Sunday, November 05, 2006

 

Don Faulkner, a 20-year BC Rail trainman, best remembered when wondering what BC Rail meant to this province

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The Canadian National Railway train that killed two workers in a fiery crash on June 29 consisted of a locomotive and a car carrying lumber. It slid 300 metres down a cliff in the Fraser Canyon about 40 kilometres north of Lillooet.

Brakeman Tommy Dodd, 55, of Ashcroft died on the loaded lumber as he tried to set the car's manual brakes. The conductor, Don Faulkner, 59, of Savona died in the locomotive. Only engineer Gordon Rhodes, 49, managed to survive after he jumped free of the three-decades-old, 350-tonne diesel locomotive as it went off the track on the steep grade.

Two weeks later [From CBC News, 14 July 2006] CN wanted to bury train wreck.

CN Rail applied for permission to bury what was left of a locomotive and rail car at the site of a fatal derailment two weeks ago, near Lillooet in the B.C. Interior.

Rick Wagner of the B.C. Ministry of Environment said the government is considering CN's proposal to bury the wreckage where it lies.

He said pulling the train out may not be a viable option, as lifting the locomotive up the steep bank would be too dangerous and there are environmental concerns about building a road from below.

But he said the burial proposal carries its own risks.

"There would be the need to move equipment down the bank in a safe manner to actually open up a hole, and then move the locomotive into it and then bury it over.

"So it's definitely a difficult process whatever they choose to do."

Wagner said he wants to ensure there are no oil, diesel and battery acid left on the engine before granting approval, but notes that the toxic fluids appear to have been burned off in the fire.

If the company can verify that there would be no environmental threat, Wagner will likely take the unusual step of approving the train burial within two or three weeks, he said.

The bodies of the two crew members -- Tom Dodd and Don Faulkner -- were recovered after the wreck.

CN had a tough year in 2005 and was sharply criticized for its marked increase in derailments, especially after the corporation took over B.C. Rail in 2004.

Mainline derailments at CN in Canada were up 35 per cent in 2005 from the year before, according to a report from the transportation board.

Among CN's problems last year was an ecologically disastrous spill of 40,000 litres of caustic soda into the Cheakamus Canyon near Squamish that killed thousands of fish after a 144-car derailment. Also last year, CN pleaded guilty to failing to properly inspect and maintain a wooden trestle near McBride. In 1999, engineer Art McKay and conductor Ken LeQuesne died when the lead locomotive plunged into a gully through the trestle.

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Maybe BC Mary wouldn't be writing this today, if Don Faulkner hadn't reached out with encouragement from his home in Savona, just east of Kamloops. But he did. When he saw things I had written about the Legislature Raids, he unfailingly reached out and said "Stay with it, Mary." His strong character came across in his rational, steady assessments of his world. He had a loving partner and two grown kids.

But that's not what we talked about. We talked almost entirely about B.C. Rail and what it meant to British Columbia, past and future. I wish I'd kept his e.mails, but who knew such a vigorous presence would soon be gone?

Don resented BC's loss of its own railway. He wanted BC Rail to run right, which it had done in his 20 years as a trainman. It was bad enough that BC Rail was "sold" but he still resented anything that looked to him like reckless attempts by the new management to lower the BC Rail standards; he worried about safety when CN cut corners and took risks to save money.

Don Faulkner and Tom Todd died as trainmen, trying to save a CN train. It's horribly ironic that what cost their lives was one of the very accidents Don kept saying was entirely predictable.

Google "Don Faulkner", and the first hit shows a series of up-close photos of the trainmen two weeks after the wreck, who gathered at a Kamloops motel for a weekend together to honour their comrades. I don't know which photo shows Don. Perhaps it's better that way ... to imagine he's there, all right, reflected in each smile, each handshake, as the trainmen express their solidarity with one another, tell their stories, and remember Tom Dodd and Don Faulkner.

It's quite a legacy.

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Comments:
Mary,

This is such a powerful insight into the human cost of the Neo-Con heartless, profit only approach to the world, society and business. Those e-mails would quite possibly be a wonderful resource. Archiving serious (not joke of the day stuff) email has its perks and can be done with little effort using little in resources.

"but he still resented anything that looked to him like reckless attempts by the new management to lower the BC Rail standards;"

The same thing is happening at semi-detached, ugly-American run BC Ferries. Recently they announced that in order to deal with impending retirements in their officer ranks due to boomer bulge (perhaps low morale also) they were lowering the standards for various ratings to DOT and/or Coast Guard minimums. In other words, in order to replace bridge crew BC Ferries finds it more practical to lower standards than accelerate training.

As the ugly American (Hahn) himself said, accidents happen (sounds like Rumsfeld discussing his masterpiece - Iraq) and what's a drowning or two here or there compared to X passenger trips where the passenger doesn't drown. I never did hear about what the prospective buyer of the Northern routes thought after being aboard the Queen of the North on the fatal night - though he was among the 99 survivors.
 
Gord does what Gordo wants and each time he has a vision somebody either gets hurt, or loses money. His deal about not providing funding for projects over 20 million unless it's a 3P deal ,is one of his latest visions.My gosh can we afford many more visions?
 
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