The Railways of Ottawa

Finding No. 21   Railway Structures Destroyed (Mainly) by Fire

Canadian Pacific was Damaged near Pakenham as a Result of a Landslip - 12 April 1887

Almonte Gazette 15 April 1887

On the C. P. R. Near Pakenham - Half-a-dozen Cars Precipitated Down a Steep Embankment - Providential Escape From Terrible Loss of Life.

The C. P. R. Co. have struck a lot of hard luck of late, and there seems to be no let-up to it. What with accidents by snow-slides, run-offs, collisions, &c., and the severe snow-storms of the past winter, they have been experiencing quite a serious time of it. The latest we have to report is one entailing serious financial loss by destruction of rolling stock and impeded traffic, but providentially no loss of life. We refer to the
which took place on the C. P. R. track opposite the residence of Mr. Thomas McCann, a mile this side of Pakenham, early on Tuesday morning last. This spot has been regarded with suspicion for years past by residents of the neighbourhood. The express for Winnipeg that morning was somewhat late, and when passing over the scene of the slide the passengers got a good shaking up, showing that the earth had at that time being wearing away from the track a little. An examination of the wheels of the express was made at Pakenham, and everything was found right. A freight train composed of empty box-cars followed the express three-quarters-of-an-hour afterward, the engine running backward at the head. Just as the engine cleared the fatal spot the tender
at the right side of the track, stopping the train suddenly. The tender was badly smashed, as was also the cab of the engine, the engineer and fireman having a narrow escape with their lives. The fireman received a slight injury on the forehead. The train stood for but a short time when the earth (probably owing to the action of the frost and the water) began to slide away from beneath the track, and all at once one of the centre cars broke from the others and slid with the earth
to the river - a distance of between 60 and 75 yards. Two cars and the van were still left on the track at the rear end of the train, and the men lost no time in making themselves scarce therefrom. It was well they did, too, for after some time another large section commenced to slip, and all three cars were precipitated to the great chasm below. The third car from the engine turned a half-somersault, and remains, minus wheels, &c., bottom side up halfway down the steep declivity; while the second remains suspended over the brow of the hill in an extremely dangerous position. The whole presented
One that pen cannot properly describe. Nearly 100 yards of the track and earth were carried away. The Mississippi at that point will be narrowed by about 20 yards as a result of the accident. The ice was heaved up along the shore as if there had been a tremendous ice-shove, while for acres both up and down the river it was broken into large cakes. The railway fence and a telegraph pole which were alongside the track remained for some time in about the same position on the shore of the river as they had occupied up above, which will serve to show what a large portion of the earth must have become detached from its original position. The momentum obtained by the moving earth may be judged from the site that large clods were
on the river and remain 30 or 40 yards from the opposite shore. Fortunately the box cars were all empty, being on the way to McLachlin Bros'. yards at Arnprior to be filled with lumber; otherwise the loss to the company would be very much heavier. Every car was smashed more or less, while the engine was badly damaged. It will be a big job to haul up the cars that are now lying around promisciously on the ground and in the river.
is laid by most people who have visited the scene of the action to the water and the frost. The water probably insinuated itself into minute cracks, which were widened and deepened by freezing during the winter. The fissures thus created, under the influence of the late warm weather, may have produced the landslip. All of the bed or strata supporting the superincumbent mass may have absorbed water enough to render it slippery, causing the slid [sic], in that way.
in getting a gang of men to work to clear away the wreck and build anew the portion of the track that was taken away. Mr. H. B. Spencer, assistant superintendent, was early on the scene, with a large staff, to look after the interests of the company. The passengers and baggage on the express from Winnipeg were transhipped about nine o'clock, a special train being sent down for the purpose, so that comparatively little delay was experienced by travelers. It will take two or three days to get the track in shape again. In the meantime freight is accumulating at the stations in this neighbourhood.
Since the above was written some ten or fifteen feet of earth where the new track was being laid has disappeared, necessitating a considerable increase of work and more of a circuit in order to get a safe bed for the rails. A very large staff of men has been put on, and the work is being pushed ahead as rapidly as the circumstances will permit.

Updated 7 November 2021

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