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Mode transportation safety investigation R19W0050

Updated in March 2021 : This investigation is in the report phase.

Table of contents

Main-track derailment

Canadian National (CN)
St-Lazare, Manitoba

The occurrence

On , at 2:17 am Central Standard Time, a Canadian National (CN) unit train, consisting of 108 tank cars loaded with petroleum crude oil (UN1267, Class 3 PG I) and 2 covered hoppers loaded with sand, was proceeding eastward at about 46 mph on the CN Rivers Subdivision when it experienced a train-initiated emergency brake application near St-Lazare, Manitoba. The temperature at the time was about −27°C. During site examination, it was determined that 37 Class 117R tank cars had derailed near mile 197.45.

The first 2 derailed cars (5th and 6th cars) remained upright and had no visible tank damage or leaks. The remaining 35 derailed cars came to rest piled up in various positions over a distance of approximately 300 to 400 feet. At least 14 of the derailed tank cars released a cumulative total of about 820 000 litres of product, which was mostly contained in a low-lying area adjacent to the track. The tank car releases varied from minor leaks to the loss of entire carloads. There was no fire, no injuries and no evacuation.

Next steps

The TSB work on-site has been completed. All 35 of the damaged tank cars were examined and 7 of them were selected for a more detailed examination in order to evaluate tank car performance.

During detailed examination of the 7 tank cars, specific areas of interest were identified on each car. Samples from these cards will be removed and sent to the TSB Engineering Laboratory in Ottawa for further analysis.

A number of wheel sets from the derailed cars were visually examined, documented and released back to the railway. Various track components recovered from the site were sent to the TSB Engineering Laboratory for failure analysis.

Safety communications


Rail Safety Advisory 617-02/20: Modifying key train speed based on various train risk profiles


Rail Safety Advisory 617-03/20: Enhanced track standards for key routes

Media Materials

Deployment notice


TSB deploys a team of investigators to the site of a train derailment near St-Lazare, Manitoba

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is deploying a team of investigators to the site of a Canadian National train derailment near St-Lazare, Manitoba. The TSB will gather information and assess the occurrence.

Investigation information

Map showing the location of the occurrence


Photo of Rob Johnston

Rob Johnston has been with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) since 2001. He was hired as a Senior Regional Investigator (Rail/Pipeline) in Winnipeg where he worked until 2004, when he assumed the position of Senior Investigator, Standards and Training Officer at TSB Head Office in Gatineau, Quebec. He became Manager of Central Regional Operations in November 2009, and has also served as Acting Director of Investigations – Rail/Pipeline for various periods since 2010. He now manages a staff of six rail/pipeline investigators in Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa, and is responsible for all activities related to rail investigations in TSB’s Central Region, which extends from Cornwall, Ontario, to near the Alberta–Saskatchewan border.

During his time at the TSB, Mr. Johnston has been involved in over 70 TSB accident investigations either as an Investigator-in-charge (IIC) or as an investigation team member providing technical expertise.

Before joining the TSB, Mr. Johnston worked for Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) in Winnipeg from 1984 until 2001, where he was a member of the Train Accident Prevention group and worked in a failure analysis laboratory. He was a member of CP’s hazardous materials emergency response team for 14 years and has acquired an extensive background in mechanical operations, failure analysis, and dangerous goods.


  Download high-resolution photos from the TSB Flickr page.

Class of investigation

This is a class 2 investigation. These investigations are complex and involve several safety issues requiring in-depth analysis. Class 2 investigations, which frequently result in recommendations, are generally completed within 600 days. For more information, see the Policy on Occurrence Classification.

TSB investigation process

There are 3 phases to a TSB investigation

  1. Field phase: a team of investigators examines the occurrence site and wreckage, interviews witnesses and collects pertinent information.
  2. Examination and analysis phase: the TSB reviews pertinent records, tests components of the wreckage in the lab, determines the sequence of events and identifies safety deficiencies. When safety deficiencies are suspected or confirmed, the TSB advises the appropriate authority without waiting until publication of the final report.
  3. Report phase: a confidential draft report is approved by the Board and sent to persons and corporations who are directly concerned by the report. They then have the opportunity to dispute or correct information they believe to be incorrect. The Board considers all representations before approving the final report, which is subsequently released to the public.

For more information, see our Investigation process page.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail 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.