David Thomas, Contributing Editor

David Thomas, Contributing Editor

David Thomas is a reporter who has covered government and society since graduating from Ottawa’s Carleton University with degrees in political science and journalism. He has written for National Geographic, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, The Gazette, and The Canadian Press news agency from postings in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, and London, England. “Railroading has been a personal fascination since a childhood timed fortunately enough to witness the golden years of steam on the late-to-dieselize Canadian National and Canadian Pacific,” he says.

Website URL:

Reaffirmation by the U.S. rail and hazardous materials regulators of new rules for the movement of flammable liquids means operational migraines for railroaders, without actually addressing the underlying cause of crude oil exploding in transit.

Canada's freshly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, reached heavenward Nov. 4, 2015 in selecting the country's new Transport Minister, former NASA Space Shuttle astronaut Marc Garneau. The 66-year-old Garneau was Canada’s first man in space, logging 677 hours during three flights between 1984 and 2000.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015 10:49

High times ahead for Canadian rails

Canada’s three major railways should benefit from the Oct. 19, 2015 sea-to-sea election sweep by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada. Trudeau’s party even managed to get four members of parliament elected in Alberta's two metropolises, Calgary and Edmonton—the ideological and financial anchors of the defeated Stephen Harper’s pro-pipeline and anti-rail Conservative government.

Friday, 05 June 2015 10:02

DOT-117 defined

The wait for a new tank car specification is over. Now comes the “fun” part: Retrofits to older cars, and potentially onerous operating rules.

Prospects for the contentious Keystone XL pipeline proposed to connect Alberta’s northern tar sands with U.S. Gulf Coast refiners has endured another brutal body check, this time from the home team. The province’s brand-new, left-leaning government elected May 5 says it will cease its predecessor’s long campaign of supplicating and bullying President Barack Obama for the pipeline’s approval.

The final spec for the now-official DOT-117 (TC-117 in Canada) non-pressurized tank car adopts the most demanding of the technical requirements first offered for comment in the notice of rulemaking: jacketed and thermally insulated shells of 9/16-inch steel, full-height half-inch-thick head shields, sturdier, re-closeable pressure relief valves and rollover protection for top fittings.

How crude oil sloshing inside moving tank cars affects train stability was under close scrutiny by the Federal Railroad Administration, the regulator’s Acting Administrator told reporters back on March 13. That was after a string of mid-winter oil train disasters exposed the prevailing focus on tank car thickness to be essentially pointless in the quest to prevent oil train derailments and explosions.

Somewhere near the photo-worn steel trestle at Miniota, Manitoba, Via Rail’s eastbound and westbound Canadians will meet Sunday, April 12, 2015 for the first time since a pair of mid-winter oil train explosions closed CN’s transcontinental main line through northern Ontario.
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 15:05

NTSB wants all tanks in a blanket

Proponents of current plans to renew the continent’s crude oil tank car fleet arrived at work April 7 to find another embarrassing egg laid at their doorstep, and not by the Easter Bunny.
Tank car builder The Greenbrier Companies is urging the White House Office of Management and Budget to disregard advice by the company’s own industry trade group, the Railway Supply Institute-Committee on Tank Cars (RSI-CTC), and proceed full speed ahead with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s proposed schedule for fleet renewal.
Page 1 of 4