Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area



1885, January 24 - Derailment of a passenger train at Smiths Falls, Canadian Pacific, 2 killed, 2 injured.



From the Ottawa Citizen, 26 January 1885:

Railway Fatality
Correct details of the smash up on the C.P.R.
How the accident occurred - Names of the killed and injured - the company's losses estimated at $59,000.
on Saturday last the people of this city were startled by the news that a serious railway accident had taken place on the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway at Smiths Falls and as a result two parties were killed and several others seriously injured. All sorts of rumours were current throughout the day as to the exact nature and cause of the accident.  None of these hitherto published, however, are correct.  From investigtions made by Citizen reporters, it has been found that the
FACTS OF THE CASE
are substantially as follows:  The No. 2 fast express which was due at Smiths Falls at 4.02 in the morning arrived sharp on time.  All went well until they arrived at the west switch of Smiths Falls Junction.  On arriving there, from some cause one of the axles of the baggage car was broken, the consequence was the
ENGINE BECAME DETATCHED
from the train and proceeded along the main line, the baggage car left the track and pitched into the water tank utterly demolishing it.  The suddenness of the shock caused the first and second class passenger cars to also leave the track in every direction. The two sleepers, however, were not derailed.  The whole affair took place in less time than it takes to describe it.  A scene of great confusion at once ensued, and the terrified passengers hurried out of the cars as best they could, which, not many seconds later were in flames.  The origin of the fire is not known.  The rumour which gined currency to the effect that it proceeded from the stove in the water tank is incorrect, as there had been no fire there for some time previous.  It must have originated either from the stoves in the cars or from the coal oil lamps, the probability being that it was from the latter, as the stoves are of the latest and most improved pattern, constructed in such a manner that the coals can scarcely escape from them in the case of their being overturned.  As a result of the accident two of the persons who were on the train at the time were
BURNED TO DEATH
and a number of other parties were more or less seriously injured. The names of those who lost their lives are Baggage Master M. McDonald of Toronto and a man named Bonsecour of Ottawa.  Both of these were in the foremost car, which was a combination baggage, mail and express car.  Mr. McDonald was in charge of the Express Department.  Mr. Bonsecour, who had had his leg broken at the shanties and was returning to Ottawa, lay on a stretcher in the same car. Both these unfortunate men were entirely consumed by the flames before they could be rescued.
(details of other injured)
Mr. H.B. Spencer received a telegram informing him of the disaster at 4.47 a.m., twenty minutes later
A SPECIAL TRAIN
left the Union station in this city under his charge for the scene of the accident for the purpose of carrying the passengers and their baggage to their destination.  It arrived here at 9.35 (sic) the same morning and by noon the track was clear and traffic resumed as usual.  The mails and nearly all the baggage were consumed.  Too much credit cannot be given to Mr. Spencer for the prompt manner in which he acted on this occasion.
More details of rescue
MR. A.F. SHERWOOD
Superintendent of the Domiinion Police who was one of the passengers in the Ottawa sleeper, said that only a very slight shock was perceptible in that car.  It stopped suddenly, but not in such a manner as to alarm the inmates.  The first indication to them that an accident had occurred were the screams of the terrified passengers in the forward cars.  Mr. Sherwood , together with most of the other passengers in the sleeper, imagined that some person had been run over by the train.  On going out a terrible sight met their gaze - the shrieks of the terrified passengers, the lurid glow of the flames from the burning cars, the bleeding faces of the passengers who had escaped from them, and the small lake caused by the water which had escaped from the broken tank, all combined to form a picture which will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. The only other Ottawa passengers on the train, so far as could be ascertained, were Mr. Cole of the National Tent and Awning Company and Mr. Dewe, Chief post office inspector.

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Updated January 2014