A “significant” derailment of a CN Rail freight train en route to Toronto forced families in 20 houses to be evacuated and both east and west VIA Rail passenger lines to close.
The derailment of about 20 cars of the 116-car train happened at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, three kilometres east of Port Hope, CN Rail communications director Jim Feeny said.
“These are rare,” he said of the accident. “This is a main track derailment, something significant.”
Some of the derailed cars “do contain dangerous goods, fuel and propane,” he said. There were no crew or people nearby injured, he said.
Families around County Road 2 in the “very rural area” had been moved away from potential “blast areas,” said Port Hope Police Sgt. Peter Thivierge.
A fire burned for about an hour. “There were conflicting reports of whether it was a grass fire or contents,” said Thivierge.
CN Rail sent a hazardous material unit from Toronto to the scene.
“There is a protocol based on the contents” to evacuate, said Thivierge. “It’s a minor evacuation because it’s not a very populated area. My best guess is 20 houses.”
VIA Rail closed its passenger line on the busy Toronto to Montreal corridor because of the derailment, communications director Catherine Kaloutsky said.
All travel in both directions on the Toronto-Montreal and Toronto-Ottawa routes was suspended.
Passengers on one VIA Rail train en route to Toronto and blocked by the derailment were being taken by bus because the evacuation area blocked their route, a spokeswoman said. Other travellers with reservations would also be taken by bus, but no new bookings were being accepted.
Three fire departments responded to the scene on County Road 2.
The cause of the derailment, on a sunny crisp Sunday afternoon, remained “a good question,” said Thivierge. “CN Rail is investigating.”
“Over the last several years, we have worked hard to reduce the frequency and severity” of main track derailments, Feeny said. “We have made good progress.”
The derailed cars were “about a third of the way back” on the train, which was carrying mixed cargo from Montreal to Toronto. “There were a lot of empty cars.”
The Canadian Transportation Safety Board was alerted to the incident, he said.