Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Richmond Hill GO passengers ... what a night

It took until 1 am this morning to safely evacuate almost 1400 people from the train that saw GO Transit safety and enforcement officers who were on vacation show up at the scene to assist, according to several sources.

A brigade of firefighters, Toronto EMS and GO personnel using a boat convoy made for a long rescue effort but no one was injured (as of this writing).

People have asked why the crew aboard the Richmond Hill 5:30 pm train didn't evacuate sooner, before the flood waters rose to a dangerous level, well over six feet (not everyone can swim!) resulting in several passengers who jumped from the second level of coaches through the emergency access windows and swam to dry ground.

Putting the train in reverse required a series of safety checks the crew couldn't perform due to the flooded tracks, the risk of derailment and the fact the locomotive was waterlogged.

No one anticipated the flash flood. No one expected the flood, despite the severe storm warnings. It's been over 50 years since the city of Toronto saw that much rain. Not since Hurricane Hazel had so much water blanketed the city.

What everyone needs to focus on is the magnitude of the rescue effort itself. Jokes aside (row, row, row your train) the passengers on board that train should be commended for their patience, understanding and co-operation.

Yes, it was awful that it took so long to get everyone out. Yes, it's terrible that so many laptops, iPads, iPhones, cellphones, e-readers and other electronics were destroyed, but my God, really? Those things can be replaced.

Lives? Not so much.


Bicky said...

CP24 interviewed by phone some people on the train. A couple of them were very supportive of the efforts being done, and one guy was cracking jokes but one woman was completely outraged. Yes, it sucks, but being a b**** isn't going to get her off the train any faster.

Apparently if your clothing was damaged, you should contact GO Transit directly. Maybe they're taking care of the dry-cleaning bills. :)

An unplanned adventure... that's what it was.

Peter said...

Why was reversing the Richmond Hill train not an option? It does require co-ordination and additional paperwork to deviate from the “flight plan”, but it has been done before. Remember when the auto wrecker property just east of Danforth station was ablaze in 2007? The train I was on departed Danforth, but was soon halted by the fire marshal. Eventually, the train was reversed, and passengers had the option of exiting at Danforth or returning to Union station.

TT said...

I read they were trying to reverse, but the water rose so quickly the locomotive was under water and had to be shut down.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure going forward OR backward was really an option here if you look at the pictures.

There would be no guarantee the train would stay on the tracks with that much water. I'm thinking that if it was safe to reverse the train -- they would've thought of that rather than use dinghy's to rescue people in the dark.

That was a crazy amount of rain. I hope the infrastructure wasn't too badly damaged.

Anonymous said...

Peter in the case of the auto wrecker fire the tracks weren't under water, the danger is that it might cause damage and they wouldn't want to take the risk.

Unknown said...

According to Environment Canada:
With the 123mm of rain on July 8th, 2013, Toronto beat 3 records:
Wettest July 8th (Previous was 2008, 29.2mm)
Wettest July DAY (Previous was July 29, 1980 with 118.5mm)
Wettest DAY ever (Previous was Oct. 15, 1954 - Hurricane Hazel with 121.4mm )

Unknown said...

From what I've read, the train attempted to go back, but was caught between two flood zones.

C.J. Smith said...

Hi everyone
The story has been updated to explain why the train wasn't reversed or sent back towards Union. I received some emails with respect to the question.

Squiggles said...

I am pretty glad I decided to work from home. At 6am Monday morning. All because I was worried the humidity would set the fire alarm off again. That and moving out of the city a couple years ago. Considering how I used to take the 5.30pm Richmond Hill GO train. Dodged that bullet.

The sad thing was: I heard about the flooding from my sister in Calgary. Before the news and the GO alerts mentioned it.

At least everyone seems to be safe.

calvinhc said...

Backing up the train has several requirements that made it not an option. Aside from the safety checks that C.J. mentioned in the post, there are procedures that must be followed to get permission to reverse direction. The Bala subdivision (the line that the train was on) is under CTC rules, which actually is easier to reverse direction, but only to the next signal where they would have to wait for it to be cleared.

More importantly, reversing direction would take the train through back through LOWER ground, and given that water seeks its level...

Sylv said...

Next headline: "Snakes on a Train". I was on the elevator with someone who was on that train last night, and he showed us a picture of a little snake swimming up the stairs to the middle level.

cncndr said...

Just to clarify with those that don't know any better, but as most locomotives you see out there whether be CN, CP, GO or VIA are diesel-electric locomotives. Any standing water 3 inches over the rail head is considered dangerous to the electric traction motors that are mounted in between the wheels. As others have said, the risk of trying to back up especially in flood waters could undermine the track and roadbed structure as well.

- Mike

Tyler said...

Yeah, water over the top of the rail shorts out the locomotive. The diesel engine turns a generator that generates electricity for the 4 traction motors on each axle. If the water is over the top of the rail it gets into the traction motors and shorts them out.

Kudos to the rescue team for getting everyone off the stranded train.

Peter said...

Thank you to all for clarifying the issues surrounding reversing a train. Much appreciated.

Peter said...

This article addresses why the train couldn't be reversed in time:

The story, and comments thereto, raise some serious questions about the GTCC and Bombardier's train operating procedures.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the auto wreck yard fire, I believe the some fire hoses were laid across the tracks. Bad idea to run over them with a train.

Peter said...

@Anonymous: I agree. I recall waiting at Union until the Fire Marshall gave the all-clear to open LSE again. We made it to Danforth and had just left there when the FM's decision was rescinded. The train rolled all the way back to Union.

Flood Advisor said...

I have been doing research on the flooding of this rail line, tracing things back to the Flood Inquiry in 1981 for Premier Davis and looking at warning signs of flood conditions on July 8, 2013. There is a write-up on my blog that suggests the incident was avoidable:

I'm glad everyone on the train was safe. But it could have easily ended differently in which case research such as I have done would have been used to assign responsibilities.

Metrolinx says July 8, 2013 was a massive / record storm - yes that is true at Pearson Airport in the Etobicoke Creek watershed, but it is NOT true in the Don River watershed where the recorded flows and flood levels were at pretty common design levels. The Brick Works across from where the GO Train was stranded has a comprehensive flood risk and emergency response strategy and tracks flood levels at the Todmorden flood monitoring station nearby - Metrolinx had none of that in place.