Quebec provincial police say they’ve taken steps to prevent the auction of the locomotive that played a key role in the deadly Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.
A spokeswoman for the force says investigators have initiated measures to block a U.S. auction house from selling the locomotive until the end of the judicial process.
Sgt. Christine Coulombe says she was not permitted to provide any more details.
The move comes after a report by The Canadian Press revealed that locomotive MMA 5017 was due to go to auction in Maine on Aug. 5.
'Not a good piece of history'
The auctioneer says he has yet to hear from authorities that the engine will be pulled from his auction.
Adam Jokisch says he will proceed with his plans to sell the locomotive, now at the Derby Rail Yard in Milo, Me., until an official tells him otherwise.
The opening bid for lead engine on the runaway oil train that derailed and exploded last summer in Quebec, killing 47 people, has been set at $10,667.
“It is unique, and obviously this locomotive’s got some history to it,” Jokisch, president of a St. Louis-based auction house, told The Canadian Press.
“It’s definitely not a good piece of history, that’s for sure ... I don’t think I’d want to be reminded about that horrible accident.”
The black-and-green MMA 5017 appears to have avoided any serious damage in the incident. The night of the disaster, the diesel-electric machine continued rolling along the rails as 63 tank cars filled with volatile crude oil careened off the tracks behind it.
But like several of the MMA locomotives that will be sold off, the General Electric C-30-7 is not in running condition, according to the auction-house blurb that also mentions its connection to the disaster.
“The MMA 5017 unit was the lead locomotive in a derailment and fire incident in Canada,” reads the ad on the website for Adam’s Auction & Real Estate Services, Inc.
It notes that due to that crash, “the number 4, 5 & 6 power assemblies were removed.” The ad also states that MMA 5017 has a “defective piston.”
Many of the other MMA locomotives advertised by the auction house come with problems, from graffiti to missing parts. Some units are likely worth little more than scrap value, says the online ad.
“Sometimes they’re worn out, sometimes they’re real good,” Jokisch said about locomotives he’s auctioned off in the past.
“(We’ve sold used) locomotives anywhere from $25,000 to $300,000 before … It depends on the make and model number and condition, of course.”
The cash generated by the auction will help pay back the US$3.7 million owed to MMA’s secured creditor, the Maine-based Bangor Savings Bank.
Paying off debt
Yellow Light Breen, an executive vice-president with the bank, said any extra money from the sale of the 25 MMA engines and three of the seven units owned by Rail World Locomotive Leasing will pay off the insolvent railway’s other debts. Breen said the bank also expects to recoup some money from MMA through an upcoming real-estate sale.
Breen declined to estimate how much the machines would generate at the auction, but said the bank hopes the sale brings in several million dollars.
Breen said the bank “triple” checked to make sure authorities no longer needed the unit and that they had permission to auction it off.
Officials at the rail yard in Milo, about 250 kilometres east of Lac-Mégantic, declined a request by The Canadian Press to see the locomotives.