Get out and enjoy winter, but stay clear of tracks

The arrival of snow across most of Canada makes it the perfect time to get out and explore the great outdoors on a snowmobile. But if you’re hitting the trails, stay clear of train tracks— snowmobiles and trains can be a deadly combination.

In February 2017, an Ontario man died after his snowmobile collided with a train on a trail north of Barrie, Ontario. In 2006, a 16-year-old boy was struck and killed by a train at a railway crossing in the northwestern Ontario community of Wabigoon. The boy was riding in a sled being towed by a snowmobile. The snowmobile managed to clear the tracks, but the sled did not.
Operation Lifesaver (OL) wants to ensure tragic accidents like these don’t happen this winter. If you are a snowmobiler, we urge you to watch our Look. Listen. Live. snowmobile-focused virtual reality (VR) video. The 360 video gives viewers the shocking—and hopefully unforgettable—real-life experience of what being involved in a collision between a snowmobile and a train would be like.
“We produced this video because we heard from our railway partners that snowmobilers were sometimes using railway tracks and rights-of-way as trails—which is both illegal and extremely dangerous. They were also seeing that riders weren’t approaching crossings with sufficient caution,” says Sarah Mayes, National Director of Operation Lifesaver Canada.

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

Following these simple rail safety rules will ensure this snowmobile season is a fun and safe one:
  • Stay off tracks and only use approved trails.
  • Always cross railway tracks at designated crossings at a 90-degree angle, or as close to that angle as possible.
  • When approaching a crossing, stop no closer than 5 metres from the nearest rail, look both ways and listen for approaching trains. Cross only once you have a clear view and are sure all trains have passed and/or the warning lights have stopped flashing.
  • Never ride next to train tracks. Your helmet and the noise from your engine or the wind can make it hard to hear when a train is approaching.
  • If your snowmobile stalls or gets stuck on the tracks, get off immediately and move a safe distance away.
Remember, trains and snowmobiles can be a deadly mix if you don’t follow the rules.