Letter from Steve Patterson to Railway Companies


June 2015

Letter from Steve Patterson to Railway Companies, prepared and read by Steve at Safe Rail Communities comedy fundraiser on Tuesday, June 2, 2015.


Dear railway companies,

I understand that you have been around a long time and that you are in the business of making as much money as you can. Which is ironic considering that you are pretty much the most unwanted properties in the game of Monopoly because, just like in the real world, no one is allowed to build houses or hotels on you.

This said there have been some horrible railway disasters lately, especially in Lac Megantic, Quebec, which illustrates a serious, life-threatening problem: you are transporting extremely hazardous materials, perilously close to residential neighbourhoods that are, essentially, disasters waiting to happen.

"So what?" you might say, "this only affects people that live near railroads".

I thought you’d say that.

So here’s my answer:

1) Turns out, thousands and thousands of people live near railroads in Canada and millions around the world do.

2) One of those people is me

3) Another one of those people is my daughter.

Hence, I am directly affected by your hazardous cargo.

So, what can be done about it?

Well, I understand that since the Lac-Megantic tragedy (which essentially decimated an entire town of innocent people when a 74-car train carrying Bakken formation crude oil derailed in the middle of the night) extra "safety measures" have been put in place. Exactly what those safety measures are, I’m not exactly sure. But if they are not to STOP TRANSPORTING EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE MATERIALS THROUGH MY NEIGHBOURHOOD I’m going to have to insist you step up your game.

"Screw you" is what you will probably say "profit is our only motivation". Or at least, this is what it seems every railway company head would like to say. I mean, maybe I’m wrong but most of you seem to be old men who probably agree with George W. Bush’s every decision and see people as commodities rather than actual living breathing things.

So here’s what I propose as an experiment to help clarify things.

The next time you are home, or in "one of your homes" since most of you seem to have multiple houses, I’m going to send some extremely hazardous materials through your kitchen on a small track. I "assure" you it will be safe. Then I will repeat this process, every time you are home, until the inevitable day that something goes wrong, the load derails and explodes and you are your family are wiped out.

I’m not sure how many times this will take. Maybe hundreds. Maybe just once. Either way, it’s probably going to make your time at home that is supposed to be spent "relaxing" a little more nerve-wracking.

"Well that’s why I don’t live near railway tracks" you might say.

Again, I see your point.

But keep in mind, the tracks that currently run across Canada weren’t there in the first place either. They had to be built. So I’m sure I could find ample help in the millions of people directly affected by your current practices to help build temporary tracks wherever you go, to drive this point home.

In other words, if you won’t actually take action to remove hazardous materials from tracks affecting millions of people around the world then hundreds of those people might be inspired to take action against you.

Just something to think about next time you’re knowingly loading ridiculously combustible cargo to go through densely populated areas. If you can do that and still sleep at night, well, your bound to be the target of wrath that no amount of profit can buy your way out of.

Sweet dreams railway guys, (we’re coming for you)

Steve Patterson