Friends say a Cornwall man died doing his dream job in Sunday's Via Rail derailment west of Ottawa.

Patrick Robinson, 40, was learning his new engineering position for Via Rail when the train went off the tracks Sunday afternoon, killing him and two other engineers.

He had been hired in September after 15 years of working his way up the ranks of various companies.

"He couldn't want anything else more. He had a smile from grin to grin, ear to ear," said his best friend Eric Vernier. "He lived to drive the train, he wanted to go fast and he was doing it for his family."

Residents said Robinson was a devoted father and helpful neighbour who had shared custody of his children after a divorce.

They said he would return to Cornwall every weekend to visit 12-year-old Amanda and 10-year-old Logan.

"I'm just shocked that he's gone . . . I can't believe it," said Joan Locke. "It's going to be strange not hearing his kids in the backyard playing anymore."

"He was like a brother to me and his kids were like my adopted kids," Vernier said.

Neighbours said Robinson was constantly there for them.

"He was a very nice person, he helped me all the time," said his landlord Jai Aggarwal. "He helped neighbours, anybody who need help; he was there for everybody."

The Canadian flag at Cornwall's Via Rail station was lowered to half-mast Monday in his memory.

"He always helped people look at the end of the tunnel," Vernier said. "There was always light, there was always hope."

With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua