FIELD, B.C. – A train carrying grain derailed on the Canadian Pacific Railway line in Yoho National Park in the early hours of Tuesday (Jan. 26).
Officials with the railway giant say the accident occurred about 1:40 a.m. approximately 6.5 kilometres west of Field, B.C.
“There were no injuries to the crew,” said Salem Woodrow, a spokesperson for CP, noting that CP immediately dispatched crews and equipment to the site.
“The cause of the incident is under investigation.”
The company is not providing any further details at this stage; however, there are unconfirmed reports that the accident involved 33 cars and one engine.
It is not yet clear how much, if any grain, has been spilled.
Grain is a calorie-rich source of food that draws bears to the train tracks each spring as they come out of hibernation.
In February 2019, there was a major grain train derailment in Banff National Park about seven kilometres west of Banff near Backswamp, in an area known as Mile 87 of the Laggan subdivision.
The Feb. 28 derailment saw 21 cars come off the tracks across a 300-metre area, 11 of which were empty and another 10 carrying canola. That location is a hot spot for bears looking for an easy meal of animal carcasses and grain each spring.
In that case, Parks Canada required CP to install electric fencing to exclude wildlife from the grain once the train cars were removed, and additional clean up was required as grain became exposed when the snow started to melt.
A few weeks before that grain train derailment, there was fatal train derailment at the Spiral Tunnels east of Field. Three people died in the crash, which the RCMP has since indicated it has launched a criminal investigation into.
Since 2000, at least 18 grizzly bears have been killed on the train tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks, which is a significant blow to Banff’s population of about 60 grizzlies.
The last death was a well-known mother grizzly bear known as No. 143 that was killed on the train tracks on Sept. 3, 2020, between Castle Junction and Lake Louise.
As part of a joint study with Parks Canada and CP, researchers with the University of Alberta concluded grain is a substantial wildlife attractant, with an estimated 110 tons of grain deposited each year in Banff and Yoho. That’s considered enough to feed about 50 bears for an entire year.
A brief statement from Parks Canada indicated the federal agency is monitoring for wildlife and working closely with CP to facilitate clean up operations. A BC Hydro power pole was also damaged during the derailment and the community of Field, B.C. was without power until Wednesday morning (Jan. 27).
"CP Rail is prioritising BC Hydro repairs," according to the statement.
The Outlook will update when more information is available.