Train trip-up on Trip 2

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by Trevor Greenway on May 7, 2009

 

Wakefield steam train car skids off the tracks May 10.

Wakefield steam train car skids off the tracks May 10.

Only its second day back on track, and the Wakefield steam train is once again off the rails – literally this time.

Tourists were enjoying an otherwise relaxing Mother’s Day ride along the Gatineau River when two of the Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train cars derailed on the way back to Gatineau May 10.

At about 2 p.m. at the Larrimac Golf Course crossing, a few railway ties gave way, sending two cars off-track, one skidding another 100 feet forward until it came to a halt in a nearby bush.

It made for some exciting viewing for ten-year-old Joseph Flood.

He was outside watching the train go past his house when he heard his brother scream, “Oh no!”

“My brother said that the train was falling, so I turned around and the train was just in the trees,” said Flood.

Flood quickly ran into his house and told his parents that there had been an accident. Flood’s mother said she was worried about her children’s safety as they were only feet away from the train when it derailed.

Fortunately, nobody was inside the derailed cars and there were no injuries.

Steam train manager Andre Groulx downplayed the event, calling the accident “a very small derailment.”

“The ties just got too soggy,” said Groulx, who on May 11 was standing at the site waiting for the arrival of a crane to lift the cars back on the tracks.

“It sucks, especially on the opening weekend.”

According to Groulx, the railway ties that gave way were scheduled to be fixed this week. While they weren’t of great concern, he said they did need replacing. When asked why the train was in operation if repairs were still needed, Groulx said that there were no noticeable defects along the tracks that indicated a possible derailment.

“We did an inspection with engineers and it seemed to be solid enough,” said Groulx, whose family owns the train company. Because the soggy ties were at a crossing, he said engineers couldn’t actually see them, as they were under the ground.

The car that jumped the track was reserved for employee training; and employees were in the other cars serving customers when the train derailed. Thirty passengers of the second car were evacuated and placed in the remaining cars that were still on the track and were taken back to Gatineau. Two passengers who happened to live nearby hopped off the train and decided to walk home.

Emergency crews showed up with a crane to pull the cars back onto the track at about 1 p.m. May 11.

This was only the HCW Steam Train’s second trip after shutting down operations last spring. A landslide under the tracks in Chelsea, followed by heated debate over who was responsible for fixing and maintaining the tracks, had owners put the train up for sale. Last winter, the federal government, Quebec, Gatineau, Chelsea, La Peche municipalities along with tourist and development agencies rallied and eventually committed $5.1 million to repairing the tracks, and a new body was formed to oversee the railway corridor.

Groulx was optimistic that the train would be back on the tracks by May 13.