Thursday, 17 March 2022

Throwback Thursday - Incident on the Longwood Sub.

The equipment from the ill-fated Via number 72 sits in the yard at London on January 16, 1988.

By Peter Mumby.

Back in the late 1980s the name "Chatham Subdivision" applied to the CN trackage which joined Windsor to St. Thomas.  At Glencoe there existed a junction where another line veered off to connect with the Strathroy Subdivision at Komoka.  This line was the Longwood Subdivision.  Passenger trains out of Windsor would follow this Chatham/Longwood/Strathroy Subdivision routing to get to London and points east.  The Longwood Sub was "dark" (unsignalled) territory, meaning that all movements were governed by timetable and train orders.

On the morning of January 13, 1988 Via 72 was making its regular mid-morning trip towards London and Toronto.  Ahead of it was CN 9647 East, number 382.  The freight train was not travelling as quickly as expected, but the tail end crew did not alert the passenger train to this fact, either by dropping fusees or by making radio contact.  Also, the dispatcher made no mention to the passenger crew that 382 was going to arrive at Komoka Junction later than expected.  Blowing snow was making visibility problematic, so by the time the tail end of the freight was spotted and the passenger train's brakes were put into emergency, 72 was still doing the allowed 80 mph, while 382 was moving at less than 30 mph.  The freight train was rear ended at mile 2.0 of the Longwood Sub at Komoka, where the passenger train derailed.  As part of the ensuing clean-up, the passenger train was hauled to London yard, where the photos presented today were exposed.

Within a couple of years of this event, CN made some changes to the subdivisions west of London.  The section of the Chatham Sub between Glencoe and St. Thomas was downgraded and renamed as the Paynes Sub, and the Longwood Sub was relabelled as the extension of the Chatham Subdivision.  In 2000 CTC was installed on the Chatham Sub from Komoka to Bloomfield.  Most of the Paynes Sub has subsequently been abandoned.

VIA 6902, class MPA-27, was an LRC-2 locomotive built in 1980.  I have a later photo of this engine dated June 29, 1990, so the damage was obviously repaired and the unit was returned to service.


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