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NBM Railways: Ride the Trails, Not the Tracks


The May long weekend heralds the beginning of summer for many in New Brunswick. Before embarking on their holidays, students from New Brunswick’s McAdam and Harvey high schools received a crash course in the consequences of unsafe all-terrain vehicle (ATV) operation on or around railroad tracks.  

On Wednesday, May 16th, Grade Nine students from both schools arrived at McAdam Train Station and came upon a staged locomotive-ATV collision. Student actors portrayed victims of the crash, while first responders and NBM Railway crew members were on standby to assist and provide aid. 

 NBM Railways


The mock collision was a joint endeavor, incorporating the two participant high schools, the PARTY Program (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth), Operation Lifesaver, and NBM Railways. It was intended to be as “chillingly” realistic as possible: the actors wore makeup to mimic grisly wounds and the students witnessed a full-scale emergency response.  

Following the event, students were provided opportunities to speak out about what they saw and learn from first responders and partner organizations. RCMP officers and Paramedics shared their own experiences with rail incidents. In addition, Operation Lifesaver launched a new ATV-focused virtual reality video, immersing the viewers in a 360-degree true-to-life rail accident simulation. Several local stakeholders, including representatives of the NB All-Terrain Vehicle Federation also attended the event. 

Lorrie Johnston is the Safety, Security & Community Relations Coordinator at NBM Railways, and heavily involved with the Maritime chapter of Operation Lifesaver. “Almost all [rail] incidents are preventable,” comments Johnston, “yet it’s shocking how much work has to be done to raise awareness. The mock scenarios are an important reminder to students and others to stay off and away from railway tracks. It’s unsafe and it’s illegal.”

Operation Lifesaver reported over 220 railway incidents in 2017, with 72 fatalities and 44 serious injuries. This year, there have already been 78 incidents reported. Some of the major impediments to rail safety compliance are misconceptions about trains and railways. For example, trains often carry cargo wider than the track, so ATV operators near tracks may not realize they’re in the potential impact zone. In addition, trains are often much quieter than people expect, so riders can be at risk of being hit from behind. Trains can’t steer to avoid trespassers, and they often can’t brake quickly enough to avoid an obstacle on the track. 

Every two years NBM Railways partners with the PARTY Program to coordinate a mock-collision to raise awareness about rail safety among local students and communities. “These mock scenarios are tailored to the communities in which they’re held,” says Johnston. The McAdam ATV scenario was especially relevant due to a marked increase in risky ATV driving practices reported by NBM Railway crew members. In 2016, the scenario centered on youth taking selfies and portraits on railway tracks, a risky behavior still seen today. 

“It’s important [for us] to engage with the community,” says Johnston, “We can’t be the solution to rail safety, but we can and should be part of it.” For more information and recommendations for rail safety, visit: