Rail bridge collapses as CN freight train derails in Kingston

·3 min read
Train cars can be seen in Kingston's Little Cataraqui Creek after a CN derailment on May 5, 2023. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)
Train cars can be seen in Kingston's Little Cataraqui Creek after a CN derailment on May 5, 2023. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)

A small rail bridge in Kingston has collapsed and a CN freight train carrying "dangerous goods" has derailed, but there were no reported injuries or leaks, according to CN.

Kingston Police said officers received a call around 10:35 a.m Friday and confirmed there were three crew members on the train, but no reported injuries.

The train was 12 cars long, said Const. Anthony Colangeli, with two of the cars ending up in the water. CN said six cars in total derailed.

The train derailed over the Little Cataraqui Creek, which is part of a marshland conservation area.

CN said the train was carrying "dangerous goods," but police said there was no evidence of a spill. A "hazardous material hot zone" has been set up as a precaution, a spokesperson for the City of Kingston said in an email.

Dan Taekema/CBC
Dan Taekema/CBC

Firefighters have placed a boom across the creek as a precaution.

The train cars were carrying two chemicals that are used by plastics company Invista, said Brad Joyce, commissioner of public works for the City of Kingston.

One is hexamethylenediamine, which is used in textiles and plastics, and the other is adipic acid.

"Things seem to be stable, which we're thankful for," he said. "There's a concern if it gets into the water, and we're hoping that that's not going to happen."

Joyce confirmed the derailment did not appear to result in any leaks of those chemicals. A third chemical, heavy-duty wood preservative Creosote, may have entered the water due to broken rail ties, Joyce added. Creosote is most commonly used as a preservative on railroad ties, fence posts and utility poles.

The chemicals being assessed do not pose an airborne hazard, so evacuation of nearby homes is not required, according to City of Kingston emergency management.

Track has history of derailments

The derailment happened on a troubled section of track.

Joyce pointed to a similar incident in the area in March 2020, saying it has a " bit of a history of derailments."

Dan Taekema/CBC
Dan Taekema/CBC

"We're concerned with the rail lines," he said, adding they'll be looking closely at the results of CN's investigation into what happened, and asking for answers.

Andrea Lindsay lives near the creek and said she's aware of three derailments nearby.

"This is a bad spot," she said, adding she has a simple message for CN: "Fix up the area. Make it safer."

Lindsay said she's concerned about the impact on the conservation area.

"I'm worried about water contamination," she explained. "The wildlife, as well, because there's geese that live and swans that nest in the area, and it's a safety hazard for people and the traffic.

Bath Road between Queen Mary and Armstrong roads remains closed, and traffic detours will be in place through the evening commute, police said.

In a tweet Friday evening, police said the road will be closed in both directions to vehicular and pedestrian traffic overnight and for the foreseeable weekend due to repairs.

Police are asking everyone to avoid the area and for people to avoid operating drones within one kilometre of the scene.

Cleanup could take days

Transport Canada reported on social media Friday it would send inspectors to the derailment site.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada said in an email it is currently "gathering information and assessing the occurrence." The TSB added it has not yet decided whether to launch an investigation.

Personnel from the Invista plant and Ontario's environment ministry were also on site Friday afternoon.

Dan Taekema/CBC
Dan Taekema/CBC

Joyce said the fact the derailment involved a bridge and the creek complicates things, suggesting a crane might be needed to pull the cars out of the water.

He said the city is working to reopen Bath road, but he expects the entire cleanup to take days. The city said Bath road is expected to remain closed until until Monday, May 8.