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Rail Safety Advisory Letter 617-09/18

Clearing trains through Rule 42 work limits

Place du Centre
200 Promenade du Portage, 4th Floor
Gatineau QC  K1A 1K8

16 November 2018

Safety advisory letter 617-09/18
Related occurrence: R18H0105

Letter addressed to:
Director General, Rail Safety
Transport Canada
14th Floor, Enterprise Building
427 Laurier Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N5

On 02 October 2018, at about 0015 Eastern Daylight Time, Canadian National Railway (CN) train X149 21 01 (the train), travelling westward at 48 mph on the south track of the Kingston Subdivision, came into contact with a Unimat tamperFootnote 1 (the tamper) at Mile 84.27 near Ingleside, Ontario. The tamper was working on the north track, with its appurtenances extended laterally and foul of the south track (Figure 1). The train was 9644 feet in length and weighed 10 856 tons. It consisted of 2 locomotives (IC 2721 and CN 2679) and 61 loaded intermodal cars (153 platforms). The tamper sustained damage to its appurtenances. The train sustained damage to safety appliances on the 2 locomotives and 3 intermodal cars. An additional 7 intermodal cars sustained scratches. There were no injuries (TSB Occurrence No. R18H0105).

At the time of the occurrence, track work was underway between Mile 82 and Mile 87 on both the north and south main tracks of the Kingston Subdivision. The work was being conducted under the protection of CROR Rule 42, which was in effect from 2100 to 0700 each day. As per CROR Rule 42, the foreman was responsible for the protection of all work activities within the specified work limits. The foreman had also granted sub-foreman protection to another employee who was overseeing the activities of 3 track machines, including the tamper.

At Mile 80, when the train approached the yellow over red flag (i.e., 2 miles in advance of the red flag), the train crew initiated a call over the radio to the Rule 42 foreman to request permission to operate through the work limits. The Rule 42 foreman asked the train crew to stand by, and then contacted the sub-foreman to advise of the approaching train and to enquire about the status of the work activities under the sub-foreman’s direction.

Figure 1. Occurrence site diagram
Occurrence site diagram

The sub-foreman contacted 2 of the machine operators that he was protecting to determine their status and to ensure that they would be clear. Upon receiving confirmation from the 2 machine operators, the sub-foreman advised the Rule 42 foreman that the work equipment under his protection was clear of the track. However, the sub-foreman did not contact the tamper operator to advise of the approaching train or to check on the status of the employees working with the tamper or the position of the tamper’s appurtenances. The Rule 42 foreman then provided permission to the train crew to proceed (with no restrictions) on the south track through the work limits.

As the train approached on the tangent track, the train crew observed the appurtenances from the tamper extended laterally and foul of the south track (Figure 2). The locomotive engineer applied the brakes and brought the train to a controlled stop.

Neither the Rule 42 foreman nor the sub-foreman had been in a position to notice that the tamper’s appurtenances were foul of the south track. The tamper operator had been continuing his work, unaware of the passing train. As per CN’s Eastern Region Engineering Notice 2017-E-012, work equipment operators can continue to work when a train is passing on an adjacent track in some circumstances

Figure 2. Appurtenances from the tamper extended laterally
Appurtenances from the  tamper extended laterally

In this occurrence, the train was authorized to operate through the work limits, without restriction, while on-track maintenance activities that fouled the adjacent track were ongoing. Given the potential risks when trains operate through work sites, Transport Canada may wish to review the application of CROR Rule 42 that allows ongoing work activities when a train is passing on the adjacent track.

Original signed by

Kirby Jang
Investigation Operations, Rail/Pipeline


Background information

Occurrence No.



Darlene Roosenboom, Specialist/Senior Investigator, Railway Operations

Clay Finch-Field, Senior Investigator/Safety Analyst/Rail-HO Operations

Dan Holbrook, Manager, Head Office and Western Regional Operations