Wednesday, 8 August 2012

End for the Line

Example of an abandoned main line red-flagged. Out of service and most likely permanently.

CP Rail was preparing to shut down all their operations east of Sherbrooke, Quebec, on January 01, 1995. For this reason, Via Rail finally confirmed the rumours and announced that the “Atlantic” would be discontinued. The final eastbound and westbound trips departed from Montreal and Halifax respectively on December 15, 1994. 

Immediately I had thought about making a last trip over the rails of the former Megantic Subdivision, and even went and purchased a ticket for a seat on the final eastbound run. Unfortunately, living in southwestern Ontario and carrying out a late night, last journey from Sherbrooke to Megantic would have been too awkward. The unused ticket is still in my possession.

Beyond the red flag and leaving no doubt about the future of this railway line.

At the start of the 20th Century, the railway was the only reliable lifeline towns and villages along this route had to the outside world. Virtually everyone and everything went in or out over the rails. As decades followed, small industries closed, people migrated and freight and passenger traffic vanished. Today, many of those communities the railway once served are now no more than a memory, a name on a map, or station listed in an old schedule. The CPR’s former rigid steel-on-wood route may eventually disappear also.

Rusting and withering. The scene above was recorded in 2011 near Carleton Place, Ontario. This once busy Canadian Pacific Railway main line is no longer required, out of service and soon to be scrapped. CPR's east-west traffic moving between Montreal and Sudbury now routes via Toronto.

The CPR’s railway men, past and present, served out the best years of their lives moving people and tonnage over these rails. Perhaps for those few, railway work was nothing more than a job counted out and calculated in miles; nonetheless those men gave life to the railway’s machinery and made the trains move.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum August 15, 2013

The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic has been forced to suspend operations and shut down.
Will this be the end of the line?

Red tape across the track - almost the same as being red-flagged. A train on the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic on July 9, 2013 near Lac Megantic, Quebec.(AFP/File, Steeve Duguay)

The AFP headline Aug 13 and related article follws:

Canada Suspends Railroad's Operations after Disaster

OTTAWA — A Canadian railway company at the heart of a deadly accident that flattened part of a Quebec town lost its operating permit Tuesday on grounds it lacks sufficient insurance.

The firm suspended is Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, involved in last month's derailment and explosion, which killed 47 people and touched off a fire that lasted nearly two days.

The Canadian Transportation Agency said in a statement it has revoked the company's operating permit because it failed to demonstrate that its third party liability insurance would cover any damages in the event of another accident.

"It would not be prudent, given the risks associated with rail operations, to permit MMA and (its subsidiary) MMAC to continue to operate without adequate insurance coverage," Canadian Transportation Agency chairman Geoff Hare said.

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway sought bankruptcy protection in Canada and the United States this month as a result of a July 6 accident in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, saying its cleanup obligations exceeded the value of its assets and insurance.

The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train, carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota, was parked overnight at a nearby town when it slipped away, derailed and exploded in the center of Lac-Megantic.
The railway's chairman has said the disaster appeared to have been caused by an engineer's failure to set hand brakes on the train properly.

The town has sought millions of dollars from the company to pay for the cleanup and decontamination of the area devastated by the blaze that lasted almost two days and killed 47 people.

The Canadian Transportation Agency noted said the tragedy "has raised important questions regarding the adequacy of third party liability insurance coverage to deal with catastrophic events, especially for smaller railways."

"Increasing shipments of crude oil and other hazardous materials by rail highlight the need to determine how best to ensure that railways, small and large, have appropriate levels of third party liability coverage, including for possible catastrophic events such as Lac-Megantic," it added.

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