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Runaway Train Slams Dining Car Museum

The CP Dining Car Museum on Brown Street stopped a nearly

quarter of a million pound loaded rail car as it coasted out of

control from McShea siding almost two miles away.

(photos/David Deschesne)


The car full of grain was completely off its tracks

The derailed grain car, loaded with over 200,000 pounds

of oats slammed into the CP museum dining car, at Brown

Street.  In the background is Ed Bourgoine's apartment house

that was saved from certain destruction by the fateful placing

of that dining car several years ago.


Even with its brakes set and angle iron welded to the

track, the dining car museum was still pushed over thirty

feet from its resting point (see red stairs on the ground,

that used to line up with black stairs on the train.)


The hitch on the rail car was pushed down and back nearly 18 

inches and the 14" I-beam was bowed upinto the floor of the car.


The track was sheared in several places.


Even with its brakes set and steel blocks welded to the track,

the dining car was pushed up a two-foot tall birm for about

thirty feet.






Fort Fairfield Journal March 16, 2005


By:  David Deschesne

At about 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 3, a rail car carrying

about 200,000 pounds of oats slammed into the Railroad Museum's

dining car at the Brown street location in Fort Fairfield.

   "I was outside snow blowing at the time," said Mark Giberson, who

lives next door to the dining car museum display.  "All I heard was

a loud BANG!! when the two cars hit."   Because trains are very

quite on the tracks, there was no noise or warning of the nearly

quarter-million pound mass hurtling down the tracks through the

darkness of an early March evening.

   "There were kids outside playing in the snow bank in my yard,"

said Giberson.  "Not fifty to sixty feet from where the collision

took place."

   According to Giberson, a Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway 

locomotive came down with at least three people to inspect the

damage about fifteen to twenty minutes after the collision occurred.

   "About forty-five minutes after the crash the Fort Fairfield Police

Department showed up," said Giberson.  "They informed us that the

train had gotten away from the crew at McShea siding about two

miles up the track."

   The location where the train car departed was at the McShea siding

on Route 1a where Cavendish Farms (formerly Nutrite) have a fertil-

izer facility.  The approximate elevation of that location is 470 feet

above sea level.  Nearly two miles away, at Brown street where the

train came to rest, is about a seventy-foot drop.  The loaded train car

was traveling at an uncontrolled speed of approximately thirty to

thirty-five miles per hour.

   About half-way through its voyage, the rail car crossed Currier 

Street, where a brand new railroad signal lighting system had just been

installed with the help of the Maine Department of Transportation.

The signal light system operates on a voltage that exists on the two

tracks.  When either a locomotive, or a caboose comes within a

predetermined distance from the rail crossing in either direction, either

car will complete the circuit between the rails and cause the rail signal 

lights to activate.  "Individual cars are also grounded to the tracks, the

lighting system is designed to activate in the event of a lone car

approaching an intersection," said Tom Klemm, an engineer with


   Just before hitting the dining car, the runaway train broke through a

small barrier of steel welded to the track and bolted to the ties.  It

then when on unimpeded.

   The force of the collision caused the grain car to leave the tracks on

impact and forced the dining car out of its position up a sand birm

for nearly thirty-five feet, stopping within feet of Brown street.  

Because the dining car had been plumbed with water and sewer, and

had an opportunity to hook up LP gas, its brakes were set and wheels

blocked by 1-1/2 inch angle iron welded to the tracks.  Those

precautions did little to hold it in place in this instance, however.

   A few years ago the CP rail dining car had been relocated to the

Brown street location from its previous home on Main Street, across

from Hillside IGA.  Had it not been in position in this instance, the out

of control grain car would have easily jumped the birm, crossed Brown

Street and smashed into an Apartment house, owned by Ed Bourgoine,

that currently hosts three occupied apartments.  "The conductor has

admitted to a rule violation," said Norma Griffiths from the Montreal

Maine and Atlantic Railway.  "The air brake was on, but the hand

brake was not set.  While it is apparent the air brake failed, whether

there was a malfunction or an air leak is still under investigation."

   The dining car is owned by the Frontier Heritage Society in Fort

Fairfield.  "A lot of loose items, like dishes, tables and a microwave

were damaged," said Wayne Troicke, from the FHS.  "But all of the

museum artifacts were packed in Rubbermaid cartons for the winter

and survived undamaged."

   "Montreal Maine and Atlantic will take the damaged dining car to

one of their facilities around the middle of March," said Troicke.

"They will repair all damage and return it to us sometime in Spring."

"They are working very hard to put us back where we were; I believe

we can have a good partner in MMAR for helping us to maintain and

expand our railroad museum in the future."