Language selection

Rail transportation safety advisory letter 617-05/17

Installation, maintenance and inspection of derails at Western Forest Products

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

26 April 2017

Safety advisory letter 617-05/17
Related occurrence: R17V0096

Letter addressed to BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Subject: Rail Safety Advisory Letter – 617-05/17: Installation, maintenance and inspection of derails at Western Forest Products

On 20 April 2017, during switching operations, 10 loaded railcars of logs rolled uncontrolled out of the Western Forest Products (WFP) reload center, near Woss, B.C. The 10 railcars rolled northward out onto the main trackFootnote 1 for about 4820 feet and collided with some engineering work equipment on the track (i.e., a work crane and a crew transport vehicle with employees on board). The uncontrolled movement continued down the grade pushing the two engineering work equipment vehicles. About 1730 feet further, on a left hand curve, the six tail-end railcars derailed and separated from the four head-end railcars. The four head-end railcars and the two engineering work equipment vehicles then continued on the track for about 880 feet where the railcars and work equipment derailed in a right-hand curve. During the derailment, the logs spilled from the railcars, striking and submerging the work equipment vehicles. Three engineering employees sustained fatal injuries and two employees suffered serious injuries (TSB Occurrence No. R17V0096).

At the reload center, there are two tracks (designated as track 1 and track 2) which are used to load and store the railcars. At the downhill portion (north end) of each track, a derailFootnote 2 had been installed. At the time of the occurrence, the derail on track 1 was in the derailing position. When the uncontrolled movement encountered the derail on track 1, the leading truck of the first railcar derailed as intended. However, during this impact, the derail was dislodged from the tie that it had been fastened to (Photo 1), rendering the derail non-functional and allowing the uncontrolled movement to continue down the grade. About 198 feet beyond the derail, the derailed truck of the first railcar encountered a track switch, resulting in the re-railing of the derailed truck.

Figure 1. Crossing configuration looking eastward.
Image of the derail dislodged by the uncontrolled movement

Derails are designed to provide protection from uncontrolled movement of rolling stock. These mechanical devices are typically installed on tracks which lead to the main track or to other areas requiring absolute protection. To be effective, derails must be properly installed and be able to derail cars without being damaged or destroyed when impacted by an uncontrolled movement. As such, the derail must be installed on solid ties. In addition, the ties must be adequately secured in the track structure in an area of clean ballast.

During site examination, it was noted that the ties the derail were mounted on were deteriorated. In addition, the derail had not been adequately secured to the ties, and the ties were not in an area of clean ballast that would have provided support and drainage to ensure stability and minimize deterioration.

Given the important role that derails play to help ensure safety during switching operations, the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure may wish to review how derails are installed, maintained and inspected at the reload centers and associated rail properties operated by Western Forest Products.

Original signed by

Kirby Jang
Investigation Operations, Rail/Pipeline


Background information

Occurrence No.



Dan Holbrook, Manager, Head Office and Western Regional Operations - Rail, Head Office, Gatineau, Quebec