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Alberta

Painful History: The worst tragedy in the history of the Northern Alberta Railways

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This article is submitted by members of the Alberta Railway Museum

CARBONDALE JUNCTION
On November 10, 1959, 13.6 miles North of Dunvegan Yards, the worst tragedy in the history of the Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) occurred. As a result, four people died and half a dozen men were released from their positions following a public inquest.

STATION HISTORY
The hamlet of Carbondale, North of Edmonton’s Dunvegan Yards, was at one time home to a small railway station on the Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) line. NAR was a CN-CP Rail joint venture that operated throughout Northern Alberta from 1929 to 1981. Carbondale is where the mainline split, allowing passengers and freight either West to Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek, or East to Fort McMurray.

The station was not only a stop en-route to several destinations along the line but, from 1956-1959 it was also the home of Station Agent Arthur “Art” Fraser, his wife Alice, and their youngest of three children, son Kelly (18 years) who were previous station agents in Smith, Alberta.

Courtesy of Shannyn Rus, 2020

SERIES OF TRAGIC EVENTS
On November 10, 1959, the weather was cool and a bit windy as the sun was peaking over the horizon. Carbondale Station was closed until 9am on weekdays and the Frasers were nowhere to be seen. NAR passenger train No.2 was southbound behind CN steam locomotive 5115, having left Grande Prairie the night before, destined for Edmonton. No.2 passed through Morinville at about 7:51 a.m., and was due at Carbondale at 8:00 a.m., on schedule, but was not scheduled to stop.

While the passenger train was headed south, NAR Train No.31, lead by NAR diesel locomotives 202 & 208 with 119 freight cars, left Edmonton behind schedule. In a rush to depart from the city at 7:20 a.m., crew members had improperly placed a tank car filled with gasoline directly behind the two engines, a violation of railway marshalling operating rules.

Upon reaching Carbondale at 7:51 a.m., No.31 moved to switch onto a sidetrack to allow the southbound passenger train to pass, but several cars detached from No.31 and were on the main track as the passenger train quickly approached. In a desperate attempt to notify the oncoming passenger train, the brakeman from the freight train ran ahead to deploy an explosive warning device called a torpedo on the track and wave a red flag signalling the steam train to stop. He did not get far, and the engineer of the passenger train did not see or hear the warning signals.

A precisely 8:00 am, the trains collided head on at a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) resulting in a sound described by a witness as “atomic”. The impact ruptured the tank car, causing the rapid spread of gasoline over the station, a garage, and three vehicles. The gas immediately ignited. The bodies of the Fraser family were found outside of their home by a high-wire fence; it remains speculation as to whether they were attempting to flee the inferno or were blown from their home at the time of the explosion. The body of steam engine Fireman Albert Villeneuve was found in the buckled cab of the steam locomotive. An additional 19 people were injured in the accident.

Living just 18 metres (59 feet) from the station was retired coal miner William Dickinson. He told the Edmonton Journal in 1959 that the blast was “like an earthquake” and shook him awake. Seeing smoke and fire everywhere, he ran to the phone to report the collision, but the phone line was dead – the crash had taken out the phone and power lines, stopping his electric clock at precisely 8:00 am.

THE AFTERMATH
The fire obliterated the station, a garage, and three vehicles. Historic accounts show the station was destroyed except for its fireproof safe and brick chimney. An official investigation followed the collision. Conflicting testimony was given by the flagman from the freight train and the engineer from the passenger train. The flagman was required to go two kilometres (2,000 yards) beyond the stopped freight train to flag and alert the crew of the passenger train.

The flagman testified he went forward approximately 220 metres (240 yards); however, no footprints were found in the fresh snow beyond 23 metres (75 feet). The engineer of the passenger train stated that he did not see the red flag or hear the track torpedoes. The engineer also testified that he failed to see the freight train on the main track until he was about seven metres (23 feet) away, at which time he placed the brakes into emergency.

Following the investigation, the entire crew of No.31, the freight train, was dismissed by the NAR for violating the operating rules by having the train on the main track and not flagging down the passenger train. The engineer of the passenger train, No. 2, was also dismissed for not obeying the rule that the train be prepared to stop at the junction. The conductor of train No. 2 was severely reprimanded for not checking the signals at the junction and “for failure to exercise proper supervision over his train”.

Courtesy of Shannyn Rus, UPI Telephoto ARP-111101-November 10/59

THE BRICKS
62 years have passed since this tragic historic day and what remains buried of the Carbondale station has begun to reveal itself brick by brick. Carbondale resident Shannyn Rus and her family began finding these “ACP” stamped bricks in 2019. The chimney bricks were made by Alberta Clay Products (ACP) which existed from 1909 to 1962 in southern Alberta, near Redcliff.

The Rus family collected 20 full size, intact red bricks from the crash site and have donated them to rest at the Alberta Railway Museum as part of a collection of rail history not to be forgotten or buried again. You can find a short documentary on the Carbondale Station here.

Alberta

Canopy Growth reports Q4 net revenue down 25 per cent from year ago

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SMITHS FALLS, Ont. — Canopy Growth Corp. reported a smaller quarterly loss compared with a year ago as its net revenue fell 25 per cent.

The cannabis company says it had a net loss of $578.6 million or $1.46 per diluted share for the quarter ended March 31 compared with a net loss of $616.7 million or $1.85 per diluted share a year earlier.

Net revenue in what was Canopy’s fourth quarter totalled $111.8 million, down from $148.4 million in the same quarter last year.

The drop in revenue came as the company’s global cannabis net revenue fell to $66 million in its latest quarter compared with $101.3 million a year earlier.

Other consumer products revenue amounted to $45.8 million for the quarter, down from $47.1 million.

Canopy chief executive David Klein says the company will remain focused on building its market share in the key segments that will drive profitable growth and continuing to grow its premium brands across North America.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:WEED)

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers down Flames to advance to Western Conference final

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By Joshua Clipperton in Calgary

The Edmonton Oilers are off to the Western Conference final.

Connor McDavid scored at 5:03 of overtime as the Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 5-4 on Thursday to win their second-round playoff series 4-1.

The Edmonton captain fired his seventh goal of the post-season past Jacob Markstrom off a pass from Leon Draisaitl to send the Oilers spilling over the bench in celebration.

Zach Hyman, with a goal and two assists, Darnell Nurse, Jesse Puljujarvi and Evan Bouchard also scored for the Oilers. Mike Smith made 32 saves as Edmonton claimed the first post-season Battle of Alberta in 31 years.

Draisaitl added four assists — his fifth straight contest registering three-plus points to build on the NHL playoff record he set in Game 4.

McDavid and Draisaitl have both amassed 26 points to lead the playoffs so far.

The Oilers will face either the Colorado Avalanche or St. Louis Blues in their first conference final appearance since 2006. Colorado leads that series 3-2, with Game 6 set for Friday in St. Louis.

Mikael Backlund, with a goal and an assist, Johnny Gaudreau, Calle Jarnkrok and Andrew Mangiapane replied for Calgary. Blake Coleman added two assists, while Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves as the Flames dropped to 0-10 when trailing a playoff series 3-1.

Coleman, who won the Cup the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, appeared to snap a 4-4 tie with just under six minutes left in regulation after Backlund took the puck hard to Edmonton’s net. But the goal was waved off following a video review after it was ruled the winger kicked the puck over Smith’s goal line with his skate as he battled with Oilers defenceman Cody Ceci.

With his team trailing 1-0 after a tentative first period, Edmonton interim head coach Jay Woodcroft double-shifted Draisaitl and McDavid early in the second, and it nearly paid off on a couple of good opportunities.

But the Flames, who topped the Oilers by seven points in the regular season to claim the Pacific Division crown, went up 2-0 at 5:41 when Backlund scored his fifth on a slick deflection.

The Oilers got on the board at 7:40 after Draisaitl protected the puck against Backlund before finding Nurse in the slot for him to fire his second past a screened Markstrom.

Edmonton tied it up just 2:26 later on a 3-on-1 rush when Markstrom could only get a piece of Hyman’s shot before Puljujarvi swept home his second as the Oilers erased another multi-goal deficit on the road.

The offensive floodgates then really opened over a wild stretch that would see four pucks find the back of the net in 71 seconds.

Hyman scored his sixth goal of the series, and eighth of the post-season, on a power play at 14:57 before Gaudreau tied things again at 3-3 at 15:12 with his third.

Jarnkrok then scored his first as a member of the Flames since coming over in a trade with the Seattle Kraken at 15:28 to make it 4-3.

But the Oilers responded again at 16:08 when Bouchard’s blast beat Markstrom for his second as the teams set an NHL record for the fastest four goals in playoff history — 22 seconds faster than the previous mark set by the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs in 1976.

Following a tepid start for both teams inside a nervous Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames nudged in front at 10:13 of the first when Mangiapane took a terrific pass from Coleman to bury his third goal of the playoffs.

The winger’s first point of the series gave his team its first lead since late in the second period of Game 2 — a stretch of exactly 155 minutes — that started a run of three straight losses to push Calgary to the brink of elimination.

One of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie in the regular season, Markstrom entered Thursday with an .850 save percentage in the series after posting a .943 mark in Calgary’s seven-game victory over the Dallas Stars in the opening round.

After the Oilers, who beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 to set up the matchup with their provincial rival, killed off a McDavid high-sticking penalty, the Flames goaltender had to scramble to keep the Edmonton captain’s dash to the net at bay with the puck briefly lying free in Calgary’s crease.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

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Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

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