News release

Insufficient brakes applied to cars placed in a siding led to January 2012 train collision near Hanlon, Alberta

Gatineau, Quebec, 24 April 2013 — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation report (R12E0004) released today into the main-track collision between 13 uncontrolled and loaded coal cars and a stationary train has cited the inadequate use of hand brakes on the loaded coal cars as the main cause of the January 2012 accident near Hanlon, Alberta.

On 18 January 2012, at 12:12 Mountain Standard Time (MST), 13 loaded coal cars, which had been set-off on a siding, rolled uncontrolled northward and collided with a stationary train at Mile 44.5 on the Grande Cache Subdivision. Nine of the 13 cars and the 3 leading locomotives from the train derailed. Two crew members sustained minor injuries and were treated on site. The third crew member was seriously injured and was air-lifted to hospital in Hinton, Alberta. Approximately 2800 litres of fuel and 740 tons of coal were spilled. About 250 feet of track was damaged.

The investigation found that only one hand brake had been set to secure the coal cars (instead of two as required) and that the manner in which the brake effectiveness test was carried out was inadequate. The cars were left with a hand brake application that was insufficient by itself to hold the cars stationary. When the air brake application bled off, the cars began to roll away.

After the accident, Canadian National (CN) revised its operating instructions, doubling the number of required hand brakes on the Grande Cache Subdivision, and installed special derails at the Hanlon siding to prevent cars from accidentally rolling back onto the main track.


The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053
Email: media@tsb.gc.ca