News release

Misaligned switch led to August 2016 derailment of a CN train in Acton Vale, Quebec

Dorval, Quebec, 8 June 2017  – In its investigation report (R16D0073) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) found that a main-track switch inadvertently left in the reverse position led to the August 2016 derailment of a Canadian National Railway (CN) train in Acton Vale, Quebec.

On 11 August 2016, a CN freight train was travelling eastward on the Sherbrooke Subdivision of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad. When the train crew noticed that a main-track switch at Acton Vale, Quebec was lined for the siding, the train's emergency brakes were applied. The train was unable to stop before the switch and was diverted into the siding where the lead locomotive struck a derail and derailed. Derails are devices designed to stop runaway equipment by derailing it. The track was slightly damaged and the derail was destroyed. There were no injuries.

The investigation determined that the main-track switch was inadvertently left in the reverse position, leading to the train being diverted into the siding. A worker tasked with handling the switch had not moved it back to the normal position after completing another task and mistakenly recorded it as being in the normal position. Because the emergency brakes were not applied at a distance that allowed the train to stop before entering the siding, the train entered the siding, struck the derail and derailed. The investigation found that there is an increased risk of accidents occurring on non-signaled tracks if there are no physical defences to alert train crews of a misaligned switch and if the control system is unable to detect a switch left in the reverse position.

Following the occurrence, St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad engineering employees received refresher training on the Canadian Rail Operating Rules, including the company's special instructions that apply when a main-track switch is handled.

See the investigation page for more information.


The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053
Email: media@tsb.gc.ca