"When I get done with this they can put me on my f****** pension."
August 23, 2008 9:53 PM   Subscribe

On March 9th, 1987, Wesley MacDonald was a Canadian National Railway engineer. His job for the day was to switch some loaded ore cars at the Brunswick Mine. Due to a communications foulup, he took a terrifying 20 minute ride on a runaway train. There's audio of the incident from start to finish. Transcript of the tape. Photos of the Aftermath More.

I recommend listening to the audio while following along on the transcript. It's high drama, and pretty riveting. Here's where he derailed.
posted by pjern (20 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
"I imagine they'll give you 30 demert marks now."

One for each car!

Thanks, pjern. Fantastic find.
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:29 PM on August 23, 2008

Wow. That was incredible and amazing. The big fella just wasn't ready for him. Great pictures too.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:44 PM on August 23, 2008

I thought about train wrecks after an automobile hydroplaning accident at 70 miles an hour, where it felt like it took three minutes to come to a complete stop (at a 40 degree angle on top of a guardrail). Being on a runaway train would give you way too much time to think about your impending doom, and make you constantly wonder whether it would be worth jumping off.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:53 PM on August 23, 2008

Far less cursing that I would have imagined.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:11 PM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just was reading the other parts of the story. Incredible enough, the CN Railroad suspended the engineer 6 months for not having the air connected to the cars. The suspension was overturned on appeal to an arbitrator. It would have cost him significantly in terms of his pay ($30,000) and his pension. He had 42 years of service. He had a chance to jump off when it was going 11 miles an hour but chose to stick with it because it had three grade level crossings and he wanted to be able to sound the whistle as a warning.

Less than a year from retirement and he risks his life and the RR tries to suspend him. Argh
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:17 PM on August 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

The very best. Thanks for posting.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:29 PM on August 23, 2008

My brother's an engineer with the _______ RR, and according to him they're always being urged to take shortcuts, which will be blamed on them if anything happens. How little has changed.
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Great post, pjern.
posted by mwhybark at 12:43 AM on August 24, 2008

Why did the conductor keep telling the engineer to "stick with her"? Did he want the engineer to try to warn people ahead, as he did, or did he somehow expect the engineer to find a way to slow the train?
posted by gsteff at 2:10 AM on August 24, 2008

I suspect that he told him to stay with it once the speed got up because there was a greater chance of being killed by the jump at 70 mph than riding it out.
posted by pjern at 2:21 AM on August 24, 2008

I love the dry little comment by the dispatcher in this exchange-

Asst Supt: Tell him I don't want anything to move when he comes to a stop.

Dispatcher: Well... I... If he comes through that switch at Nepisiguit, Ben, I don't imagine ... er ... I imagine he's at a stop alright, in the woods somewhere.

The train hasn't even wrecked yet and the (clueless) management is trying to preserve the evidence.
posted by pjern at 2:28 AM on August 24, 2008

About the missing part of the tape:
Wes: If you're taping.. if you have it on tape there, I want to tape it.

Dispatcher: Yes sir, everythings on tape here Wesley. It's all in tape.

Wes: Better send up the hook.

Dispatcher: Yeah, they're gonna... They're working on it there now. Ben Levesque didn't want you to move the train once you stopped, over.

(The following is not on the tape as we have it, but is from the official transcripts...)

Wes: You don't have to worry about moving her, she'll be there.
You don't suppose we're missing a juicy exchange between Wes and Alfie about just where Ben Levesque can move that train, do you?
posted by pracowity at 3:46 AM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

This would be much more fun if he had a wisecracking oriental boy as his sidekick.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:59 AM on August 24, 2008

Awesome post. Riveting audio.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:25 AM on August 24, 2008

Someone put out a 12" many years ago with this recording on it. It's called Runaway Train, I do believe.

Incidentally, putting this record on in the background when playing a chill room at a rave where everyone is really high is the only way I've found to guarantee that everyone is riveted to an ambient set.
posted by Jairus at 11:55 AM on August 24, 2008

Jeez, what a train wreck.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:35 PM on August 24, 2008

Someone put out a 12" many years ago with this recording on it. It's called Runaway Train, I do believe.

That would be the amazing Runaway Train 12", on the Ash International record label. You can download an MP3 of it for free (along with some other creepy recordings) from the Ash website.
posted by 40 Watt at 5:45 PM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

The runaway train .mp3 has the "missing" part of the tape. Interesting.
posted by pjern at 9:41 PM on August 24, 2008

Riveting and true to boot.
Love it, pj!
posted by Dizzy at 9:51 AM on August 25, 2008

Anyone else wind up with a raging Soul Asylum earworm?

Just me?
posted by norm at 11:26 AM on August 25, 2008

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