Suspected washouts lead to derailment, train traffic disruptions in northern Ontario

Both Canadian Pacific and Canadian National main lines north of Parry Sound, Ont. experienced washouts late on July 24, causing a freight train derailment and railway traffic disruptions.

Two crew members of northbound CN freight train not seriously injured in crash, spokesperson says

A CN freight train derailed in the late evening of July 24, north of Pointe au Baril, Ont. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Suspected washouts compromised the railway main lines of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific between Parry Sound and French River, causing a freight train derailment north of Pointe au Baril, Ont. late in the evening of July 24. One line has since reopened to train traffic.

Larry Olds, fire chief of Britt and Area Fire and Rescue Department, confirmed that his department was on standby to help railway crews as necessary, but they have not required assistance.

Olds said the derailment took place at Naiscoot, between Magnetawan First Nation and Pointe au Baril, Ont.

A Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) spokesperson told CBC News that the derailment happened at 10:48 p.m. Saturday, July 24. The crew experienced minor injuries when the lead locomotive and roughly two-dozen freight cars left the tracks.

"The train was carrying 99 cars (57 Loads, 42 Empties), weighed 2942 tons and was 5,849 feet long. The TSB is not deploying investigators, but continues to monitor the situation, gather information and assess the occurrence," said spokesperson Chris Krepski in an email.

Highway 529 remains closed through the evening on July 25 as railway crews work in the area.

Olds said he could not provide further information because the Canadian Pacific Police Service was in charge of the scene. CBC News spoke with a Canadian Pacific spokesperson but did not receive any information about the cause of the derailment, the condition of the tracks or when it would reopen its line.

A CN spokesperson told CBC News that the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

"A CN locomotive and 24 empty intermodal railcars derailed in various positions on CP's Parry Sound Subdivision near the municipality of Archipelago, approximately 30 minutes north of Parry Sound. There are no reported injuries, dangerous goods, spills or fire. CN and CP crews are on the scene," said Mathieu Gaudreault in an email.

According to a railway employee, the train was traveling northbound between Montreal and Prince Rupert, B.C. when it reportedly hit a washout. 

The derailment happened on CP-owned tracks. CN and CP share track in the area through a directional travel agreement.

Another railway worker indicated that a separate washout took place on the CN line around the same time, meaning both companies' cross-Canada main lines were temporarily blocked. However, the employee said crews detected and repaired that washout before any train traffic passed through the area.

Gaudreault later confirmed that a small washout made CN halt trains on its Bala Subdivision that night. He said crews have since inspected, repaired and returned the tracks to service.

Passengers aboard Via Rail's The Canadian have faced several hours of delays as they wait for backlogged traffic to clear the line. The crew has given them chances to get off the train on the safe side of the tracks for fresh air. (Submitted by Borys Skoropadsky)

Via Rail passengers face five-hour delay

Passengers traveling from Toronto on Via Rail's The Canadian experienced significant delays due to the washouts. Passenger Borys Skoropadsky was aboard the northbound train when it pulled into a siding north of Parry Sound around 2:40 p.m., July 25.

Via Rail crews soon informed passengers about the previous night's washouts and derailment, and said the passenger train would be holding for five southbound trains to pass before it could continue northward.

They estimated a roughly five-hour delay, putting their departure time into the evening. All northbound trains normally take the CP mainline, eliminating waits in sidings.

Skoropadsky said crews are trying to manage the situation as best they can.

"They're doing a fantastic job of keeping us entertained, letting us go outside and get some fresh air," he said.

Skoropadsky has a canoe with him as he heads to Wabakimi Provincial Park in northwestern Ontario to paddle roughly 600 kilometres while raising money for food banks.

Large portions of Ontario saw heavy rainstorms Saturday that led Environment Canada to issue rainfall warnings. Neither of the railway spokespersons were able to comment on the causes of the reported washouts.


Warren Schlote is a reporter at CBC Sudbury. Connect with him via email at, or on Twitter at @ReporterWarren.


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