My last message, although quite serious in content, was tongue and cheek in its delivery to you. Although, whose to say that particular post even crossed your radar. I do hope that this blog post finds its way to you and or your representatives, because it is of a more serious nature.
I am a homeowner, I live in small town Canada. I don't say rural, because that conjures up visions of wide open fields partitioned by wood line sectioned by the grid work of county roads. That's not the case where I live, there is a community of people, and although we don't have a McDonalds or a Wal-mart, we do have many small business's that make up the average small town; Petro-Canada Gas Station, Home Hardware and of course a Tim Hortons. The other thing we have here in my small town is a rail line.
My first house here, was approximately two kilometers from where we built our new house and in the backyard, not 20 feet from the rear of our property line was a train track. Before I bought the house I inquired around town about how active the line was and the collective response was: "Hardly used at all." So, my wife and I jumped in and purchased the house; our first by the way.
Above: Is a photo of my town and the red arrows point out the rail line running right past the backyards of residents. Now, I don't know if I was duped by the railway or if the entire town has conspired against us, but that rail line, the one that was hardly used at all, suddenly became very active. In fact, it became active at all hours and the engineers, (God love them), indiscriminately blew that air horn to let us know when they were coming through. Now, this didn't bother me all that much, having served 12 years in the Canadian Artillery, I'm half deaf and have an ability to sleep through almost anything; including fire missions behind 155 Howitzers. A train wouldn't stir me from my sleep. My wife on the hand; to say she is a light sleeper would be putting it mildly. My wife can hear a mosquito fart 15 kilometers away. If she were ever to attend a Metallica Concert, like it or not, they would be forced to turn the volume down to a whisper. So, every time a train would come through town and the steady "clack clack" of steel wheels on rail would be amplified through our bedroom window she would wake.
One morning, around 3:00 Am, I felt a tug at my arm and when I rose from my stupor I joined her atthe back window where a very long train rolled eerily past. Under the cover of darkness it passed dream-like, only sixty feet from our small back-split home. No train horn this time, just a steady "clack clack clack". Behind the unseen locomotive, an endless parade of tanker cars, tar black and laden with dangerous good placards, passing one after another. I immediately recognized the placards, because as I've mentioned in my last blog post I am a truck driver. Strangely, you rarely saw these trains in the daytime, presumably because they would set off an alarm within the community. After watching this ghost-like presence moving like a chameleon in the night with its deadly cargo I decided that we would not be staying for very long at this new house. Over the course of the next year, I awakened on many nights and watched the window as my children slept thinking, "We have to move."
Approximately a year and a half later we did just that, across town to a new place built away from the rail line, but that is only a visual distraction. Coincidentally, I move dangerous goods for a living and understand that a derailment of volatile chemicals would have far reaching effects.
Last week I got a message from a friend of mine and he asked if I'd caught the news. I was just back from Alberta and hadn't focused much on the news. Too busy doing home stuff. When I went online to check the news I was astonished to see the Lac Megantic train wreck. I have two friends there, Marc and Rene, who are long timers in that sleepy little Quebec town.
As you know, the death toll has been rising daily along with the despair and emotion that couples this preventable tragedy. My friends, Marc and Rene, were not among the casualties, but they certainly have been touched by this disaster. Lac Megantic is a community interwoven with friends and relatives. As rescue workers sift through the ashes, friends and family wait for the inevitable confirmation that those unaccounted for will be added to the growing list of victims.
Prime Minister, Lac Megantic was inevitable. Aside from the finger pointing in the media, it is
As a truck driver, I am restricted to dangerous goods routes. These were set in place to offset the unthinkable. If my truck, loaded up with Aviation Gas, or any other combustible is involved in an accident, the potential for loss of life is reduced significantly by using these routes. That's why we don't roll past schools or hospitals unless we are delivering to that local. Lessening the dangerous goods traffic, lessens the possibility of disastrous tragedy.
Lac Megantic has presented us with a very dark lesson. If we are to move dangerous goods by rail, they must be moved with the safety of the general public in mind. Engineers and Conductors, must be well rested, procedures cannot be deviated from and most of all we should be reducing routes that run through small town Canada under the cover of darkness. Our rail infrastructure is in dire need of upgrade and I would go so far to say that if companies choose to ship on these routes they should be footing the costs for upgrades and bypasses that lessen the potential of disaster.
So that's it Mr Prime Minister. I hope this blog from a simple Canadian living in small town Canada finds its way to you and or your Transport Minister. To the people of Lac Megantic, aside from my friends, I along with many other Canadians are watching in sadness as you deal with this terrible tragedy.
Mark aka MJ Preston