June 20, 2022 - Go Train Hits SUV

Metrolinks posted a video on their Twitter account. The video shows a black SUV approach a rail crossing as the warning lights are flashing and the gate comes down. The vehicle stops behind the gate momentarily, but then attempts to drive around it. Suddenly the driver glimpses the approaching train and stops. Seconds later the GO Train smashes into the vehicle’s passenger’s side, pushing it out of view.

No matter what safety features are implemented at grade crossings there is still no solution for driver stupidity.

July 12, 2019 More Train Separations in Cramahe

CN appears incapable of solving the problem of train separations in the Township of Cramahe.  Mutiple grade crossings were blocked on July 5, 2019 and on July 11, 2019.  On July 5, a train blocked Peter's Rd, Blyth Park Rd, Colton and Durham. Here is a report on the July 11, 2019 separations  July 11, 2019 Train Separations.

June 21, 2019 Train Separations Continue to be a Problem in Cramahe Township

This is the information that was forwarded to the Duty Officer at Transport Canada:

Driving south on Durham Road in Cramahe Township at about 9:50 am, we encountered an activated warning system (flashing lights, ringing bells and gates down) at the CN grade crossing.  This is a two track crossing.  As we approached the crossing, we noticed that an eastbound freight train was stopped just to the west of the crossing.  It apparently had triggered the switch for the active warning system.  To get a closer look at the situation, I walked up to the grade crossing.  After a few minutes, a train horn sounded to the east of the grade crossing.  It announced a second CN freight train approaching very slowly from that direction.  A crew member was on the front of the lead engine.  We assume this was to watch for debris on the track since the eastbound train had experienced a rail car separation.  Apparently the train separation was due to a knuckle failure.  (See below for an explanation of the train coupler and how it might fail.) This is a video of the approaching freight train.  The video highlights the importance of not simply assuming the the signals are activated as a result of the stopped train.

Video of Slow Moving Train Approaching Blocked Grade Crossing

We then drove one kilometer to the west and encountered the slow moving westbound freight and the stopped eastbound freight at the Victoria Street grade crossing.  After taking pictures, at this grade crossing we drove 0.63 kilometers further to the west and noted that the same two trains were blocking the Ontario Street crossing.  While we were at the Ontario Street crossing, the westbound freight finally cleared the crossing and a few minutes later the eastbound train began moving.

A local resident reported that the Townline Road grade crossing (1.25 km further to the west) was also blocked by the train separation.  This means that four grade crossings were blocked (Durham Street S – activated warning system; Victoria Street; Ontario Street and Townline Road). Pictures from the blocked crossings are shown below:

2019 06 21 Durham Street CN Grade Crossing 02

Durham Street South - Warning System Activated by Stopped CN Freight

2019 06 21 Victoria St Grade Cossing 02

Victoria Street Grade Crossing Blocked by Disabled Eastbound CN Freight and a Slow Moving Westbound Freight

2019 06 21 Ontario St Grade Crossing 04

Ontario Street Grade Crossing Blocked By Disabled Eastbound CN Freight

We are uncertain as to how long the grade crossings were actually blocked but it was certainly longer than five minutes. Our exposure to the blocked crossings was 20 minutes.

Once again this event highlights the potential delay in emergency services reaching locations south of the tracks when a train separation occurs.

May 21, 2019 - Train Hits a Midland County Deputy Sheriff's SUV (Texas)

Two Midland County Sheriff's Office SUVs attempted to drive around a slow-moving, westbound freight train at a railroad grade crossing when an eastbound train struck the lead vehicle.  Watch the video here.

Train Hits Deputy Sheriff's SUV

The westbound train had offloaded some cars and was trying to get out of the deputy's way. As the westbound train cleared the crossing, it blocked the deputy's view of the oncoming eastbound train.

The active warning system at the crossing was functioning at the time of the crash with the gates down and the lights flashing.  The oncoming train was also sounding its horn. The Sheriff’s Deputy mistakenly assumed that the warning system was operating because of the westbound freight that had just cleared the tracks.

After it crossed the first set of tracks, the deputy's vehicle was struck by the fast moving eastbound train and flipped over. The deputy in the second vehicle managed to pull the injured deputy out through the SUV’s windshield.  Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter said the injured officer was transported to Midland Memorial Hospital and is “banged up,” but was still “walking and talking.”

The deputies were apparently responding to an emergency call regarding a baby who wasn't breathing.  The child involved in the distress call received help and was also taken to the hospital, Painter said.

The important lesson - do not start across a grade crossing until the lights have stopped flashing.  The only exception is if the grade crossing is being controlled by a police officer or a flag person for the train company.

May 8, 2019 - Cramahe Rail Corridor Unplanned Train Separations

April 26, 2019

On Friday April 26, 2019 a CN freight train blocked THREE grade crossings (Victoria Street, Ontario Street and Townline Road) in Cramahe Township for several hours News Article About Blocked Crossings .  Furthermore the active warning system (FLBG) was triggered and remained active at a fourth crossing (Durham Street) further to the east.

This blockage interfered with school bus movement and caused significant delays in dropping off children.  In some cases, children had to be taken back to their schools causing even further delays in getting them picked up.

The over-arching concern is that this extended blockage of THREE grade crossings had serious implications for first responders.  Their response time would have been seriously impacted.  Worse still CN did not inform Township staff of the blocked routes.  This is a serious oversight and is a problem that has occurred before June 8, 2018 Train Derailment.

The cause of the train separation has been tentatively attributed to a drawbar failure.  An update on the situation is available here Followup Article On Blocked Grade Crossings

May 4, 2019

Another CN train separation in Cramahe Township occurred on May 4, 2019 at approximately 6 pm. Article on May 4, 2019 Train Separation

The incident occurred just east of the Colton Drive grade crossing.  The train and the stray section (4 cars) came to rest just west of the west of Colton Drive grade crossing leaving the warning system activated and effectively blocking the crossing.

The separation appears to have occurred as a result of a drawbar failure.  In the pictures, the drawbar itself appears intact but it somehow became disconnected from the rail car. The pictures show debris along the track that is associated with the drawbar mechanism.  This could have been much worse as a westbound Via train apparently struck the drawbar which had landed on the second set of tracks.

The train separation blocked four grade crossings – Durham Street, Victoria Street, Ontario Street and Townline Road. The blocked grade crossings were cleared by about 2:30 am

Background Information on Railway Coupling Components

Drawbar - A drawbar is a solid coupling between a hauling vehicle and its hauled load. On a train, the drawbar is a heavy metal bar between the coupler and the sliding sill that absorbs shock in coupling.  It is a strong metal casting which is usually good for 390,000 lbs of force before they snap.

The coupler knuckles are the only "spare" parts typically kept on the train itself. Knuckles are the most likely component of a coupler to fail. If the failure is due to the coupler casting itself (drawbar) it is much more serious.  There are two drawbars on rail cars (front and back based on its position with respect to the locomotive). If the front drawbar breaks the locomotive is no longer attached to the car and it complicates the recovery.  If the drawbar drops onto the track it's capable of derailing part of the train.

When a train experiences a knuckle, coupler or drawbar failure, the train will go into emergency braking mode. The separation of the air lines as the coupling comes apart causes a loss in air pressure that automatically applies the brakes on the train.  The brakes come on full force, starting from the point of separation and moving away from that point.  The brakes will start to set on the cars closest to the break, so the locomotive will still be pulling, until the brake application reaches it.  The lead car in the rear portion will set up first, with the rest following.  If there is enough pull from the locomotive and the other cars, it’s possible to cause a second break in the train.

The Coupler is a device located at both ends of all cars in a standard location to provide a means for connecting one rail car to another.

A Knuckle is a pivoting hook-like casting that fits into the head of a coupler and rotates about a vertical pin to either the open position or to the closed position.

The picture and diagram below shows the parts of a coupler assembly.

Figure 1 Coupler Assembly

 Picture of Train Coupler

Figure 2 Schematic of Coupler Assembly

(1) Coupler/Drawbar, (2) Knuckle, (3) Knuckle Locking Block, (4) Knuckle Thrower, (5) Lock-Lift Assembly, (6) Knuckle Pin

Schematic of Train Coupler Assembly (no legend)

The action that most frequently breaks knuckles or drawbars, is unintended "slack" action. 


Slack is the free play between rail cars. On freight trains there is an inch or two of space between the couplers of each car where they clasp, and 4-5" play in the draft gear (coupler pocket).

A train's slack condition is either "bunched", or "stretched". Bunched is when the cars behind are pushing the cars ahead and the couplers and draft gear are compressed. Stretched is when the couplers are tugging on each other, with no free play between the cars, as when climbing a hill. Slack "run out" occurs when the slack condition changes rapidly from “bunched” to “stretched”.  Slack "run in" is the opposite of slack “run out”. It is the engineer’s job is to control the severity of “run in” and “run out”.  If slack runs out too quickly, you can yank out a coupler. If it runs in too quickly, you could jackknife your train and derail it.

The following conditions are what generally cause a train’s slack to be “bunched” or “stretched”:


This condition occurs when applying power to the locomotives, during acceleration, when applying air brakes, or when climbing a hill


This condition occurs when descending a hill, using dynamic brakes, applying engine brakes, or during deceleration

Of course the actual condition at any moment can vary depending on a combination of the above factors. The various types of braking can have marked effects on slack.  Dynamic brakes (and the independent or engine brake) only apply a retarding force to the locomotive, so cars behind will tend to run into the locomotive (slack run-in).  In the case of air brakes, they are applied on each car, so the cars will tend to drag as the brakes are applied (slack run-out).

Train engineers need to manage slack on an on-going basis especially when putting the train in motion and when navigating hills. (Train Handling Skills)

Short sags in otherwise, level track have been known to be real knuckle eaters because the slack changes in an uncontrolled fashion as the train traverses the sag at speed.


Unplanned train separations have been a common occurrence in Cramahe Township.  On June 11, 2016 the Cramahe Community Association wrote a letter to the CN President and CEO with copies to other Senior CN Executives.  The letter identified a number of safety concerns on the Cramahe rail corridor.  One of the concerns was trains becoming uncoupled.

“There have been cases where trains have come uncoupled while passing through Cramahe. It is not known what the reasons are (mechanical failure? track conditions? swampy soil?) for this happening.  The danger is that long freight trains come to a stop and block more than one level crossing at a time, until the problem can be resolved. This can take several hours. There needs to be a considered approach to this problem that looks at roads infrastructure and provides reasonable escape routes for people living south of the rail line.”

This information was also copied to Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport).  In typical fashion CN ignored the letter.  We then wrote to the Minister of Transport on September 9, 2016 stating that CN ignored our letter and we asked the following:

“We respectfully request that Transport Canada take an active role in getting CN to respond to our request and work with the Township to address the serious nature of safety issues at Cramahe’s railway level crossings.”

On September 21, 2016 we received a vague non-specific email from the CN Public Relations Manager.  The letter failed to address the issues we had raised.  It specifically IGNORED the issue of rail cars becoming uncoupled.

On December 22, 2016 we received a thoughtful letter from the Minister of Transport addressing each of our concerns.  In response to the concern about trains becoming uncoupled the letter stated:

“Regarding train separation (i.e. rail cars coming uncoupled during operation), the department continues to work with the railway company to understand the causes of the issue and to identify the action the railway will take to mitigate the issue.”

We were cautiously optimistic that the problem was going to be addressed and so continued to focus on the other issues such as an active warning system at the Bellamy Road grade crossing.

On April 26, 2019 the issue of train separation once again raised its ugly head with a several hour long blockage of three crucial crossings.  Even worse was the fact that first responders were not made aware of the blockages.  This would have seriously impeded emergency response.

This prompted us to write to CN and to notify Transport Canada.  This is the response we received from Transport Canada:

Transport Canada is following-up with the railway company into the blocked grade crossings in Cramahe that occurred on April 26, 2019. Although preliminary information provided by the railway company suggests that the incident occurred due to a drawbar failure, Transport Canada is currently trying to determine all other factors involved in the incident and it will take some time for the department to complete these activities.

In addition to this specific incident, Transport Canada continues to work with the railway to mitigate the issue of train separations. As discussed previously, it is a complex situation with many factors that need to be considered.

In regards to individuals driving around, or through, an activated warning system at a grade crossing, this is an action that falls under provincial jurisdiction through the Highway Traffic Act and is not regulated by Transport Canada under federal jurisdiction.

Concerning grade crossing safety, this is a shared responsibility between railway companies and local road authorities. It is the railway company’s responsibility to protect public grade crossings when crossing protections are considered defective. Transport Canada continually promotes effective communication between railway companies and local road authorities and encourages them to work together directly to manage any concerns. An example of this could include communication by the railway to first responders in the event that a crossing may be blocked for a prolonged period.


Amanda Chum

A/ Issues Manager, Surface

Transport Canada / Government of Canada

After the second event on May 4, we didn’t bother writing to CN - we simply notified Transport Canada.  Going forward it is important that residents take the time to notify Transport Canada about blocked crossings.  In aid of this we have prepared a one sheet notification form that includes the duty line phone number, email and details that would assist Transport Canada staff in their follow-up on blocked crossings.

Blocked Crossing Notification Procedure

November 26, 2018 - Transport Safety Board Accident Report on Breslau, Ontario Train Fatality

The Transportation Safety Board has released its report into the February 8, 2018 Breslau, Ontario collision between a Via Train and a Staples delivery van.  The report was officially released on September 11, 2018.

Two things are painfully clear from the report.  The first is the need to STOP when there is no active warning system at a railway grade crossing such as the one at the Hunt Road CP crossing.  Do not blow through the stop sign.  This could cost you your life.  The second is that the safety margin or effectiveness of train horns in avoiding a collision is a myth.

The following quote is from the accident report “the truck windows were closed and the driver proceeded onto the crossing without stopping at the stop sign, unaware of the approaching train despite the locomotive horn being activated… a number of TSB investigations have concluded that the effectiveness of the horn can be compromised due to speed of the train, the dampening of sound through the road vehicle shell and the ambient noise within the vehicle, particularly when the vehicle windows are closed.” You can read the investigation report here Breslau Accident Report. This problem with train horns is consistent with our own observations at grade crossings.

August 7, 2018 - Cramahe Bellamy Road Active Warning System

Daniel Salvatore (CN Rail) called us this morning to let us know that the Flashing Lights, Bells and Gates were installed at the Bellamy Road CN grade crossing and have been operational as of Friday, August 3, 2018.  For over two years we have been pressuring Transport Canada, CN Railway and the Township of Cramahe to install FLBG at the Bellamy Road CN Level Crossing. Numerous phone calls, meetings, emails, letters, delegations to council have finally paid off.  This project dates back to April 2010 when a big funding announcement was made by Rick Norlock MP to upgrade the crossing but then nothing happened.  We are grateful that the crossing is finally safe.  Bellamy Road Active Warning System Pictures

June 21, 2018 - Implementation of Grade Crossing Regulations and Standards

A summary was prepared that details the implementation process for the regulations and standards.  This document details the responsibilities of the Road Authority (Township or Municipality) and the Rail company.  It also summarizes the information that needs to be shared between the two authorities.  The document can be read here Implementation of Grade Crossing Regulations and Standards

If you would like more detail on the Transport Canada documentation the  Grade Crossing Regulations can be found here Grade Crossing Regulations and the Grade Crossing Standards can be found here Grade Crossing Standards

After reviewing the requirements of the new regulations, the following questions were posed to Transport Canada

Overall the regulatory requirements for new grade crossings are a step in the right direction.  There is however a problem with the legislation when it comes to existing grade crossings.  Other than increased attention being focused on sightlines, there is not a lot in the new regulations and standards that will significantly improve safety.

For example there is now a regulatory requirement for the sharing of information between the rail and road authorities. This sharing process was to have been completed by November 28, 2016.  What Transport Canada checks are in place to ensure that this process was properly completed? Are you auditing the sharing of information? The reason I ask is that CN is supposedly asking Cramahe Township (see February 23, 2018 email from Daniel Salvatore) for information that should already have been part of this sharing process. CN has made this a prerequisite to installation of an active warning system at Bellamy Road.

Although there are high expectations of this information sharing process, I suspect it does nothing more than result in the creation of a database somewhere.  There is in fact no requirement to assess the adequacy of any particular crossing in the sharing process.

This brings me to the matter of Detailed Safety Assessments of grade crossings.  As you pointed out previously, there is NO REQUIREMENT for DSA’s in the current Regulations and Standards.  This to me is a serious deficiency.  Note: Every 5 years, Municipalities are required to have the condition of their roads and bridges assessed.  They may not act on the information but at least they have the information available in their decision making process.

Ultimately how do small Municipalities or Townships (which typically don’t employ professional engineers with railway expertise) assess the safety of their crossings?  Other than the sightline legislation, there is nothing that will motivate or force Rail Companies and Municipalities to improve the safety at existing grade crossings.  As it is, small Municipalities are strapped for infrastructure money.  They are not motivated to contract for DSA’s because it costs money to do the assessments ($3,000 to $5000 per crossing). Why spend money to find problems when you can just as easily ignore the situation.  Even if a Municipality is motivated to improve conditions at a crossing, the passive resistance from the rail companies is unbelievable.  Typically the Municipal CAO is left talking to a PR Manager who has no authority to get things done at the rail company.  Just try and get the CAO’s attention when it comes to issues at grade crossings.

Section 6.1 of the Grade Crossing Standards (that comes into effect 7 years after promulgation) states: “The horizontal and vertical alignment of the road approach and the crossing surface must be smooth and continuous.”

This seems intuitively obvious but when does a grade crossing surface no longer meet requirements?  Suppose a grade crossing is in poor condition.  What happens when there are numerous potholes, the timbers are damaged or loose and the local residents have taken it upon themselves to shovel gravel into the potholes so that they don’t damage their vehicles when driving over the tracks.  The conditions deteriorate every winter and cold patches are typically made in spring.  Heavy rains cause the potholes to reappear and deepen.  At what point is the crossing deemed unsafe or not adequate from a regulatory standpoint?

The response from Colin Marlow at Transport Canada:

I’ve gathered some information that I hope will be able to answer most of your questions.

Prior to the Grade Crossings Regulations coming into force there was a very limited power under what was known as E6, which only applied to crossings that were products of a CTA Board Order. This resulted in the majority of crossings existing outside of existing regulation. With the advent of the GCR this gap is addressed with enforceable Regulation which is linked to an Act. For example; Section 93(2) requires all crossings, existing or new, to be maintained in accordance with AREMA 3.3.1 and 3.15.15 (AREMA = American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association).  As well, the GCR also now sets out specific testing and recording requirements of crossings equipped with automated warning systems. Also, existing crossings do have to meet a number of other standards as detailed in the Existing Crossings section of the GCR.

One other aspect of the new GCR is the sharing of information section. Though there is no explicit requirement for a DSA in the current regulation, Road Authorities, as the co-owners of crossings, are responsible for ensuring safety; the exact method by which they achieve this is a decision which lies with them, whether it be through the direct employ of qualified personnel, the contracting of a specialty service (such as an Engineering firm) as required, or by other means.

Further to the issue of information sharing, there exists a Transport Canada / Railway Industry working group which meets monthly to discuss the Grade Crossings Regulations and any concerns the parties may have. The issue of information sharing has been flagged and possible solutions are being discussed by the group.

As for Smooth and Continuous, the Grade Crossing Handbook has defined “Smooth and Continuous” as;

Members of the public who have a safety concern regarding a crossing (including surface condition) are encouraged to contact the Transport Canada duty line.

I hope this has helped to answer your questions.


Colin Marlow

A/ Issues Manager, Surface

Transport Canada / Government of Canada

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / Cel: 416-902-0843 / TTY: 1-888-675-6863



Transport Canada has laid out a regulatory strategy to get Road and Rail Authorities to focus attention on the condition of grade crossings.  They have indicated that they will be auditing compliance with the new regulations and standards.

As noted in Mr. Marlow’s email, if members of the public have safety concerns about grade crossings they are encouraged to contact the Transport Canada duty line

Ottawa https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/railsafety/railsafety-257.htm

Phone: 613-998-2985 Toll-free: 1 844 897-RAIL (1 844 897-7245)

Ontario https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/ontario/menu.htm

Toll Free Number: 1-800-305-2059 Local Number: 416-952-0230

June 12, 2018 Cramahe's Bellamy Road CN Grade Crossing

The Bellamy Road CN grade crossing was visited on June 12, 2018. It is apparent that preparations for an active warning system have been made.  Walls have been installed and the base plates for the masts (gates, bells and lights) have been installed. Repeated emails to CN asking when the equipment would be installed have been ignored.  It is pitiful that something that should have been done back in 2010 still hasn't been completed.  Here are the pictures that were taken at the grade crossing. Bellamy Road CN Grade Crossing Pictures

June 5, 2018 - Cramahe CN Rail Derailment

Early on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, two CN rail cars collided and at least one of the cars derailed west of Blyth Park Road south of Salem (east of Colborne). The derailment / collision only affected one of the two CN tracks.  In the overall scheme of rail disasters this was a relatively minor event.  The response by CN was a bit of a gong show however.  In particular the rail company failed to notify Township staff in a timely and appropriate fashion.  The Head Office PR people clearly don't understand the impact of such an event in a Township where there are many grade crossings in close proximity. See details here Cramahe CN Derailment Details

April 5, 2018 - Letter to Transport Minister Re Train Horns

It has become clear that trying to implement train whistle cessation in small Municipalities or Townships is akin to flogging a dead horse.  There is no desire to spend money on something that only impacts a small percentage of the population, no matter how bothersome it might be to those people.  Furthermore there is no desire to improve the condition of grade crossings because it involves spending precious infrastructure money.  A letter has been written to the Minister of Transport to try and get the government to relax the requirement for trains to sound their horns at  all grade crossings.  The reality is that train horns add nothing to the safety of grade crossings equipped with Flashing Lights, Bells and Gates.  Read the letter here Letter to the Minister Of Transport Re Train Horns

February 26, 2018 - TSB Issues Report on CP Freight and School Bus Collision

The Transportation Safety Board released its report regarding the collision between a CP freight and a school bus that occurred at the Townline grade crossing last February.  The TSB report took a detailed look at a number of factors including the road conditions, the crossing elevation change, the weather, snow clearing operations, driver training, vehicle condition, tire condition, and crashworthiness of the vehicle.  Ultimately the collision occurred because of overly conservative actions on the part of the school bus driver.  After stopping as required before he got the to grade crossing, he elected to pass slowly over the tracks so that he could look both ways again as he crossed the tracks.  Unfortunately this caused the bus to to get trapped on the tracks because there was insufficient momentum and traction to get the bus across the tracks in the snow.  It was a simple mistake. The driver notified his employer's dispatch, instead of calling the emergency number posted at the level crossing, and as a result there was a delay in notifying the railway company of the location of the stuck bus. Fortunately the prompt action of the bus driver in evacuating the bus avoided any injuries.  School bus companies need to ensure that their policies with regard how drivers should cross grade crossings are understood and followed.  You can read the TSB report here TSB Report On Train - School Bus Collision (Townline Road)

February 16, 2018 - Transportation Safety Board Report on Moncton NB Rail Fatality

Yesterday the TSB released Investigation Report R16M0026 calling for safety improvements at railway crossings for people who use assistive devices, such as wheelchairs.  The TSB investigation examined the death of Steven Harel, 29, who was fatally struck by a CN freight train on July 27, 2016, when his wheelchair became stuck in the gravel at the edge of a sidewalk at the public crossing on Robinson Street in Moncton, New Brunswick.  The TSB report can be read here TSB Investigation Into Moncton NB Rail Fatality

Brighton has two grade crossings with sidewalks which might be suitable for motorized wheel chairs.  This needs to be reviewed.  The grade crossings in Cramahe and Alnwick/Haldimand do not have sidewalks and would be unsuitable for disabled people in wheelchairs. The issue for all Municipalities or Townships is that grade crossings are an important part of their infrastructure.  As the Road Authority it is essential that Municipalities or Townships keep track of the condition of these crossings and arrange for timely repairs or upgrades.  Desirable future improvements include the installation of rubber mats and the use of flangeway gap fillers.

We are still awaiting the results of the TSB investigation into the CP freight train - school bus collision that occurred at Townline Road on Friday, February 13, 2017.

February 11, 2018 - The Need For An Active Warning System: Winter Pictures of Bellamy Road CN Grade Crossing

A Cramahe resident went out on Sunday, February 11, 2018 and took photographs of the grade crossings on Bellamy Road. The pictures help illustrate the need for an active warning system at the CN grade crossing.

The facts about the Bellamy Road CN grade crossing are:

  • two high-speed Class 5 tracks with many VIA and freight trains daily
  • it lacks an active warning system - flashing lights, bells and gates
  • the photographs highlight added dangers due to winter conditions
  • snow piles conspire to hide warning signs and interfere with sightlines
  • snow storms, rain or fog make matters worse by limiting sign and track visibility
  • there are no street lights in the area

Some of the pictures can be viewed here Winter Pictures - Bellamy Road CN Grade Crossing

February 8, 2018 - VIA Train Collides With Truck in Breslau

Emergency vehicles at Breslau Collision

On Thursday, February 8, 2018, a collision occurred between a VIA train and a delivery truck at the Wurster Place grade crossing in Breslau resulting in a fatality.  Breslau is a rural community located within the township of Woolwich and is located roughly midway between Kitchener and Guelph.  The train was travelling west from Guelph towards Kitchener when it collided with the truck. The train came to a stop on the track away from the crash site east of Kitchener. It was damaged and couldn't continue. Train passengers were unhurt and remained on the train until rail officials arrived and offered alternative transportation.

The issue for Cramahe is that the CN grade crossing at Bellamy Road is more dangerous than the Breslau grade crossing and it STILL doesn't have  an "Active" warning system.

Details of the Breslau collision are provided in this document VIA Train - Truck Collision In Breslau

July 7, 2017 Car - Train Collision at Ontario Street CN Level Crossing

2017 07 07 Ontario Street Fatality

Photo: Pete Fisher

Emergency crews responded to a collision between an eastbound freight train and a car at the Ontario Street CN grade crossing at 6:34 p.m. on Friday, July 7, 2017.  OPP Constable Steve Bates reported that the lone occupant of the car, a 55-year old woman from Gravenhurst, was pronounced dead at the scene. The OPP are continuing their investigation into the cause of the collision assisted by Technical Traffic Collision Investigators.

The Ontario Street CN crossing (just south of Earl Street) is equipped with flashing lights, bells and gates and is one of the better grade crossings in Cramahe Township. It will be very important to determine the root cause of this collision.

February 13, 2017 - CP Freight Collides with School Bus on Townline Road

School Bus CP Train Collision - Townline Road

Luckily no one was killed or injured in this collision between a CP freight train and a School Bus on Townline Road.  An investigation will undoubtedly be done to determine the root cause and the contributing factors to this collision.  While it would be premature to speculate as to the cause of the collision, it does highlight the need to address the safety of crossings in Cramahe.

Over the past two years, the Cramahe Community Association (CCA) has asked Cramahe Council to undertake a safety and infrastructure assessment of the railway corridor through the Township. The idea was to look for ways to reduce the number of level crossings, upgrade warning systems and crossing surfaces, improve road approaches and sightlines.  Ideally detailed safety assessments should be done at ALL grade crossings in conjunction with the rail companies.

A recent email (February 8, 2017) from Craig Brooks (Cramahe CAO) states:

“We are trying to be more responsible with the condition of each and every rail crossing that is within Cramahe Township.  The focus of a rail crossing improvement initiative should be moving it forward with the understanding that we will prioritize each and every crossing based on its’ present condition and the amount of traffic each receives on a daily basis.  By establishing this plan, we can begin to commit to a plan of maintaining/upgrading these crossings as needed to keep all Cramahe residents safe at every crossing.”

So far the CCA has not seen a detailed plan to do this work.

There are several factors that contribute to the safety of a rail grade crossing.  (https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/railsafety/grade-crossings-standards.htm)

  • Warning devices - stop sign (passive) being the weakest, flashing lights, bells and gates (active) being the best
  • The condition of the grade crossing – it should be smooth and continuous (i.e., there should be no traps for wheels, bikes or feet)
  • The condition of the road approaches – surface and geometry is important (horizontal and vertical alignment must be right so that vehicles can stop safely before the crossing and can accelerate in a reasonable fashion to clear the crossing)
  • Sightlines - drivers and train operators should be able to see each other at reasonable distances
  • Signs – signs are required to provide adequate warning to motorists and pedestrians as they approach a rail crossing
  • Horns - trains are required to sound their horns when approaching a crossing (unless whistle cessation has been implemented).  It has been our experience that horns do little to prevent collisions as happened in this case.

The road authority and the rail companies share equally in the responsibility for safety at grade crossings.

January 21, 2017 UTA FrontRunner Train Collides with FedEx Truck At Level Crossing (Train Horns Useless)

North Salt Lake police released dashboard camera video showing the moment a Utah Transit Authority (UTA) FrontRunner train crashed into a FedEx truck on January 21, 2017.

Utah Train Collides with FedEx Truck at Level Crossing

The police officer driving the cruiser in the video obviously realizes something is wrong and stops short of the crossing. He then starts backing up just before the collision. You will notice that there is a service vehicle parked on the right shoulder just past the level crossing. It has its four way flashers on and a yellow flashing light on its roof. The scary thing is that the active warning system (Flashing Lights, Bells and Gates) did not operate until AFTER the collision had occurred. Once again this video demonstrates that train horns do nothing to prevent collisions at level crossings.

It was subsequently reported that the Utah Transit Authority fired an employee after determining he improperly raised crossing gates at a North Salt Lake rail intersection, causing a FrontRunner commuter train to hit and tear apart a FedEx semi-trailer rig.

The sensor that normally detects when a train is passing and activates the safety features at the crossing had been blocked by weather conditions (ice and snow). UTA employs a protection system that causes the crossing arms to drop in such a situation, in order to prevent any accidents. The gates at the intersection, had defaulted (as programmed) to the "down and active" position.  An employee sent to troubleshoot the problem disabled the "down and active" condition thereby raising the gates and turning off the warning systems.  The warning systems were off when the crash occurred.

UTA blamed the accident on the employee's "failure to follow existing Standard Operating Procedures and established protocols."  Under those protocols, the train itself should not have been traveling at more than 15 mph as it crossed the intersection. "The standard procedure states that the protection is to be in place and verified with operators prior to getting authorization to raise the gates. This did not happen." Instead, the train proceeded at its normal speed and was still traveling at 40 mph when it tore into the truck and its trailer.

The warning systems operated as designed but human error intervened to allow the collision to occur.

December 22, 2016 Letter From The Honourable Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport)

Shortly after the new year, a letter arrived from Marc Garneau (Federal Minister of Transport).  The letter is a thoughtful response to the CCA letter of September 9, 2016.  It outlines the regulatory relationship between the rail companies, the road authority (Township) and Transport Canada. The letter talks about the issues at Bellamy Road and the Barnes Road Bridge.

It goes on to say that Transport Canada did inspections at Hunt Road, Bellamy Road and Peters Road. Issues identified with these crossings were communicated to the rail companies as well as the Township and the issues have since been addressed.

Transport Canada is still studying the issue of train separation (cars coming uncoupled).

The letter states that train whistling is a regulatory requirement intended to keep drivers, cyclists and pedestrians safe when using public grade crossings.  It goes on to say that some municipalities may wish to end train whistling "to provide (those) residents with some relief from the noise."

Contents of the letter are posted here Letter From Transport Minister

December 6, 2016 Council Meeting

1. Safety at Bellamy Road Level Crossing:

At Tuesday night’s Council Meeting, Cramahe Council voted unanimously to proceed with Transport Canada’s recommendation to install an active warning system, comprised of flashing lights, bells and gates at the Bellamy Road CN level railway crossing.  A study published in 2014 by Transport Canada, rated the Bellamy Road level crossing as the 36th most dangerous crossing in Canada. December 31, 2016 is the deadline given by Transport Canada to receive a commitment by CN and Cramahe to correct the safety deficiency.  Cramahe will be responsible for $66,700 of the $534,000 project cost, while Transport Canada will pay $267,000 and CN Railway the remaining $200,300. 

2. Railway Corridor Evaluation:

Council also directed staff to continue to evaluate the long-term financial impacts of maintaining level crossings, and to explore funding opportunities with respect to the maintenance and improvements of crossings in Cramahe Township.

3. Barnes Road Bridge:

There is still no decision on the Barnes Road Bridge reconstruction.  CN has submitted revised project costs of $2,042,000 to Cramahe to rebuild the overpass. CN had originally projected the costs to be $900,000 in May of this year.  Council directed staff to question CN as to why the costs have increased over 100%, and were not prepared to make a decision until more information is received.  Cramahe Township would be responsible for 15% of the total costs amounting to $306,300, with the potential for more costs to cover road approaches to the bridge.

November 24, 2016 CCA Email To Craig Brooks Re: CN Subject Matter Expert

In previous correspondence, the CCA had asked CN to supply a Subject Matter Expert (SME) to help Cramahe review the rail corridor through the Township.  The idea would be to help Cramahe understand what is needed in the short and long term to address deficiencies and plan corrective measures.  On November 20, 2016 Paul Longo called Drew Redden at CN to check on the status of this request.  In the discussion, it became clear that while CN would not respond to a request from a community association it would act on a request for a SME from a Township official.  This information was passed on to the CAO Craig Brooks in an email (Email To CAO) 

October 7, 2016 Email Response to CCA Summary from Cramahe CAO Craig Brooks

You can read the response here Response from Cramahe CAO Craig Brooks

October 5, 2016 Email Summary of Meeting - Cramahe CAO Craig Brooks, Councillor Don Clark and CCA Paul Longo, Ernie Koehl and Gritt Koehl

You can read the summary here Summary of Meeting with Craig Brooks and Don Clark

September 28, 2016 Bellamy Road Level Crossing Revisited

CN responded to the July 11, 2016 letter from the Cramahe Community Association on September 21, 2016.  The following is a quote from the letter regarding the level crossing at Bellamy Road. 

“In regards to Bellamy Road, the crossing is currently compliant, however CN met with the Township and with Transport Canada in June, 2016 to discuss potential improvements to the crossing. CN is scheduled to perform maintenance at the crossing and upgrade the protection from a passive to an active warning system this fall.”

On September 28, 2016 two board members from the CCA visited the Bellamy Road CN level crossing.  It was noted that previously reported sinkholes had been filled with cold patch asphalt but were already starting to deteriorate.

As a reminder there are two tracks at the Bellamy Road CN crossing with no lights, no bells, no gates - only a stop sign and crossbucks. These tracks are designated as Class 5.  A video was taken of a VIA train approaching the level crossing.

Via Train Approaching Bellamy Road Level Crossing 

If you watch the video, you will see that from the sound of the first horn, the train fully occupied the crossing in LESS THAN 7 SECONDS.  There is not a lot of traffic on Bellamy.  South of the CN tracks there is one house (between the CN and CP tracks), something that appears like a trailer camp (on the west side of Bellamy just north of the CP tracks), a vacant house at the end of Bellamy and a house associated with some sort of agricultural business located on a laneway that travels to the west from Bellamy.  Despite this, minutes before the train arrived, a heavy stone slinger truck was observed slowly making its way across the two tracks at the level crossing. If the driver had missed spotting the train before it sounded its horn, a collision would have been unavoidable. There are so many regulations, rules, many different acts/documents and internal railway safety documents that figuring out what meets regulations/rules/laws, boggles the mind. How this crossing could be deemed “compliant” defies logic.

The frustrating thing about this situation is that back on April 28, 2010 there was a newspaper report about funding to install an active warning system at Bellamy Road. How can something like this simply fall off the map and have us debating the need for this safety feature six years later!

2010-04-28 Northumberland News - Safety Improvements For Northumberland Crossings

September 21, 2016 Email Response From Drew Redden (CN Ontario PR Lead)

You can read the response here CN Email Response 

September 9, 2016 Letter to Transport Canada

When there was no response to the CCA July 11, 2016 letter to the CN executive a followup letter was sent to Transport Canada (with copies to CN) on September 9, 2016.  You can read the letter here (Letter to Transport Canada)

July 11, 2016 Letter to CN Executive and Transport Canada

Given the lack of action in correcting long standing rail level crossing deficiencies in Cramahe, the president of the CCA wrote to the CEO of CN.  Copies of the letter were sent to Transport Canada and our local politicians. Read the letter here (Letter to CN)

June 21, 2016 Summary of CCA Presentation to Council on Conditions of Railway Crossings in Cramahe

Paul Longo, Vice-President of the Cramahe Community Association and Board Member Ernie Koehl, presented their findings on the conditions at the 20 Level Railway Crossings in Cramahe Township.

• The conditions at four crossings were listed as poor to fair and needing immediate attention, with one crossing on Bellamy Road listed as dangerous. The CN tracks on Bellamy Road have only a STOP sign and cross-bucks, NO bells, lights or gates, yet VIA trains travel at speeds up to 160 km/h through Cramahe Township. This does not comply with Transport Canada safety regulations.
• Over 17,000 level crossings exist across Canada. In 2014 Transport Canada prepared a report of the 500 most dangerous level crossings across the country. Bellamy Road in Cramahe Township ranked at #36.
• Mayor Coombs mentioned that 4-5 years ago, a plan had been proposed to upgrade Bellamy at a cost of $450,000 by Transport Canada and the railways, but it was cancelled. No reason was given for the cancellation.

Longo's presentation posed questions as to whether the Township:

• actively tracks conditions at rail level crossings? The Mayor responded No
• maintains records of Detailed Safety Assessments. DSA’s are to be carried out every five years at each crossing with the railway companies and the local road authority (Cramahe) present. Mayor Coombs replied No
• has a master plan outlining the need for rail crossings relative to the growth of Cramahe. Mayor’s response No
• is considering opportunities to close some of the crossings? Mayor said that had not been looked into, but may not be possible.
The CCA pointed out that Transport Canada offers grants of $20,000 for the closure of a public rail crossing. Cramahe Township presently has 11 roads running south from Hwy 2 with 20 level crossings over an 11km stretch. Comparison: Alnwick/Haldimand has four roads with level crossings over a 14km stretch. One road (Archer's Road) has an overpass.  (Townline Road is included in both totals).

Transport Canada also provides contributions up to 50% of a crossing improvement project, which the Railways/Township could apply for.

The CCA recommended that Council designate a staff member to liaise with the CCA on developing institutional knowledge, improve communications with the railway companies, and begin to work on some of the deficiencies that exist in Cramahe.

Councillor Ed van Egmond commented that is was a great job by these men, The Mayor thanked Longo and Koehl on the great presentation, and said that he would get back to the CCA after Council has an opportunity to review the information presented.

When asked by Deputy Mayor Sandra Arthur, Mayor Coombs informed Council that CN Rail had not provided Cramahe with a formal agreement yet for the proposed timber bridge construction for the Barnes Road overpass, as promised at the June 7th Council Meeting. Follow-up was recommended by Arthur.

June 21, 2016 Presentation to Cramahe Council regarding the condition of Rail Level Crossings

The CCA presentation to Cramahe Council on the condition of Rail Level Crossings in the Township can be viewed here.

Presentation to Cramahe Council On CCA Review of Level Crossing Conditions

To see the pictures displayed at the Council meeting please refer to the Railways/Railway Level Crossings Safety/Crossing Photo Gallery tab.

This is a summary of the findings as presented to Council:

Location of Crossing Railway Company CCA Rating  
Union Road CN Poor  
  CP Very Good  
Hunt Road CN Good  
  CP Very Good  
Barnes Road CN NA  
  CP Good  
Bellamy Road CN Dangerous  
  CP Fair  
Peters Road CN Good  
  CP Very Good  
Blyth Park Road CN Excellent  
  CP Fair  
Colton Drive CN Very Good  
  CP Good  
Durham Street South CN Good  
  CP Very Good  
Victoria Street CN Fair  
  CP NA  
Ontario Street CN Excellent  
County Road 30 CP Excellent  
Townline Road CN Good  
  CP Excellent  


June 22, 2016 Railway Level Crossings On FOUR Roads in Cramahe Deemed Unsafe for School Buses

New information was received by the CCA today (June 22, 2016) from STSCO, the company responsible for busing students to school in Cramahe. Presently, there are THREE roads with railway level crossings that STSCO will not permit buses to traverse due to the unsafe conditions, and ONE road where only a small vehicle is permitted to cross the railway level crossings. The crossings that are deemed unsafe are on BARNES ROAD, BELLAMY ROAD and PETERS ROAD. HUNT ROAD is the one where only small vehicles are permitted to cross the railway level crossings.

May 31, 2016 Meeting with Councillor Tim Gilligan

On May 31, 2016 CCA members Paul Longo and Ernie Koehl met with Councillor Tim Gilligan to discuss CCA findings with respect to the condition of rail level crossings in Cramahe.  The email below summarized the results of this meeting.

Paul Longo Email To Councillor Gilligan Re Condition of Level Crossings

September 29, 2015 Letter to Dan O'Brien

Below is a letter written to Dan O'Brien (CAO) regarding the Township's relationship with the rail companies. It asks specific questions regarding detailed safety assessments of railway level crossings in the Township.  There was no response.

2015-09-29 Correspondence Re Detailed Safety Assessments at Level Crossings

September 18, 2015 Letter to Dan O'Brien

Below is another letter written to Dan O'Brien (CAO) regarding safety issues at the Barnes Road bridge, Union Road CN Level Crossing and Bellamy Road CN Level Crossing.  The Township was quick to respond to the Barnes Road situation by blocking access to the bridge with concrete barriers.  There was no response to issues at the two other locations.

2015-09-18 Rail Crossings In Need Of Attention 

August 11, 2015 CCA Submission to Council

Shortly after the CCA was formed it made a submission to Council with respect to questions about the safety implications of the working relationship between the Township and the Rail Companies.  The submission is shown below.  Council voted simply to acknowledge receipt of the submission.

2015-08-11 Submission To Council Re Safety Of Rail Level Crossings

April 28, 2010 Federal Government Approves Funding to Install An Active Warning System at Bellamy Road

This is a newspaper report indicating that Rick Norlock MP had obtained funding for the installation of an active warning system (FLBG) at Bellamy Road.  This work was never carried out and the issue was raised again by the CCA in 2016

Northumberland News - Safety Improvements Headed For Northumberland County

February 17, 2010 Donald Maybin Presentation To Council Re Poor Condition of Level Crossings

This presentation was asking that rubber mats be installed on level crossings in the Township to remediate the poor condition of level crossings.  Six years later things aren't much better.

2010-02-17 Donald Maybin Presentation To Council