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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For the past four decades, former Norfolk & Western and Southern Pacific locomotive engineer Doyle McCormack has coddled the most familiar steam locomotive operating in North America.
Clearing the autumn grain harvest from trackside elevators is a perennial occasion for ritual fist-shaking on the Canadian Prairies. Western Canadian farmers enjoy a long tradition of blaming the railways for their woes, even more than the weather. (A favorite national folk tale has a Prairie farmer stricken by hail and locusts cursing, “God damn the CPR.”)
The crude oil aboard the ill-fated train that destroyed downtown Lac-Mégantic was as explosive as gasoline, Canada's Transportation Safety Board revealed on March 6, 2014, eight months to the day after the catastrophe that killed 47.
The most onerous burdens under the Emergency Order issued by the Federal Railroad Administration Feb. 25 fall upon crude shippers and transloaders. The earlier regulatory vagueness concerning the classification of crude oil has now been sharpened by specific prescriptions for evaluating “flash point; boiling point; corrosivity to steel and aluminum; presence and content of compounds such as sulfur/hydrogen sulfide; percentage presence of flammable gases; and the vapor pressure at 50ºC.”
The first enforcement actions against North Dakota tank car loaders for misclassifying Bakken crude oil were announced Feb. 4 by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The notices of violation and attendant fines totaling $93,000 were issued against Hess Corp., Whiting Oil and Gas Corp., and Marathon Oil Co.
Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline exulted while statisticians expressed dismay at the U.S. State Department’s dramatic assertion the week of Jan. 26 that failure to approve the proposed pipeline could cause an additional six persons per year to be killed by crude oil trains.