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Edmonton Journal

Friday 14 July 2000

CN train derailed after hitting tractor trailer

Minor injuries in Wainwright crash

Pierre Pelletier and Kelly Clemmer, Special to The Journal The Edmonton Journal

A CN freight train travelling westbound four kilometres west of Wainwright was derailed Thursday afternoon when it struck a northbound tractor trailer.

Wainwright is 200 km east of Edmonton.

Brian Kalin, CN superintendent of operations, said 28 derailed grain cars are considered write-offs. The two locomotive engines were damaged.

"The locomotive engineer did observe the truck at the last moment, and did apply the brakes probably 8-10 car lengths or 500 to 600 feet from the crossing," said Kalin. "It became evident to the crew that the truck wasn't going to stop and they took action to stop the train."

The front part of the truck made it across the tracks before the train plowed into it, leaving the driver on the north side of the tracks and his trailer on the south.

The train continued on for nearly 100 yards throwing dirt and mud as it ground to a halt.

The two train crew members were rushed to Wainwright General Hospital. The locomotive engineer was released and the conductor was being kept for observation.

The driver of the truck was also taken to Wainwright General Hospital with minor injuries.

"He is lucky to be alive," said the owner of the truck, Henry Fleming of Fleming Holdings Ltd., as he viewed the mangled cab buried in the twisted metal and piles of grain of the train wreck.

"He has been with me for about 10 years. If he wasn't hit in the right spot, he wouldn't be alive."

Kalin said the rail crossing is "as safe a crossing as any other crossing" on the CN network.

"It was well marked, and there were crossbucks and a stop sign. The train is close to 8,600 tonnes, so to stop the train with an emergency brake application -- had they not even hit the truck -- would still have taken well over half a mile to stop."

Highway 14 was closed for nearly a kilometre on either side of the accident.

"The call that first came in was truck versus train," said RCMP Const. Pam Balke. "Then the next call that came in was the derailment."

At first the RCMP didn't know whether the derailment involved possible chemical or passenger cars. Once it was determined they were grain cars, their priority changed to keeping the traffic moving and limiting the onlookers.

The main rail line normally handles about 35 trains a day. Trains were being rerouted temporarily.

CN officials expect the line to be open within 24 hours.

-- Rachel Gibson (, July 14, 2000

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