Stand off at Hurdman
The Case of the Missing Bolt
The Canadian railways have never fully trusted each other, but most of the time they manage to coexist in a relatively peaceful state. However, the tale I am about to recount was one of those occasions when hostilities broke out - and it happened in Ottawa!
BackgroundIt is amazing to think that the railway system in the Hurdman area was extremely complex and was the hub of railway operations in this city. One wouldn't think so today because this is where the Queensway (Highway 417) crosses the Rideau River and there are now no railways left at all.
The first line through Hurdman was the Bytown and Prescott which opened its line to Sussex Street in 1854. The second line was the Canada Atlantic (CAR) in 1882 and I believe the diamond was protected by signals only. The situation became more complex in July 1898 when the Montreal and Ottawa (M&O) crossed the Bytown and Prescott (now the St. Lawrence and Ottawa - St.L&O) near the CAR crossing. An interlocking was constructed to protect the trains of the St.L&O, CAR and M&O and also the New York and Ottawa trains from Cornwall which joined the M&O at Hurdman and proceeded through the interlocking on M&O trackage.
The last railway to build through this area was the Canadian Northern Ontario which opened its line between Hurdman and Napanee, via Federal in 1913. The Board of Railway Commissioners (Board) decided that significant changes to the interlocker were necessary and the CNOR was ordered to pay the full cost. This smarted, but there was no alternative and the new arrangement was put into commission in November 1913.
The CNOR soon found that the Henderson Road station in Ottawa was inconvenient and reached an agreement with the Grand Trunk Railway (which had taken over the CAR) to put in a connection between their two lines at Hurdman so that CNOR trains could use the Grand Trunk station near the Chateau Laurier Hotel. These changes, which appear to have taken place in early 1916, took up several of the spare lever spaces in the Hurdman interlocker.
Negotiations on the Connection
The CPR, which had by this time acquired both the M&O and the St.L&O, wanted to improve its operation in Ottawa by putting in a new connection between the former St.L&O and M&O lines in the south west quadrant of the Hurdman diamond. This would allow its Toronto trains to head right in and out of Union station without a back up movement. The problem was that this would use up all the spare spaces in the interlocker, but worse, they needed to cross the CNOR which was still smarting from having to pay for the interlocker in the first place.
An agreement was made between the CPR General Manager MacTier and D.B. Hanna, Vice President of the CNOR. The Canadian Northern would allow the CPR to cross the CNOR at Ottawa with their wye connection. In return the CPR would allow the CNOR to place additional tracks on the CPR right of way at Rosedale and also pay their proportion of the cost of the Hurdman.
If there was a body the railways disliked more than each other it was the Board who would have to give permission for the changes. It was much easier to go to the Board with a proposal with all parties consenting rather than suffer the cost, delay and uncertainty of a hearing to determine the matter. The CPR was thus able to go to the Board with a request which bore the approval of the CNOR. The work was authorized on 6 May 1916 by Board order 24952 which also indicated that the CNOR consented to the CPR crossing its right of way.
Stand off at HurdmanHowever, the CPR Engineer Maintenance of Way, who went to Toronto to see Mr. Hanna in regard to Rosedale stated the CPR would not grant the CNOR the right to place any switches on their right of way. Mr. Hanna immediately took up the matter with Mr. MacTier and advised him that without the privilege of placing switches on the CPR right of way, easement over their right of way would be of no use. Unless the Toronto matter was settled, the CNOR would not permit them to cross their right of way with their wye track at Hurdman. The CNOR received no reply and Mr. Hanna then instructed the Ottawa Superintendent Irwin not to permit the CPR to cross their right of way with their track until these matters were settled. The Superintendent placed a watchman to watch out for CNOR interests.
The next part of the saga is best told by Mr. A.B. Spencer, CPR Superintendent at Ottawa. On 22 June 1916 he wrote to Mr. G. Mountain, Chief Engineer of the Board.
"I was ready to go ahead with the work this morning, after advising CNOR people giving them sufficient time to have their Inspector on the ground but in the meantime yesterday P.M. received instructions from our General Superintendent not to do anything until I heard further. But our Agent at Hurdman wires me this morning that the CNOR people have an engine and two box cars standing opposite where our new Diamond is going in and inside of Interlocking Plant and refuse to move on signal from Towerman. Understand CNOR People have spiked down derail and moving over Plant without signals.
"Our No. 34 Toronto train held at East end main line until this train gets over Interlocking Plant, They are evidently ignoring Railway Commission Order #24952, 6 May 1916."The next salvo was fired by the Board which sent a telegram on 22 Jun 1916 to the CNOR
"On instructions from your Superintendent Irwin your men have blocked track to prevent CPR laying diamond at Hurdmans Bridge under order 24952 of 6th May last issued on consent of your company. What explanation have you to give? Board thinks your men who are blocking laying of diamond should be removed at once."The next day the Board sent another telegram to the CNOR
"Not having heard from you in answer to my telegram .... of yesterday Board is authorizing CPR to put in diamond at Hurdman's Bridge Crossing on Monday morning (this would be 26th). Mr. Mountain will be present and will supervise work."Later that day the CNOR sent a rather lame reply to the Board
"... we are negotiating with Canadian Pacific regarding settlement of certain matters before we can consent to their crossing our right of way with proposed connection Canadian Pacific have practically agreed upon our terms and when this is done we will permit them to cross our right of way with their track but not otherwise."The file is silent but presumably the diamond was laid as planned on 26 June 1916 under the supervision of the Board Chief Engineer, Mr. Mountain.
The Missing BoltThe matter did not end there because on 28 June 1916, George Spencer, Chief Operating Officer of the Board wrote an internal memorandum:
"Inspector Blyth made inquiries and found that, on the 22nd instant, a CNOR engine and a couple of cars were given the route to pass over the crossing and stopped inside the derail on the west side of the CPR main line and were placed just where it would obstruct the work of installing the diamond for the new CPR connection, as covered by order #24952. This train was moved out to permit of movement of CNOR engine moving to or from Henderson Avenue. As soon as the movement mentioned was completed, instead of waiting until clear signals were given again, the derail at the east side of the CPR main line was disconnected and spiked in the clear position and the engine and cars were again placed where they would obstruct the work mentioned, having been run under the home signal which was standing at the "Stop" position: in other words the interlocker was forced for the purpose of getting this engine with its cars back to where it had previously stood.
"On account of this engine standing inside the interlocker, the towerman reported the matter to the CPR authorities by telephone and was instructed not to clear the signals for any movement through the plant while the obstruction existed. A little later an advice was given by the CPR authorities by telephone again that they would not attempt to proceed with the work of installing the diamond that day and the CNOR engine and cars were then withdrawn and the plant put back into its normal condition.
"I understand the CPR Toronto-Ottawa express train was delayed 20 minutes in consequence of the above.
"I would recommend that the malicious forcing of the interlocker be taken up with the railway company and the man responsible for the action be suitably dealt with."The CNOR were asked for an explanation and Mr. Hanna wrote on 18 July
"In regard to the delay to the CPR train there was no necessity for this delay as the train could have flagged over the crossing without any delay. I am told that the day following the incident the CPR deliberately placed a car on their main line in an exact similar position and operated over the diamond with a car in that position.
"With regard to the charge that the CNOR was guilty of maliciously forcing the interlocker. I must take exception to this statement as it is not in accordance with the facts, the facts being that on investigation it was found that there was a broken bolt in the derail on our line and it was considered necessary, for this reason, to spike the derail, but there was no intention on our part to maliciously force the interlocker.
"Generally speaking the whole trouble simmers down to the point where the CPR through its offices attempted to repudiate an arrangement entered into with our offices, so that matters might go before the Board with all parties consenting."However, the Board was not satisfied with this explanation and asked the CPR to investigate whether there was, in fact, a bolt broken in the derail. On 11 Aug 1916 the CPR replied attaching a copy of a statement taken from the CPR Signal Repairman. The CPR suggested that Mr. Hanna was misinformed as it was evident that the bolt was not broken at all but was taken out intentionally.
The statement is worth setting out in full. It is dated 4 Aug 1 916 and signed CPR Signal Repairman F. Grummish. It probably represents the version closest to the truth although there may have been a little "coaching".
I started putting in new Interlocker connection with new loop track, Hurdman wye in May 22nd. In the morning of June 22nd (May 22nd?) I was at work at 7.00 am. When I arrived there I noticed C.N.R. engine and two cars standing on C.N.R. main line at point where new diamond was to be put in on loop. This meant that Interlocking Plant could not be operated. I then went over to Tower House and notified signalman Cornon not to allow any trains over plant. I made this move as an extra precaution as I did not understand why they were standing there. Signalman Cornon told me engine and cars had been standing there since 6.50 A.M. I then went over to point where C.N.R engine stood and asked Mr. Buller, C.N.R. Agent, who was with the engine, how long they were going to remain there. He said "I do not know". I told him they were holding up all movements over plant. He replied "We have the right to stand here and will stay here as long as we like". I did not say anything further to him but proceeded over to Hurdman Telegraph Office and reported to Mr. Spencer that North Derail was spiked by C.N.R and that C.N.R. engine 333 was passing through the plant without getting clear signals from the man in Tower. I then returned to Loop Track, again met Mr. Buller and asked him "Who spiked the derail?" He replied that he did not know. I then told him that I was going to couple up derail. He told me that if I put a foot on their property he would take out a warrant against me. In defiance of him I coupled up derail. Previous to this C.N.R. peopel (sic) cut off their engine but left the two cars inside the plant. When I went to couple up derail I found there was a bolt missing. This bolt was in proper position previous night, I sent E. Moorehouse to M&O diamond for bolt. When he returned (about five or ten minutes) I found he brought the wrong bolt. I said "This bolt is no good". There was a man standing close by me and he said, "If you look round a bit you might find one". He said "Look under that box, it might be there." I looked under the box and the bolt was there. I put it in derail and coupled up the plant.
Q. Then all that was necessary to put plant back in operation was to replace this bolt?
A. Yes. I had pulled the spike previous.
Q. What conditions was this bolt in when you left plant previous night?
A. First class.
Q. Are you satisfied that the bolt you got under the box was the same one that was in derail when you left work previous night?
A. Quite satisfied it was.
Q. Who was the man who told you the bolt was under box?
A. I do not know his name. I inquired of other C.N.R. employees and they said he was the Resident Engineer.
Q. Would you know him if you would meet him again?
A. Yes sir.
PostscriptThe last word, as always, came from the Board. On 25 Aug 1916 Commissioner Goodeve wrote to Assistant Chief Commissioner:
"In view of the serious nature of the offence having been called to the attention of the CNRy and the addition to the interlocker having been completed in accordance with order 24952 and its use being authorized under Order 25240, I think this matter might be considered as closed and no further action taken.
"With reference to Mr. Temple's request contained in his letter of June 29th regarding the CPR making a contribution towards the original cost of the interlocker, I am of the opinion that the addition made would not warrant the altering of the disposition made as to costs under original order No. 16451."The Assistant Chief Commissioner agreed.
And there the matter rested. The Board, having stirred things up, decided to do nothing. A storm in a teacup? Probably, but one must not forget the intense competition between the companies who were continually jockeying for position.
SourcesNational Archives of Canada RG 46 1992-93/066 File 26908;
Colin J. Churcher web site "Significant Dates in Ottawa Railway History" http://infoweb.magi.com/"churcher/candate/ottawa.htm
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, July-August, 2000.