I am writing because of my concerns of the automation of the CN Rail drawbridges located at Mile 68.3 (Bear’s Pass) and Mile 84 (Five-Mile) in Fort Frances subdivision. These are not only the concerns of the six seasonal employees it directly affects, these also are the concerns of resort owners, boat owners, and private citizens.
We are first of all concerned with the safety issue. At mile 68.3, there is a tourist camp and many cottages close to the drawbridge. At Mile 84, there also are cottages and a First Nations Territory close by.
Many times, tourists and children are caught climbing around on these drawbridges by the bridgetenders and told it was unsafe to do so. The drawbridges will be like a magnet to children who want to climb them when the bridges are open and dive into the water, especially since they will know there is no one there to stop them.
This happens almost daily during the summer. A young boy was killed at Mile 84 after he fell to his death years ago and with no bridgetenders on duty, it will happen again.
The bridges will be operating twice as much as they are now as they will be lowered for every train. This will mean twice as much wear and tear on the drawbridges. And cottage owners and resort owners will not appreciate the noise pollution of the bells and sirens that will annoy and maybe hurt their business.
During the summer months, the power is constantly knocked out by thunderstorms. The bridges can still be operated because of gas engines. But if electric engines are installed, trains will be frequently held up for many hours many times. This also will infuriate people who live near the bridges as the crossings will be blocked and they will not be able to get to their homes.
At Mile 68.3, an alert bridgetender noticed the bridge smoking twice over the years and extinguished a fire that certainly would have burned the bridge. It was caused by a spark from a train both times.
Two years ago, an alert bridgetender stopped a westbound train that had one derailed car. The train was carrying some dangerous commodities and made an emergency stop. Mile 84 is the last train inspection station before westbound trains arrive in town. If the train had continued into town, there was the possibility of a disaster.
Nuts and bolts come loose daily on these bridges caused by the pounding of the trains. There surely will be derailments often at these bridges.
The current under the drawbridges increases when the mill opens the gates; some sailboats have a hard time getting through as it is. There is a real possibility of the bridge coming down right on top of a sailboat if a train arrives just as it is trying to pass through.
There has been problems with sailboats getting caught up in the bridge in the past but it was not life-threatening because if a train was coming, it would have to stop.
If the bridge was automated, no one would even know there was a problem and the boat would be crushed.
CN Rail has been trying for years to automate these drawbridges but was unable to do so because it was government-owned and it is unsafe to do so. Now that CN is privatized, the government no longer cares. Is this because they feel they no longer will be responsible for lawsuits?
If you are as concerned as we are, you can call local MP Robert Nault at 1-800-465-7226, or contact the mayor or town council before it’s too late.
On behalf of the