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Canadian Railroads > Coquihalla runaway, 1926


Date: 02/07/19 16:11
Coquihalla runaway, 1926
Author: eminence_grise

As we mourn the loss of an entire train crew a few days ago in the Kicking Horse Pass, I am reminded of another incident many years ago in the Coquihalla Pass. Four crew members died when a westbound freight train ran away westward from the summit of this crossing of the Coast Mountain Range. A single crew member survived because he uncoupled the pusher engine from the caboose and stayed with the pusher engine.

Canada did not outlaw K triple air brakes as soon as the US did, and it is thought that there were many cars in the train with K3 brakes.

For many years, the case remained unsolved, however it is believed that the westbound train added cars at the summit, which may have exceeded the braking capacity of the train downhill.

The pusher engine gave chase , in horror as they watched the train go ever faster, also noting the crew frantically tying on handbrakes. The train derailed and fell into the canyon at Jessica, and the wreckage burned, leaving few traces of the crew for burial.

Nowadays, The Coquihalla Pass carries a multi lane freeway which is featured on the Discovery Channel “Highway through Hell”

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Date: 02/07/19 17:36
Re: Coquihalla runaway, 1926
Author: jbbane

Wasn't this a coal train?  If it is the wreck I recall reading about, there were an undetermined number of souls that had hopped the train who died beside the crew.  The coal caught fire adding to the scope of the disaster.  The brakeman landed in a pile of cinders which helped to break his fall.  Years later the guy was killed in an auto accident IIRC.  



Date: 02/07/19 21:40
Re: Coquihalla runaway, 1926
Author: airbrakegeezer

"it is thought that many of the cars had K brakes..."   
This runaway occurred in 1926, and the AB brake (which eventually replaced the K) did not go into production until 1933 ... so all the train's cars must have had K brakes (unless Canadian law allowed some of the H brakes to remain in service in 1926, which I sincerely doubt).
U.S. railroads were originally given 10 years to replace the Ks with ABs on all interchange cars, but then a little problem called World War II intervened, so the replacement period was extended to 1948, and then eventually until 1953. I believe Canada was not behind the U.S. with this deadline.

Roger Lewis (airbrakegeezer)



Date: 02/08/19 09:13
Re: Coquihalla runaway, 1926
Author: eminence_grise

The criteria for a Government investigation in those days was a wreck where passengers or members of the public were killed. The coroner had a role, but basically he determined if the deaths were accidental. As a result, the only record of many incidents were newspaper accounts based on the coroners report and eye witnesses.

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