Keep your tracks off the tracks: Snowmobiles and trains are a deadly combination

Riding a snowmobile is exhilarating—and a great way to get out and enjoy winter. But it can also be deadly, if you don’t follow the rules.

Last March, a Halifax-area man died after his snowmobile collided with a train at a railway crossing in northern Quebec. The man was at the head of a group of snowmobilers travelling on a path at the time.

Operation Lifesaver (OL) wants ensure tragic accidents like this don’t happen. That’s why our Saskatchewan Committee is holding a rail-snowmobile mock collision in Yorkton, Sask. today to demonstrate the tragedy that can result when snowmobile operators don’t exercise caution at railway crossings. The aim of the mock collision is to promote public safety while providing critical training to first responders.

“We’re creating a mock collision between two snowmobiles and a CN locomotive at a local highway-railway crossing,” explains Brad Bidulka, Chair of OL’s Saskatchewan Committee and a constable with the CP Police Service. “As the first sled goes over the crossing, a train whistles in the distance. But because of the weather and the gear that the second snowmobile rider is wearing, they don’t hear the whistle or the train. The sled is dragged down the track to where emergency services will be gathered, including CP and CN police, VIA Rail and local Yorkton emergency services.”

Snowmobiles can become lodged on tracks at a crossing. The sound of an oncoming train’s whistle can also be masked by a snowmobile’s loud engine, as well as the helmet and other gear worn by the rider. Reduced visibility during a snow storm can also make it hard to see a train coming.

“I grew up around snowmobiles. Without a doubt, it’s one of my favourite wintertime activities,” says Stephen Covey, member of OL’s Board of Directors and CN’s Chief of Police and Chief Security Officer. “But one thing I know is that trains and snowmobiles do not mix. You won’t always hear trains and you won’t always see them.”

Covey has some blunt advice for snowmobilers: “Just stay off rail property. Only use approved rail crossings and respect the signals. Enjoy winter and stay safe. We want you to enjoy snowmobiling for many years to come!”

Today’s event will also mark the official launch of OL’s new Look. Listen. Live. snowmobile-focused virtual reality (VR) rail safety video. The 360 video gives viewers the shocking—and hopefully unforgettable—experience of what being involved in a collision between a snowmobile and a train would be like. In fact, the scenario depicted in this new VR video is very similar to what happens in the mock-collision in Yorkton.

If seeing is believing, OL’s mock collision and new VR video will make it plain to see that trains and snowmobiles are a deadly mix.