Heat conditions cause of Upper Canada Village derailment

Significant trackbed heaving (above) and debris on the line (below) prompted St. Lawrence Parks Commission operators to stop running its minature train ride on the expanded route between Upper Canada Village and Crysler Park Marina this season. The attraction operated this year on the original shorter route to Crysler Beach until a derailment on July 22 shuttered the popular ride indefinitely. (The Leader/Blancher photos)

MORRISBURG – The effect of extreme heat conditions on July 22 caused the derailment of the miniature train attraction at Upper Canada Village.

St. Lawrence Parks Commission spokesperson Heather Kearney confirmed the cause of the derailment last week, responding to questions from The Leader.

“It has been confirmed that the cause of the derailment was due to the extreme heat conditions of the track,” Kearney said. “SLPC has been working with the TSSA on this incident and the attraction will remain closed until the train is deemed safe to resume.”

Extreme heat conditions can cause track issues on railroads, full-size or miniature. Known as a “sun kink” such issues are less likely on full-sized railroads due to the thickness and profile of the rail used. Miniature amusement ride attractions like the Mocassin at UCV use a smaller gauge steel rail which is more prone to heat issues.

Kearney explained the amusement ride locomotive and cars are maintained by SLPC staff, which are also responsible for minor track repairs. Major track repairs and regular monthly inspections are performed by Mallorytown-based contractor Remcan Projects LP.

“SLPC is compliant with TSSA requirements wherever applicable,” she said. “The lifting devices, pressure vessels and other items that are registered with TSSA are inspected annually.”

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority is the provincial organization responsible for areas of public safety including amusement park rides and elevators.

No time line was given for when the miniature train would return to operation. The ride closure is only a minimal loss in revenue for the SLPC as most tickets are sold in combination with UCV tickets. Kearney said there has been no staffing impact with the train shutdown.

The train derailment is the second incident affecting operations at UCV this year. In February 2022, a major failure to the electrical grid at the 60 year old attraction resulted in the 1860s village running on diesel generators for the foreseeable future. Kearney said the two incidents are not connected.

Operations on the miniature train ride this year were already modified from previous seasons, running on the shorter, original route.

During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, UCV operated with pandemic restrictions in place. Additional funding was provided by the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries to assist with capital projects and COVID-19 related operational costs in 2020. More money was provided by the ministry in 2021.

Operations at UCV were changed with fewer buildings open due to pandemic restrictions. The train and horse-drawn wagon were not run to minimize contact points for visitors.

“The train was not operational during the pandemic,” Kearney explained. “Despite regular maintenance, railbeds and other infrastructure deteriorate over time. We found pre-season that the long loop needed significant repairs.”

Operations for 2022 were cut back because of the needed repairs. The Crysler Marina extension has noticeable track heave near Crysler Beach, with debris fallen on the line in several locations.

“When we re-opened for the 2022 season, we adjusted the train’s operational parameters, cutting the long loop and eliminating the Crysler Beach stop. This allowed the attraction to operate while we assess the repair work.”

When asked, Kearney did not provide any time line for when the SLPC would return the minature train to service or complete repairs to the railbed to Crysler Park Marina.

In 2009-10, the SLPC extended the original route of the line between UCV and Crysler Beach further west to connect with Crysler Park Marina. The locomotive and train cars were also replaced at that time, and the original tracks were replaced. That project was part of a $13 million expansion of the village and railroad which included construction of the Discovery Centre building and new UCV entrance.

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