Old footage of a Canadian train ferrying armoured vehicles unrelated to war in Ukraine

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A video of a long train transporting military vehicles has been shared on Facebook alongside a claim that the footage shows the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) sending tanks and equipment to Ukraine in support of its war against Russia. But this is false; the video has been circulating online since at least 2012 and shows a Canadian train operating in North America.

The video was published on Facebook on February 28, 2022 and has been viewed more than 2,500 times since then. It was shared more than 100 times and generated hundreds of interactions.

“FROM NATO WITH LOVE TO UKRAINE!!!” the post's caption begins.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on March 4, 2022

The two minute-long video shows a locomotive pulling hundreds of flat-bed carriages loaded with military-type vehicles.

Referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a line in the caption reads: “The ego driven dictator has bitten more than he can chew. Don't ever underestimate you opponent (sic).”

Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, after amassing more than 150,000 troops on the border. Four days later, a huge Russian military convoy 64 kilometres (40 miles) in length was seen inchings toward the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv by road, AFP reported.

According to satellite images captured by space intelligence company Maxar Technologies, the covoy carried tanks and vehicles.

Although the footage on Facebook also shows the transportation of various military vehicles, it is not, as claimed, an aid consignment being sent to Ukraine to help with the war effort.

Canadian train

By pausing the footage near the beginning, it is possible to make out a logo containing the letters “CN” on the front locomotive, as well as the numbers “2235”. The numbers “8803” also become visible on the second locomotive as the train passes the camera.

A frame from the video shared in the false Facebook post, taken on March 4, 2022

AFP Fact Check ran several reverse image searches which led us to the Canadian National Railways website. The "CN" seen in the video is the Canadian National Railways logo.

Screenshot of CN Facebook page featuring similar locomotives, taken on March 4, 2022

Another search on Railpictures, a railroad photo database, using the call numbers “2235” and “8803”, led us to different images of the same locomotives.

Screenshots of CN trains with “8803” and “2235” call numbers, taken from Railpictures on March 4, 2022

Old footage

Using the video verification application InVID-WeVerify, AFP Fact check found that the same video had been circulating online prior to the conflict in Ukraine. Furthermore, the footage has been associated with other false claims in the past.

For instance, in June 2016, the video was uploaded to YouTube with claims that it showed the Russian arsenal heading to war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Syria.

A few months later in December, it was again uploaded to YouTube claiming to show the Russian army “preparing for war”.

Lastly, in 2020, it was put up online alongside a claim that it showed vehicles sent from African countries in support of US troops against Iran.

Screenshot of YouTube videos with the same footage, taken on March 4, 2022

However, AFP Fact Check was able to trace the origins of the video to nearly a decade ago when we found the footage on YouTube with a title that reads: “CN 2235, CN 8803 - Ultra Rare Canadian Military Train - Westbound - Lovekin, ON”.

North American trains

Contacted by AFP Fact Check, the Canadian railroad company confirmed it has no trains running outside of North America (United States and Canada).

Another important clue that shows the video could not have been shot in Ukraine is the weather. While the temperature in Ukraine is around 2°C at this time of the year, the video seems to have been shot in the summer or spring.

Weapons, ammunition and funds have poured into Ukraine from Western allies in support of Kyiv; however, according to NATO, this does not include the equipment seen in the video shared on Facebook.

According to NATO “thousands of anti-tank weapons, hundreds of air-defence missiles and thousands of small arms and ammunition stocks are being sent to Ukraine.”

Rumours of NATO members sending fighter jets to Ukraine have also circulated online and we’ve debunked the claim here.

AFP Fact Check has debunked a number of false claims relating to the war in Ukraine, including the same footage shared in French claiming to show a Russian train headed to Kyiv.

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Ukraine conflict