and set outs easier to accomplish without blocking all of the mains, as is sometimes currently the case.

There are very few trains that are allowed to run straight into the tunnel without stopping in Port Huron, but I think that relates to the conditions in the yard in Sarnia. Trains that have to do work in Sarnia, or that terminate in Sarnia, have to get permission from the yard before they can go across the river. Trains coming from Sarnia have to clear US Customs before they can depart to the west or the south, which usually requires a stop. I can't see how the changes on the other side of the yard would directly influence a derailment in the tunnel. They have broken knuckles in the tunnel on a fairly regular basis, and drawbar issues on a slightly less regular basis. It makes sense that a derailment could occur in the tunnel. From what I understand, the DPU made the wreck much worse that it would have been, but that doesn't mean that a derailment would not have happened.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby railrod1949 » Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:38 pm

GreatLakesRailfan wrote:Changes at the west end of the yard would be related to operations. They added a bunch of lights and upgraded a couple yard tracks supposedly to improve something relating to a traffic pattern that was supposed to change, but I don't know exactly what it was. If trains have the ability to cross over further from the yard (i.e. down by the current Range Road crossing, it will probably make pick ups and set outs easier to accomplish without blocking all of the mains, as is sometimes currently the case.

There are very few trains that are allowed to run straight into the tunnel without stopping in Port Huron, but I think that relates to the conditions in the yard in Sarnia. Trains that have to do work in Sarnia, or that terminate in Sarnia, have to get permission from the yard before they can go across the river. Trains coming from Sarnia have to clear US Customs before they can depart to the west or the south, which usually requires a stop. I can't see how the changes on the other side of the yard would directly influence a derailment in the tunnel. They have broken knuckles in the tunnel on a fairly regular basis, and drawbar issues on a slightly less regular basis. It makes sense that a derailment could occur in the tunnel. From what I understand, the DPU made the wreck much worse that it would have been, but that doesn't mean that a derailment would not have happened.


All CN RR freight trains stops in Port Huron or Sarnia to change crews since they are Port Huron based. That freight train that derailed in the tunnel this past Friday morning were operated by a London, ON train and engine crew.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby 12Bridge » Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:51 pm

railrod1949 wrote:All CN RR freight trains stops in Port Huron or Sarnia to change crews since they are Port Huron based. That freight train that derailed in the tunnel this past Friday morning were operated by a London, ON train and engine crew.


Not true. Pretty common to have trains go through to Sarnia. Battle Creek crews do it often.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby Saturnalia » Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:53 pm

12Bridge wrote:
railrod1949 wrote:All CN RR freight trains stops in Port Huron or Sarnia to change crews since they are Port Huron based. That freight train that derailed in the tunnel this past Friday morning were operated by a London, ON train and engine crew.


Not true. Pretty common to have trains go through to Sarnia. Battle Creek crews do it often.

What's the protocol for crews crossing the border? Are they sent right back to the other side?
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby JoJames » Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:25 pm

Not sure about Canada but when a derailment has more than $10,000.00 in the states lots of federal agencies become involved.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby Super Chief » Fri Jul 05, 2019 6:57 am

In the end this is an expensive lesson for CN on how DPUs can't be utilized. Operations should have never even thought about radio-controlled units working in underground situations as there's no fail safe method unless I'm missing something that the DPU shuts down if radio signal is gone from head end. If such a system is in place it didn't work or was bypassed. Sulfuric acid can't be mixed with water and with that quanity leaking their lucky an explosion had they mixed would have blown out both sides of the tunnel.
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby Mike H » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:03 am

You are making a lot of very unfair assumptions. No one knows the cause of the derailment yet & it's probably more like than not that the DP unit had absolutely nothing to do with the derailment. CN has been running DP through the tunnel for a couple years now, (I would be one who would actually know, rather than all the railfan speculation taking place here) & if this had been a problem with DP units as you are assuming this issue would have been found out fairly quickly once they started testing the concept. The first time a unit lost link everyone would have been all over it. Don't forget that railroads all over the country run DP through tunnels, around mountains & in many other places where the link can be lost, but yet you don't see those train piling up because of a lost link.

It's probably better to get the facts before making wild assumptions & pointing the finger......

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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby Steve B » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:09 am

https://blackburnnews.com/sarnia/sarnia ... continues/

Up to 9 cars remain in tunnel as of this morning. Does anyone know if the Windsor detours use the CP from the tunnel to the CN connecting spur to the VIA line, or if they go down the CASO remnant to Pelton, then up the old C&O to the east side?
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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby 12Bridge » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:53 am

Mike H wrote:You are making a lot of very unfair assumptions. No one knows the cause of the derailment yet & it's probably more like than not that the DP unit had absolutely nothing to do with the derailment. CN has been running DP through the tunnel for a couple years now, (I would be one who would actually know, rather than all the railfan speculation taking place here) & if this had been a problem with DP units as you are assuming this issue would have been found out fairly quickly once they started testing the concept. The first time a unit lost link everyone would have been all over it. Don't forget that railroads all over the country run DP through tunnels, around mountains & in many other places where the link can be lost, but yet you don't see those train piling up because of a lost link.

It's probably better to get the facts before making wild assumptions & pointing the finger......

Mike H


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Re: CN Derailment in Port Huron Tunnel

Unread postby PatAzo » Fri Jul 05, 2019 12:35 pm

Attempting to deduce what occurred (speculation) can be interesting. You test your reasoning powers and knowledge of the industry. There is nothing wrong with it. Aside from being a train with DPU is there anything pointing to DPU causing the derailment vs. another cause?

Sulfuric acid can be combined with water. It's important how you combine them. It's an exothermic reaction and can cause the liquid to boil.
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