Potentially Serious Accident on the Hull Electric Railway In Ottawa
I took the above picture last December. I was standing on the Ottawa River pathway underneath Parliament Hill and looking towards Majors’ Hill Park. To the left is part of the National Gallery while the Chateau Laurier is out of the view to the right. The two spires of the Basilica can just be seen. This is an unusual view because the ledge below Majors’ Hill Park can only be seen at this time of year when the leaves are off the trees.
This clearly shows the ledge which carried three railway tracks from the Interprovincial bridge to the Chateau Laurier – two of the Hull Electric railway and one of the Canadian Pacific Railway. What is interesting is it shows where the original rock face has been patched with concrete. I asked myself why this had to be done and I think the answer can be found in the Ottawa papers of 3 April 1945:
The Citizen reported:
"A fast moving Hull Electric Railway tram car carried 50 charwomen and its motorman safely over 35-foot section of unsupported track 100 feet above the swollen waters of the Ottawa river at 5.30 this morning after a wash-out during the night carried away a portion of a 40-foot-high retaining wall and sent it rolling into the river below.
"First local car over the line, the tram was a special used for transporting members of the government char service to their work in offices in Ottawa.
"Motorman H. Holt of the Hull line said that midway across the weakened track his car tilted to a dangerous degree over the edge of the cliff, which drops 40 feet to a slope which angles about 60 feet to the water's edge.
"Fortunately for the motorman and his passengers the unsupported steel rails held firmly and the car passed safely to solid ground.
"There have been two derailments in the area in recent weeks and at first the motorman believed that this was what caused his car to lurch dangerously. It was not until he had brought the tram to a stop and walked back to investigate that he saw the yawning gap over which the car had passed and the proximity of the cliff's edge over which the tram might have rolled had it tilted any further.
"Motorman Holt brought his passengers safely into the terminal and then notified his company and the CPR, owners of the right of way."
The washout did not affect the CPR trains which used the middle track of the three while the Hull Electric was able to maintain service using the inside track, normally for northbound trams, for services in both directions.
The Citizen explained further:
"The retaining wall bordering the right of way was erected some 45 years ago of heavy cut stone, some as large as two feet square, Some of these lurched and thundered down the cliff side to the edge of the river far below, tearing trees from their path and leaving deep gouges in the soft soil of the 60 foot slope.
"A detailed inspection of the scene revealed that a small underground stream flowing from the high ground of Major's Hill Park some 40 feet above the level of the tracks, had over a period of years undermined the retaining wall. This, together with the almost constant vibration of Hull Electric trams and the heavier CPR trains passing over the right of way, weakened the structure sufficiently to cause it to give way.
"The wall is about one-half mile long and will be thoroughly inspected for further signs of stress, officials said."
It seems that a potentially serious tragedy was avoided and thankfully government operation was not endangered by a disruption in charlady services.
Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders Interchange March 2020