PUSLINCH – Two Puslinch councillors visited the site of recent grass fires along the Guelph Junction Railway (GJR) line and reported at the June 15 council meeting that it was an “eye-opener.”
“There are stacks of (railway) ties close to residents and they are high,” said councillor Jessica Goyda.
“And I saw how close fire came to those piles of ties.
“There are justified and significant concerns of residents on Carter Road. As long as that giant pile of ties remain, so does the worry of residents.”
Puslinch and GJR have had numerous discussions over the past few years and residents continue to raise concerns about the speed, safety and noise of trains through the township.
Bruce Taylor is part of a group calling itself the Train Committee and also of the Concerned Citizens of Puslinch, which represents 42 families.
He has voiced concerns about noise and safety of the trains that cut through Arkell and recently shared correspondence with the Advertiser between the committee and councillors, GJR staff and township staff.
On April 28, at the train committee’s invitation, Goyda and councillor John Sepulis visited the site of an April 13 grass fire along the tracks that back onto homes on Carter Road.
The fire was first spotted by a child and residents kept the fire at bay until firefighters arrived on that occasion.
Another grass fire was reported on May 31 that turned out to be several mini fires along the tracks near the Arkell Road and Hume Road crossings.
They too came ominously close to homes and piles of railway ties. Firefighters from Guelph/Eramosa joined Puslinch to contain and extinguish these fires.
“It was important for them to see,” Taylor said, explaining why he invited councillors to visit the sites.
“We’re interested in prevention and that means the removal and disposal of all those railway ties.”
Taylor said the creosote-soaked ties contain some 300 chemicals that are flammable, and that leach creosote into soil.
He said the committee is urging GJR to remove the ties and for Puslinch to put pressure on the rail company until it’s done.
Taylor pointed out GJR “inherited” piles of old railway ties when it took over the stretch of train tracks from CP Rail, but that was 24 years ago.
It’s time the ties were removed, he said.
“They can blame it on that they inherited them, but so what? It’s been 24 years,” Taylor said.
“Nobody in Puslinch can leave their garbage out like that. If nobody is held accountable, they’ll never be removed.”
At the June 15 council meeting, Goyda introduced a motion to write to GJR and request they begin removing the ties. Sepulis supported that motion.
“I support putting a priority on the ties,” he said.
“If that tie pile ignited, we would see a lot of issues,” including toxic smoke and possible water contamination.
GJR has said it would begin to address the railway tie issue between April and November of 2023.
Goyda asked that the letter state the deadline for removing the ties should be moved up to September of this year.
“We have to get ignitable material out of the way. To have residents fighting fires themselves is not right. I’m disappointed with the entire situation,” Sepulis agreed.
Mayor James Seeley noted there’s also a pile of railway ties near the hamlet of Puslinch.
“They need to get them gone as well,” he said.
Taylor said he’s pleased that council now recognizes the danger residents have long been concerned about and that GJR seems amenable to removing the ties.
But seeing is believing.
GJR is owned by the City of Guelph and Guelph council acts as its board of directors.
“Guelph is not accountable to Puslinch. It’s a business and I get that,” Taylor said.
“But I hope they change their priorities and put people and safety ahead of dividends.”