News & Reviews News Wire News photos: ‘Poseidon’ helps CN fight Alberta fires

News photos: ‘Poseidon’ helps CN fight Alberta fires

By Bob Johnston | May 15, 2023

Equipment’s first deployment addresses wildfire threat

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White tank cars, a flatcar with water cannons, and a trackmobile spray water along a railroad right-of-way.
Canadian National has turned a flatcar, two tank cars, and a track maintenance vehicle into a firefighting train, dubbed “Poseidon,” fighting Alberta widefires. CN

Map showing area of wildfire
Boundaries of Alberta’s Yellowhead County fire as of Sunday. Google Maps

EVANSBURG, Alberta — A 10-mile stretch of Canadian National’s transcontinental main line about 65 miles west of Edmonton, Alta., continues to be surrounded by what has become the Yellowhead County wildfire, but trains are getting through the area in part because of CN firefighting equipment known as “Poseidon.”

The compact fire train was fashioned out of a lumber-hauling flatcar with high-powered water cannons flanked by two tank cars, pushed by a motorized track maintenance vehicle. Railroad sources tell Trains News Wire the homegrown creation was dispatched to the region last week when unusually dry, hot weather spawned fires that quickly enveloped the town of Edson, where 25 homes were destroyed. Mayor Kevin Zahara captured Poseidon’s passage with video on his Facebook page.

Red and white tank cars and flat car
The bulkhead flatcar carries water cannons, with a tank car on each side. CN

The route through Edson and Evansburg was shut down for a day while firefighting efforts continued, forcing VIA Rail Canada to bus Canadian passengers between Jasper and Edmonton [see “Weekend disruptions hit VIA, Amtrak …,” News Wire, May 8, 2023].

Since then, Poseidon has roamed the rails not only protecting CN infrastructure but aiding local fire-fighting efforts where needed. It joins vehicles deployed by other western North American railroads in dealing what has become a spring-through-fall wildfire season.

As of Sunday afternoon, authorities have categorized 22 of the 83 fires burning across Alberta as “out of control.” Forecasts are calling for increasing temperatures, high winds, and low relative humidity that are likely to cause continued elevated wildfire danger in the days ahead.

On-track equipment sprays water into trees
CN’s equipment has aided in firefighting beyond that focused on the rail line. CN

3 thoughts on “News photos: ‘Poseidon’ helps CN fight Alberta fires

  1. I’m surprised that more tank cars aren’t added. Unless there’s something equipment wise that limits it to one tan car on each end.

    1. I can’t think of any particular rule that would limit it to 3 cars. However I can see mobility being a key factor. In order for this to be a truly flexible tool it needs to be able to hop along the main line between trains. Which means in a perfect world, it fits into siding back tracks or HBD set off points. Most of these tracks are relatively short and can only handle a few cars.

  2. I wonder if the Durango & Silverton could leverage something similar prior to a tourist run?

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