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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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.
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 15:18

API twisting DOE report on crude oil

A survey of crude oil science commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy is being cited, rather loosely, by the oil industry’s national lobby to discredit proponents of compulsory treatment of crude oil before it is loaded into railcars.
After months of late arrivals due to track congestion on CN’s northern Ontario main line, compounded by slow orders arising from CN’s efforts to recover from two tar sands oil train explosions, Via Rail is examining an alternative routing for the Canadian,the continent’s last classic streamliner, originally Canadian Pacific’s premier luxury passenger train.
Thursday, 12 March 2015 14:33

U.S. sway affects Canada CBR safety focus

Transport Canada's selection March 11, 2015 of new tank car specifications is surely a harbinger of the choice the White House will make later this spring from among the options proposed by U.S. rail and hazmat regulators.

The second eruption of fireballs near the northern Ontario village of Gogama March 7 adds a third category of crude to the list of culprits in the recent spate of oil train explosions. “Synbit” now joins “dilbit” and untreated Bakken crude oil among the commodities proven to ignite and explode upon derailment and breaching of even the newest tank cars.
At first sight, the March 7, 2015 Reuters bulletin looked like an accidental re-filing of a three-weeks-old news flash: “A Canadian National Railway train carrying crude oil has derailed near the Northern Ontario community of Gogama, with crews reporting a fire, but no injuries.”

The chain reaction fireballs that attended the Feb. 16, 2015 derailment of a CSX unit oil train in populated West Virginia probably blinded observers to the significance of the concurrent derailment and explosions of a CN oil train in a remote and uninhabited area of northern Ontario. Most reports treated the two events as equals, given that both trains consisted of recently manufactured CPC-1232 tank cars loaded with crude oil.

Two same-day derailments of crude oil trains in Canada and a third in West Virginia two days later illustrate the strengths and limitations of the newest general-purpose tank cars plying North American rails.
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