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TSB report describes runaway car incident at CP Toronto Yard

The 2022 incident involving 103 cars was the fourth major uncontrolled movement at the yard in five years

Map of the runaway car accident at Canadian Pacific's Toronto Yard in 2022
A diagram of the runaway car incident at CP’s Toronto Yard on March 13, 2022. Railway Association of Canada map with TSB notations

RICHMOND HILL, Ontario – A Canadian Pacific crew used too little force during a handbrake test and therefore did not apply enough handbrakes to prevent an out-of-control car incident at CP’s Toronto Yard, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada found Investigation into an incident that occurred on March 13, 2022.

The board released its final report on the incident on Thursday.

The event saw 103 railcars roll uncontrollably downhill approximately 3,200 feet. The seven leading cars derailed, including three loaded with sulfuric acid. There was no spill and no one was injured.

Derailed cars on the side across three tracks
Derailed cars following the runaway car incident. CP photo with TSB notations

On the evening of March 12, the crew bringing a train into the station secured the cars on track G05 with six handbrakes – more than required in CP practice – and then carried out a handbrake test in which the locomotives pushed the cars ; When the conductor saw that the cars behind those with handbrakes on were not moving, he concluded that the test was successful. Air brakes were then used. The next morning, in preparation for the change, a crew began purging the air from the cut of 103 cars; As the last air was released, the cars began to roll downhill. Attempts to enter the cuts and apply additional handbrakes failed because the cars gained speed too quickly. The cut was stopped by a split switch derailment after rolling about 3,200 feet.

Freight yard diagram
A schematic diagram of Toronto Yard’s G Yard. The March 13 incident began on platform G05. TSB

The TSB later found that the handbrake effectiveness test did not provide sufficient time and force to fully account for the backlash in the cars’ average, meaning the test was incomplete and the crew were unaware that there were insufficient handbrakes were dressed.

It was the fourth such serious incident involving uncontrolled movement at Toronto Yard in five years. As a result, in March 2023, the TSB issued a rail safety advisory letter to Transport Canada proposing an audit of the yard’s CP switching and car securing practices; Inspections by Transport Canada resulted in a notice that led CP to issue a revised operational bulletin for securing equipment within the yard, as well as additional training and other safety measures for yard employees.