A Lacombe city councillor wants to see the trains regularly rumbling through town to slow down after seeing what happened in Ohio and Lacombe’s own derailment experiences.
“It’s certainly one of my biggest fears is a train derailment within city limits,” said Coun. Don Gullekson, who referenced a July 2021 derailment near the city.
In that incident, 23 cars from a 128-car train derailed several kilometres south of Lacombe. Some of the cars were carrying tar oil and about 32,000 litres was spilled. No one was injured in the incident and one home was briefly evacuated.
Gullekson made the comment as council debated his motion to direct city administration to investigate the cost of doing a study on the impact that vibration passing trains has on the community’s historic downtown buildings.
His motion was prompted by concerns raised by the owner of a historic building, who believes the trains that roll through the community at 80 km/h are damaging his building.
“I would like to see the trains slow and that’s what this study’s ultimate goal would be,” said Gullekson, who said trains have been clocked at speeds up to 90 km/h.
While it is not clear that passing trains are damaging buildings, it would be worthwhile finding out. If train vibration was pinpointed as a cause of damage that could be used as a “tool” to push Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. to agree to slow its trains, both to reduce damage to buildings and to improve safety.
Gullekson said he certainly wants to see something down about train speeds “after seeing what happened in the States recently with that train derailment, and the one we had a couple of years ago south of town.
“That could have happened right in our community.”
Council voted 5-1 against Gullekson’s motion.
Coun. Thalia Hibbs questioned whether the municipality would have much power to change railway operations even if trains were shown to be causing damage.
“It just feels like railways can do kind of whatever they want within their own regulations and I feel like we would wouldn’t have any options anyway in that regard,” said Hibbs.
Coun. Reuben Konnik said he had “no doubt” that the trains were causing damage to historic buildings.
Konnik asked for an update on the city’s efforts to have CP trains to stop blowing their whistles as they pass through community crossings.
Jordan Thompson, city director of operations and planning services, said crossings are being upgraded to a standard that would allow the city to apply for whistle cessation. When the upgrades are done, council will decide whether to make a formal whistle cessation application, as communities such as Innisfail have successfully done previously.
Konnik suggested the city could lobby to have the trains slow down at the same time.