The Bridge over the South Nation River at Casselman
VIA passengers between Ottawa
may hardly notice the bridge on the line just west of Casselman. There is a change in sound as the train
rumbles over the structure but this is quickly over as the train soon
dry land. However, the South Nation
River, at mile 47.7 on
near Casselman, presented quite an obstacle to the builders of the
Atlantic Railway and regular trains started running on 1st
1882 from Coteau only as far as Casselman. Work
went ahead vigorously to complete the line to Ottawa and the
Ottawa Citizen of 23rd
February 1882 reported:
and Casselman some 350 men were busily engaged on the work of
construction. The masonry of the bridge
over the Nation
River was completed and the Toronto Bridge
Company were at present proceeding with operations to allow them to go
their part of the work. The masonry of
the bridge which was laid in cement, was done by Mr. Linsley,
is in every respect a first class job. The
work was assiduously prosecuted during the winter and
in order to
permit of this, artificial heaters were used upon which the stone was
preparatory to being placed upon the wall, The
bridge was some 350 feet in length and 30 feet high,
and addition to
presenting a picture of stability the work was neatly executed....
“The present time table issued by the company
there are two passenger and two freight trains running daily between
Trains were running through to Limoges
(then known as South Indian) by May 1882, and the line was opened
through to Ottawa
on September 13th
the same year.
This shows the bridge
over the South
Nation River just after it was
completed in May 1882. It is typical for
bridges of that period although not strong enough for today’s trains. Note the Toronto Bridge Company Builders
plate at the entrance. This was normal practice and added a finishing
the Company’s elegant structures. Unfortunately
in urban areas these quickly proved a
tempting target for
little boys with stones although this one, in a rural setting, may have
The country in this area was heavily
wooded and much income
was derived from lumber. Fires were an
ever present threat and caused great destruction. On
16th June 1891 the Ottawa
“Fire at Casselman. Special
train sent out at 11 p.m. Arduous
task of mounting the Conqueror, which taxed all muscles to the utmost. -- The engine and special relief train was
driven by Engineer Macdonald, Fireman Kane and Brakeman Keswick. Away sped the train with 30 miles to go with
1,200 feet of hose and 1,000 feet of the C.A.R. hose.
At Eastman's, South Indian and Bearbrook the
train took up hands till there were 200 buckets and some 420 men on
11.45 they left Bearbrook and at 11.50 they steamed into Casselman.”
“Conqueror” was a horse-drawn fire pump, presumably steam powered.
1897 was a bad one for
fires in the area. Fire-fighting
equipment was again sent to Casselman by train on 5th
October. Disaster struck the next day when
and water tank at Casselman were destroyed. The
bridge stringers were nearly all burned off and the
rendered unsafe. A special gang of men
at Booth's mill (in Ottawa)
were set to work to cut timbers and a gang of 100 men were rushed to
to put the bridge into shape for traffic. Mr.
M. Donaldson, mechanical foreman, had a special
wrecking train sent
down during the morning with new timbers for the bridge.
Men were at work all day on the bridge, and
it was passable the same evening.
<>A bizarre result of this
fire was that the railway ran an excursion train from Ottawa for the
curious (or morbid) to see the
damage from the fire. The Ottawa Journal
of 11th October 1897 mentioned:
“The C.A.R. excursion to South Indian and Casselman
yesterday carried down 855 persons from Ottawa
-- sightseers and relic hunters.”
The same day, the Ottawa
Free Press said:
“The train didn't remain at the station at North
but proceeded over the bridge over the Nation river to South Casselman, where the fire did the greatest
destruction. The entire
members disembarked here and in a short time the streets and ruins were
by curiosity and relic hunters.--
“It seems that the proceeds of the excursion
went to relief
this brief period of excitement it seems the bridge settled down to a
existence. The Grand Trunk Railway,
which took over the Canada Atlantic Railway, reconstructed the
in 1905. This was approved by Board of
Railway Commissioners order No. 529 of 4 July 1905.
This is essentially the bridge we know today
except that modifications were carried out in the early 1990s to allow
stack container trains to pass through.
there was one further episode in
December 1944. On 22nd
December, the Glengarry
News reported a rear end collision
between two freight trains the previous day. The
picture was taken from the east side of the river and
the train is
traveling towards Coteau. The locomotive
is Canadian National No. 6218, which later became well known as an
locomotive after the end of regular steam. There were no injuries or
this accident which is a surprise as the caboose of the train that was
rear-ended has been completely destroyed. Note
the two cattle cars right behind No. 6218. Cattle
cars were easily identified by the
whitewash that was applied to the lower portion of the car – it hid the
and smell of the cattle. The cattle must
have had a rough shunt!
Central Railway, Spareboard, January 2008.
The Rear End Collision on the Bridge at Casselman
A Follow Up
often happens with historical research, another piece of information
light just after the last Spareboard was put to bed.
This had a picture of steam locomotive No.
6218 in a rear end collision with another freight train (Extra 2609
the bridge over the South
at Casselman on 21st December 1944.
received from Carl Riff a copy of the statement from engineer Findley
This gives a good account of winter
railroading at a time
when there were no roller bearing axleboxes, before Walkley yard and
installation of Centralized Traffic Control (CTC):
“Our train was ordered
for 12:45 P.M. I
reported for duty at 12noon. Engine was
off the shop track on time. Engine was
moved to Bank St.
for train, and we left the yard
at 1:23 P.M. and passed the outer switch, located just east of Bank St.
office at 1:50 P.M. Account train being
frozen up we were assisted out of yard by yard engine as far as Main St. At Bank St. I received a terminal clearance
and running order, and at Riverside
a terminal clearance along with a form “W”.
The order at Riverside was
delivered on a
hoop and our train passed Riverside No additional train
orders were delivered, we proceeded at a speed of about 25 M.P.H. – the
having been frozen up in the yard, was pulling hard. I had planned
going to Alexandria
for water, and
when about one mile west of Casselman and running at a speed of 37 or
I made a service application of the brakes in order to bring the train
control rounding the curve, and to permit a good view of the train
signal. There is a down grade towards
the bridge. Immediately I made the service application of the brake I
sound of two torpedoes exploding and saw Flagman about 3 poles east of
the torpedoes exploded. The Flagman had
a red flag and was giving me a stop signal.
The flagman was located 7 poles west of the bridge and
standing on a
farm crossing. Immediately the torpedoes
exploded and I saw the Flagman, I threw my brake valve into emergency
slowed down to a point where I thought my train would stop before
caboose, which I saw when my engine was about west end of the bridge.
was not moving more than 5 M.P.H. at time of impact, but it seemed to
weight of the train kept shoving ahead.”
about 1:40 P.M.
station and yard in August
1948 four years after the collision described here.
The view is looking east along the present alignment
of the Queensway, the Bank
underpass is just behind the photographer.
On the right is the station and yard office with an engine
stub. The main line is the clear track
with the main part of the yard to the north or left.
The train in question would have travelled
away from the camera, past the Mann Avenue roundhouse, crossed
the Rideau River
and would have joined the present Alexandria
subdivision at Hawthorne. Canada
Science and Technology
Central Railway, Spareboard, February 2008.