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.

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The vital other shoe in crude by rail reform will drop not in Ottawa or Washington, but in Bismark, N.Dak., where, in the void created by federal inaction, officials are preparing to use state jurisdiction over natural resources to order the degasification of petroleum at the wellhead.
Chronic laxity by Canada’s transportation regulator is identified by the country’s accident investigator as the primary underlying cause of the July 6, 2013 derailment and explosion at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train carrying 7.7 million liters of mislabeled crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation to Irving Oil’s refinery at Saint John, N.B.
As part of its transformation from government marketing monopoly to privatized competitor, the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has become the imminent owner of a work-worn 125-mile (200-km) short line connecting Saskatchewan growers and an Alberta petrochemical producer to a Canadian Pacific interchange at Swift Current.
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 14:35

Canada accelerates transportation review

Acknowledging that the country’s 19th century railway network and its regulatory regime are not up to the demands placed upon it by 21st century shippers, Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced July 25 an accelerated timeline for a comprehensive, arm’s-length review of transportation legislation.
Thursday, 19 June 2014 12:20

Canada TSB clears interim CBR reforms

Canada's transportation accident investigators gave the country's rail regulator, Transport Canada, a passing grade on interim emergency directives introduced in April to reduce the chances of crude oil train explosions such as that which devastated downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014 12:41

Safety-driven railway realignments

As railroaders, regulators, suppliers, and crude oil shippers convene at the Railway Age Crude by Rail Conference on June 12, they may ponder the full range of proffered remedies to exploding oil trains: re-classification of Bakken crude from merely flammable to explosive; de-gasification before loading; better track and car maintenance; tighter operating rules; sharing of consist details with first responders; and, of course, more robust tank cars.

The Department of Transportation hazardous materials regulator has quickly challenged the refinery lobby's contention that Bakken crude falls comfortably within existing "Class 3 Flammable Liquid" and should continue to be transported in the DOT-111 general purpose tank car.

Operators of the U.S. fleet of DOT-111 tank cars are fighting the emerging consensus that the cars and their contents are the key culprits in the succession of oil train conflagrations that started last July 6 at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

The bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MM&A) and three of its former employees are to appear in court in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, to face 47 charges of criminal negligence causing death in the runaway derailment and explosion last July 6 of a training carrying oil from North Dakota.

Yet another fine example of the peak of American steam locomotive technology is emerging from retirement to delight fresh generations of railroad enthusiasts. Ex-Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 1309 has been acquired from the B&O Railroad Museum for overhaul and operation by Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

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