Rail­road disas­ter has roots

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Staff

The for­mer CP Farn­ham sta­tion, now the head­quar­ters of the Que­bec op­er­a­tion of the Mon­treal, Maine and At­lantic Rail­way, is clas­si­fied as a her­itage build­ing and is in a sorry state of re­pair.

“They crawl to a stop, I could al­most jump in,” said a lady whose back­yard on Saint-Joseph Street, in Ma­gog, abuts the Mon­treal, Maine and At­lantic Rail­ways line, about the trains that take the curves there. On the other side, less than one hun­dred feet away, is the Mem­phrem­a­gog hos­pi­tal. Ac­tu­ally, the clos­est part of the health com­plex to the rail­way is the one where the less mo­bile of res­i­dents are lo­cated: the CHSLD.

Last Sun­day, we fol­lowed the routes that the Mon­treal, Maine and At­lantic Rail­ways have in the re­gion. That they are not up to speed or to any com­pre­hen­si­ble stan­dard is ev­i­dent by look­ing at them with one’s eyes. But the proof in the pud­ding is the fact that the Or­ford Ex­press, the tourist train that runs on th­ese rails and is op­er­ated by the rail­way, Or­ford Ex­press only owns the rolling stock, can­not go farther than East­man at a max­i­mum speed of 30 mph. A cou­ple of years ago, La Tri­bune printed a fa­mous pic­ture of a rail­way­man lead­ing by foot a MMAR train; an ar­ti­cle in the same news­pa­per stat­ing that the Or­ford Ex­press was limited to 16 km/h for a while.

Yet, to a week. Seven­ty­five years ago, a Bri­tish steam lo­co­mo­tive took the world record by reach­ing 125 miles an hour, down­hill we might say. But then, in Canada at the same time, the so called Silk Trains were rush­ing with their mil­lion dollars worth of in­ven­tory at 75 mph.

The sorry state of rail­road­ing in Amer­ica can­not be more ex­em­pli­fied than by the lo­cal rail com­pany. It owns the line that crosses Ma­gog but also the one from Coat­i­cook to New­port, in Ver­mont, that one be­ing the only other cross­ing into the USA that the rail­road has. But di­vert­ing the traf­fic from the one that is now closed in LacMé­gan­tic and will be for the next cou­ple of weeks, at least, for oil, is a rather far away op­tion for MMAR.

Look­ing at the con­di­tion of the com­pany’s Cana­dian head­quar­ters in Farn­ham, one would be hard pressed to say that this is a her­itage build­ing on the Cana­dian Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places. And the open yard may be marked with no tres­pass­ing signs but it is an open field avail­able to all. Even on Sun­day, with all the me­dia at­ten­tion the com­pany was get­ting, no rail­road po­lice guarded the place. This re­porter, hav­ing spent sum­mers in Farn­ham in the 1950’s, could hardly be­lieve what he wit­nessed.

But there is more to MMAR than op­er­at­ing bare­bone rail­roads; it is also in­volved in re­pair­ing lo­co­mo­tives in Derby, Maine. It is there that the lo­co­mo­tives from the Agence

Métropoli­taine de Trans­ports, from the greater Mon­treal re­gion, were re­done and leased by the par­ent com­pany of MMAR, Rail World.

The Stanstead Jour­nal also learned that while Cana­dian lo­co­mo­tive engi­neers can­not work in the USA, the rea­son why the crew changeover was done in Nantes, where the run­away train started its deadly run, the re­verse is not true. Writ­ten re­quests to Trans­port Canada on this par­tic­u­lar is­sue were an­swered in a me­dia tele­con­fer­ence yes­ter­day. Our other ques­tion, re­lat­ing to the speed rat­ing of the line be­tween Farn­ham and Len­noxville, asked on Sun­day, has re­mained unan­swered as we went to press.

Pho­tos Stanstead Jour­nal

The only sign that the Farn­ham yard is now un­der the MMAR own­er­ship, it is open to all to en­ter.

Photo Stanstead Jour­nal

The track curv­ing on a slope with the Ma­gog hos­pi­tal in the rear.

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