Mississauga Derailment - 25 years on

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by 60103, Nov 10, 2004.

  1. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    November 10, 1979

    Sarnia 07:10 a.m. C&O local 4 leaves with 69 cars, 63 to be interchanged with the CPR at Chatham. Many of the cars are tank cars containing caustic soda, propane, styrene, toluene and chlorine.
    The cars are left at Chatham yard at 3:55 p.m.
    Windsor 12:45 p.m.. CP train 84 leaves Walkerville yard. The motive power is GO Transit, leased for the weekend. They pick up the C&O cars at Chatham and leave at 6:00 p.m. Train 84 has 102 cars.
    At London, train 84 becomes train 54 and receives a new crew. 4 more cars are picked up. At Woodstock, 5 cars are set out and 5 are picked up. The train is now 6,627 feet long and weighs 9,050 tons.
    At 11:15 p.m. train 54 passes Guelph Junction, milepost 39.02. This is at the top of the Niagara escarpment and the beginning a long, steep downgrade. A couple in a car see smoke coming from the train, possibly from a journal box. At this point the train is 39 miles from Toronto. 15 miles farther, at the bottom of the grade, a couple see fire 2 to 4 feet in diameter coming from the wheel. Several more people see flames or sparks.
    Around milepost 17.98, the end of the journal of the rear axle of the 33rd car of the train falls to the roadbed. It is red hot. The rest of the axle and the two wheels are found, glowing red, in a backyard.
    Another mile and the tank car is tilted about 15 degrees. Sparks are shooting from where the truck is scraping along the ballast. The front wheels of the rear truck have derailed at mp 16.82.
    At Mavis road, mp 16.56, the truck meets a trailing switch and is torn from the car. The tanker stops; the following cars turns sideways, and 24 cars are spilled over the level crossing in a space of just over 400 feet. It is a few minutes short of midnight.
    Nine of the cars contain propane; one contains chlorine; there are 3 cars of styrene, 3 of toluene, 4 of caustic soda and some boxcars. All the cars originated on train 4 in Sarnia.
  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The train

    Diagram from Inquiry report:

    Attached Files:

  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah


    “We’re in the big hole, Ted, but still moving.”
    “Jesus Christ, Ted, one of them tank cars blew up…”
    In the middle of the next city west of Toronto, there are twenty-four cars piled in a heap. Nineteen contain “Dangerous Commodities”. Within half-an-hour three of the propane tankers have exploded; parts of these cars have gone 145 feet east, 440 feet southeast and 2,222 feet northeast. The front of the train has stopped just over a mile away.
    Good luck is with us tonight; the train has passed through the town of Streetsville and the derailment is in the middle of an industrial area.
    The heat of the fire on the tank cars caused BLEVE’s – Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion. The liquid in the tank cars has been heated to the point it is vaporized and the tank can no longer contain the pressure. Applying Boyle’s law, when the tank ruptures the pressure decreases abruptly and any remaining hot liquid vaporizes instantly, and may shoot the tank a considerable distance.
    And in the middle of all this is a tank car of Chlorine. And this tank has a 2 to 3 foot diameter hole in it. The year before, a Youngstown, Florida, a chlorine tanker was punctured in a derailment and 50 tons of chlorine drifted over a highway and killed 8 motorists and their passengers and hospitalized 89.
    By Sunday, a large part of Mississauga had been evacuated, as well as bits of two neighbouring municipalities – Burnhamthorpe Road to the lake, from Highway 10 to Erin Mills Parkway/Southdown Road – 17.4 square miles and 75,000 people. The evacuation lasted until Friday.
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah


    The efforts:
    The fire department had hoses on the burning cars for days. The fires were out on Tuesday morning and the chemical team started evacuating the rest of the chlorine from the tank. Up to this point, there was no knowledge of how much chlorine was still in the tank – various chemical reactions had made the measurement of the remain liquid uncertain. There were problems with the patch. On Wednesday they decided to vacuum out the chlorine instead of pressurizing. The operation was completed by Monday.

    What happened?
    There were no injuries. A few small buildings near the tracks were destroyed. The dreaded chlorine cloud never appeared. The feeling was that the chlorine had been sucked up into the atmosphere in the first few explosions and was never a danger.
    Mississauga, an amalgamation of small towns, had spent the week in shelters and felt more like a community.
    The Inquiry report recommends:
    hot box detectors
    rear view mirrors on locomotives
    roller bearings on tank cars (and other cars)
    double shelf couplings on tank cars
    better head shields, thermal protection and better protection for bottom valves.

    Most of my information comes from the inquiry report of Mr. Justice Samuel G. M. Grange.
  5. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    It sure was no fun. We lived a couple of miles away from this accident and had to evacuate. My wife, a nurse, helped Sheridan Villa, a nursing home to evacuate to Peel Manor up in Brampton. I took two of our children, the dog and the cat up to our daughters home in Streetsville. I well remember streams of cars slowly moving out of the area sheparded by OPP cars who kept announcing that no-one was to remain. Not an experience I would wish on anyone.
  6. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I remember that event David, but only from the point of view of someone who lived in downtown Toronto, far from the danger. I believe good old Hazel McCallion was mayor then, as she still is.
    I certainly never knew the actual details of the catastrophe, nor did I know there was chlorine involved. All we heard on the news at the time was the generic, and thus not as frightening "hazardous chemicals".

  7. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    I had said here that Hazel was the Mayor of Streetsville but that was before this disaster happend. In fact she was the Mayor of Mississauga at the time of this disaster. As a matter of fact, she still is the Mayor.
    She sent this letter to all residents.
    Dear Friends
    The week of November 11th-16th, 1979 will go down in history as being the week that the City of Mississauga executed the largest peacetime evacuation in the history of North America. The orderly evacuation of some 200,000 people from their homes and businesses without serious injury or mishap is without precedent in our modern day society.
    You the residents have shown to the world that Mississauga is not only a city with heart but more importantly a city with pride and human spirit.
    To the many volunteer organizations and individuals who gave so selflessly of their time and energy; to the many police agencies and social services whose response to our appeal for assisstance was so immediate and unquestioning; to the many government agencies who offered assistance and technical expertise, I offer our deepest and most heartfelt words of gratitude.
    To the many firefighters of Mississauga and surrounding areas, whose individual acts of heroism and devotion to duty averted a disaster, we offer a special word of thanks.
    The events of November 11th-16th, 1979 should more appropriately be recorded as the Mississauga Miracle and will in future give us cause to give thanks.
    Therefore, as Mayor of Mississauga I take great pride, on behalf of Members of Council in declaring the weekend of November 24th-25th, 1979 as one of thanksgiving.
    signed Hazel McCallion
  8. Chessie6459

    Chessie6459 Gauge Oldtimer

    WOW, i never even heard about that one. Of course i was not born yet LOL :D :D
  9. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Thankyou David for the reminder, as these "accident`s" should be ponderd on if that`s the right word to use. I came to Toronto August 1980, I remember my sister who lives in Oakville phoning the UK to tell us how things where :(
  10. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    What I left out of the story was the suspicion of the cause. The truck in question had oil axle boxes, i.e. not roller bearing. The cars were checked in Chatham before being added to the CPR train. It was said that the axle box had a lubricating pad in it (to move the oil from the bottom of the box up to the journal) that was a size too big.
    There was debate about whether that would matter or not, and whether it had happened. Apparently, at one yard the pads were all separated by sizes except for the two largest which shared a box. The pad itself was burned.
    A lot of the recommendations of the inquiry were moot, because the railways were already implementing them. There was some concern that even if tank cars were given roller bearings, the car in front might be something else with plain bearings.
    There was a propane explosion east of Toronto last night. Apparently portable propane tanks were going like mortar shells and a large storage tank clipped the top off a telephone pole and made a huge rent in a storage shed.
  11. Diesel John

    Diesel John Member

    I remember that night, I was building trains in Toronto Yard, we looked over to the west and the whole sky was a glow, we had heard on the radio that evening there was a bomb scare at the subway and we has assumed the worst, Then the calls came over the radio's, what a night!
  12. cobra

    cobra Member

    I must admit I don't even remember it ...was living in beautiful downtown Kitchener at the time with some serious health issues and obviously unaware of what was happening in Toronto area at the same time . Now I know thanks to David .

  13. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    John, I'm assuming that would be the west Toronto Yard, as opposed to the one in Agincourt?

  14. Diesel John

    Diesel John Member


    No No! It was Toronto Yard, right behind our Diesel Shop looking south west. Like I said, we thought it was the Bloor Subway line until the reports came over the radio's. I was just a young mechanic, 25 years young with eyes like a hawk, now I type with one finger and look at the computer screen through bifocals. I remember calling my wife at home as she has relatives in mississauga, she was able to let them know just prior to the police knocking on there door.
  15. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Today is the 26th anniversary. I thought I'd bring this to the surface again.

    At the Niagara Falls railway show I saw a school project where a girl had built a model of the crash - torn apart tankers and all.
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    And today is the 27th anniversary.
  17. LoudMusic

    LoudMusic Member

    Sure would be interesting to see the model.

    So is there an annual remembrance in the area?
  18. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I don't think there is any ceremony per se since Nov 11 is also Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day in US) which takes precedence.

    I agree it would be really neat to see that model.

  19. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I haven't been back to the show, but I think it was a school project.
    I neglected to tell her that she should have a little patch of ground with part of a tank car wall on it -- placed 20-odd feet away from the main display.
  20. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The anniversary is coming up again, so I'll bump this.
    Dayle and I finally drove down to the area. It's much changed. The road goes under the tracks and there's buildings in much of what were empty fields.

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