Sherbrooke resident speaks out about idling trains at Lac des Nations

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Louise Fontaine spends quite a bit of time around Sherbrooke’s Lac des Nations, cycling, walking, eating lunch with friends, but she is beginning to lose interest due to the noise and air pollution caused by nearby trains.
Fontaine reached out to The Record after she read a story in La Tribune about trains idling in Magog for over 40 hours. The news reminded her of the trains often left idling on the tracks hugging Lac des Nations.
“I cycle there often and I often bring a picnic with my boyfriend but lately, especially, I’ve noticed trains idling there all day. Why? I don’t know. It’s not every day, but it happens often,” said Fontaine.
According to the Canadian Transportation Agency, trains idle for a number of reasons. Locomotives are left idling to allow oncoming trains to pass or for cars to be switched or picked up.
They can be left idling for maintenance, inspections or repairs. It could be due to poor weather conditions, or even a crew change. But the most common reason why trains idle has to do with the fact that locomotive engines are not designed the same way as cars.
A train can’t be turned on and off like an automobile, and it’s mostly related to safety standards. Idling maintains engine temperature, air pressure for the brake system, the integrity of the starting systems, and the electrical system.
Locomotive engines also use water rather than antifreeze for coolant. This means trains cannot be shut down when the temperature drops below five degrees Celsius. But Fontaine isn’t buying that excuse. According to the 64-year-old, this shouldn’t happen in 2020.
“I cannot believe they need to have it on all day long because it takes too long to start an engine,” she said. “I just find that really lame.”
Fontaine believes these trains should be obsolete. Instead, she wants to see more environmentally- and noise-friendly options. She added that companies like Canadian Pacific Railways hold too much power.
The city of Sherbrooke told The Record that the situation is out of its hands. The trains sitting beside Lac des Nations don’t belong in the city’s jurisdiction. Last week, the Sherbrooke resident noticed one train in the area moved further down the rail.
“I don’t even think I can do anything, but maybe with enough people complaining about it, it’ll raise some flags somewhere important,” she said.
She speculates that someone made the decision to save bystanders from the noise and fumes. However, it’s not enough, she continued, the whole situation is offensive and polluting the environment.
Fontaine also wonders why there is a double standard. The Government of Canada recommends turning off your car engine if you’re going to be stopped for more than 60 seconds, except in traffic, to avoid producing greenhouse gases.
“I mean who wants to smell diesel, especially in a populated area like that and I’m just amazed at the fact that they can do this and just get away with this,” Fontaine said.

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