New Brunswick

CN railway train carrying potash, woodchips derails in Saint John

An Canadian National Railway train carrying potash, woodchips and an empty car that had contained sulphur derailed over a gas pipeline in Saint John on Saturday night. 

Derailment expected to be cleaned up Monday

One of the cars that came off its tracks when a CN train derailed Saturday. (Submitted by Chris Likourgiotis)

A Canadian National Railway train carrying potash, woodchips and an empty car that had contained sulphur derailed over a gas pipeline in Saint John on Saturday night. 

Eight cars were derailed around 6:30 p.m., causing two street closures and forcing businesses in the area to shut down early, said Steve Vautour, platoon chief with the Saint John Fire Department.

McAllister Drive to Russell Street remains closed as fire crews clean up the area. 

"We're working on a plan right now to upright all the cars that have been toppled over," Vautour said. 

Vautour wouldn't speculate on the cause. The derailment should be cleaned up by mid-afternoon, he said.

It later conferred with NB Southern Railway and Brunswick Pipeline and said cleanup would instead take place Monday because of Father's Day. 

Vautour said he and the others didn't want to interrupt business for the nearby restaurants, The Med and Splash.

"The scene is safe and secure," Vautour said. "We've got it roped off so the public can't get in there or anything like that."

One of the CN Rail cars that derailed Saturday night was empty but had previously contained liquid sulphur. (Submitted by Chris Likourgiotis)

No leaks, fires or injuries resulted from the derailment, said a statement from CN.

"CN would like to apologize for the inconvenience caused by this incident," said company spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis in an emailed statement.

Abecassis said CN would not be doing interviews about the derailment Sunday.

The track is owned by CN and leased to NB Southern Railway. NB Southern Railway is part of New Brunswick & Maine Railways, a subsidiary of JD Irving Ltd.

Mary Keith, a spokesperson for JDI, said the track was inspected Friday and no issues were reported.

Six of the derailed cars contained potash, one contained woodchips and the eighth contained residue of its previous load, liquid sulphur.

A train derailed Saturday evening, knocking several cars off the track. (Submitted by Chris Likourgiotis)

The fire department is staying on scene to make sure the empty hazardous material car is handled safely.

"We're just there to make sure everything is conducted in the proper manner," Vautour said.

Derailment 'felt like an earthquake'

Several businesses on Rothesay Avenue were forced to close early because of last night's derailment, including the Med Restaurant.

Owner Chris Likourgiotis was in his office doing paperwork when the derailment occurred. 

"When heavy trains go by we'll feel a bit of a rumble in the building," he said.

"Around 6:30 p.m. I felt not just a rumble but it felt like an earthquake. The whole building was shaking and it lasted for about 15 seconds."

A railway car slid off its track, toppling a pole. (Submitted by Chris Likourgiotis)

Likourgiotis jumped out of his chair and ran to the kitchen, where people were screaming about a train derailing. 

When Likourgiotis ran outside, he saw the train cars toppled over, a downed power line and two lamp posts knocked over. 

The car containing liquid sulphur residue from its previous load was shifted off its track and leaning less than two metres away from one of his chef's vehicles.

"If it was full, it would have been a catastrophic event." 

One of the train cars that derailed contained liquid sulphur residue from an earlier load. It derailed near a vehicle. (Submitted by Chris Likourgiotis)

Likourgiotis told his customers, some who were halfway through their meals, to leave his restaurant.  

Along with the fire department, NB Power, Liberty Utilities and NB Southern Railway crews also responded to the derailment. 

Trains pass by the area "many times" during the day, Likourgiotis said.

About two years ago there was a minor derailment behind the restaurant.

"It was one or two vehicles or cars that were tilted a little bit on the side, but nothing like this." 

NB Southern Railway is investigating the derailment in collaboration with CN.

With files from Sarah Haliburton and Blair Sanderson


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