What it's like to have railcars derail in your backyard for a 2nd time

Jim Clark knows better than most the sound of boxcars derailing. He heard again on Tuesday morning in his Stellarton, N.S., backyard.

'The ground vibrates so you can actually, literally, feel the ground shaking underneath the garage"

One of the boxcars came within a couple metres of Clark's garage while he was in it. (Submitted by Jim Clark)

Jim Clark was working in his garage Tuesday morning when he heard the sound of brakes grabbing railway tracks in his Stellarton, N.S., backyard.

"I recognized the ... sound and I immediately ran out of my garage because I knew what to expect," he told CBC's Maritime Noon.

"Once they start to derail, the ground vibrates so you can actually, literally, feel the ground shaking underneath the garage." 

Clark said he's discussed with the railway using chocks — wedges placed against the wheels to stop a car from moving — so if the brakes come loose, the cars don't get as far as his property. (Submitted by Jim Clark)

Three boxcars from an adjacent train yard had derailed just a couple metres from Clark's home. No one was injured. Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services, the parent company of Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway, which operates the track, said it's still investigating the cause.

Clark knows the sound of boxcars derailing because a similar thing happened just four years ago in the same spot near his property.

"And they just came into the ditch and just came over onto their side onto my property," he said. "You would think it is identical. The cars are laying in the same position."

Clark's family has owned the property in Stellarton for 130 years. Decades ago, it was coal cars that would travel along the track that would from time to time derail.

Both this week and in 2014, the cars were carrying non-toxic carbon black that's used in the manufacturing of tires. (Submitted by Jim Clark)

Both this week and in 2014, the cars were carrying non-toxic carbon black that's used in the manufacturing of tires, a product Clark knows well from his years working at the Michelin tire plant not far away.

He said he's certainly concerned about railcars going off the tracks in his backyard, but it would be a different story if it was oil or gas or some other toxic substance. 

This is the second derailment on Clark's property since 2014. (Submitted by Jim Clark)

As to why train cars keep derailing next to his garage, Clark said there's a derailer on his back property that's designed — if the cars should roll out of the train yard — to take them off the track before they reach Bridge Street where the local traffic crosses.

Clark said he's discussed with the railway using chocks — wedges placed against the wheels to stop a car from moving — so if the brakes come loose, the cars don't get as far as his property. 

No one was injured. Aside from his garden and a lot of carbon black blowing around, the damage isn't too serious.

That's close. (Submitted by Jim Clark)

He said the last time this happened, Genesee & Wyoming paid for the damage. 

"It made a big mess, carbon black spillage. They took fences, hemlock trees, gardens, that kind of thing," he said. 

"But the railroad is also, four years ago, we had the same occurrence and they had rightfully come back and replaced everything and put it back the way it had been, and they also notified me this time that not to worry that they will come back in and correct the problem, any issues I have and they would deal with it."

Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway is now handling the cleanup, which will involve vacuuming the ash up.

Stellarton police Chief Don Hussher has said it will take one to two days to get everything cleaned up.

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia 

With files from Maritime Noon