Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area



1886, June 8 - Bridge collapse at Petawawa, Canadian Pacific, 1 killed, 4 injured.



From the Ottawa Journal of 9 June 1886:

Our Pembroke correcpondent writes: "On hearing the sad news of the accident which occurred this forenoon at Pettewawa (sic) a station ten miles west of Penbroke, I drove to the scene of the disaster (through the kindness of the editor of the Standard).  Arriving at the end of a ten mile drive we found the scene of the accident as complete a piece of train wrecking as it is possible to imagine.  The whole of the longest span of the new three-span bridge crossing the Pettewawa river had collapsed, and all its iron work, trestling etc. lay in a mangled heterogeneous mass in the water of the rapids flowing underneath the bridge, the same having been mixed up with the remains of the steam shovel and derrick, and also of a couple more flat cars; against the solid stone pier on the westerly end of the demolished arch or space stood the "conductor's van" on end, one end of the van in the rapids, the other leaning against the stone pier just as it rushed over.  The bed of the rapids was totally blocked with wreck, at the eastern pier of this demolished arch, with one end also in the waters, and the other reared up against the stone pier, stood, also on her end, boxcar No. 1762, whilst over the edge of this eastern pier hung  boxc ar No. 2918, litterally hanging over the impromptu precipice, as it were, half way coupled to car 312, which had escaped and there was standing on the sound span.  I would at a cursory glance estimate the length of the gap caused by the accident to the bridge, at say about 120 feet.  The bridge was a solid looking structure of iron in three spans and fitted into solid stone piers.  The masonry did not show the lease sign of the shock it received.  Interviewing the who found poor Williams' corpse, I learned his hat was on his head, one hand in his pants pocket, and a leather mit on his right hand, and it was evident he was about "braking" as he was instantly hurried to his cruel end.  John Holyoakes was the driver on the train, John Eldred, fireman, both escaped injury, Stewart Gthompson, in charge of the steam shovel, was badly bruised and cut.  A young frenchman from Ottawa, name, unknown, had his left arm badly smashed.  Dr. Dickson amputated it at the shoulder this evening. Three tramps said to be stealing a ride were badly injured.  Mr. C.W. Spencer and Mr. Harry Spencer arrived with a special about 5 p.m. and investigated and commenced with a gang of men to start clearing the wreck being engaged with two engines. After the inquest, Williams' body will be taken to the station by Lodge 128, A.F.& A.M., of which he was a member.

From the Ottawa Journal of 10 June 1886:

The Petewawa Accident
The Inquest on the Body of the Killed Conductor
Pembroke June 9 - The inquest on the body of Frank Williams, the conductor killed by the Petewawa accident, was held at the town hall yesterday by Dr. Dickson, coroner. There was a large attendance to hear the evidence, Mr. C.W. Spencer, Assistant General Superintendent, being present to look after the interests of the Railway Company. Mr. H.H. Loucks, County Crown Attorney, conducted the examination of the witnesses. Stewart Thompson, the foreman in charge of the steam shovel, was the first witness. He was brought from the hospital in order to give his evidence, and was suffering much pain from his injuries.
John Holyokes, engine driver and John Eldred, fireman of the engine were also called to the stand. The evidence showed that the derrick of the shovel caused the accident by catching the bridge overhead, the witnesses stating that the train was running at the rate of 5 miles an hour.
Samuel Turner, the brakeman who escaoed uninjured testified that he signalled the driver to slow up as he passed under the bridge and then looked back to see if the derrick would clear or strike the bridge. The evidence of the other witnesses went to show that two other bridges similar to the Petewawa bridge had been passed under in safety, the derrick clearing them both.
Henry Wood, bridge inspector of the Eastern Division, was examined.  He stated that the wrecked span was 141 feet 9 inches in length, the height of the arch being 18 feet. The other bridges passed over were 20 feet and 21 feet in the height of the arches. He had nothing to do with laying out the height of these bridges that was done by the engineers.  The height og the arches was in all cases regulated by the length of the span.  The bridge in question was overhauled and put in first class condition in November last.  He knew of no fault in the bridge which would render it unsafe. There was no law compelling bridges to be of a certain height. It would take great force to break this bridge. He had tested the bridge in course of its manufacture and found it very satisfactory. It was the gross weight of the train that did the damage. It was an ordinary truss bridge. Had not heard of the bridge being unsafe,
There was no evidence adduced as to the height of the derrick further than that Stewart Thompson said he thought it would be about seven feet higher than an ordinary box-car. The coroner reviewed the evidence for the jury, explaining it in the most lucid manner.
The inquest adjourned at 12.30 noon and re-opened at 2 p.m. An order was read which showed that the conductor was ordered to place a man in charge of the steam shovel whilst it was upon his train. It did not seem that he did this from the evidence further than to caution his brakeman to look out for tank pipes.
The jury after consideration found the following verdict:- "That the deceased conductor, Frank Williams, came to his death in consequence of a railway accident at Petewawa Bridge on the Canadian Pacific railway on the 7th instant, said accident having been caused by the deceased having failed to take the necessary precautions in approaching the bridge in time as required by his running orders."
The brethren of Lodge 128 A.F. &A.M. escorted the body to the railway depot and placed it on the train, the lamented conductor being of the Masonic Frasternity. Several of the brethren went down to Ottawa from Pembroke in special charge of the corpse.
The man whose arm was amputated was seen by your correspondent in bed at the hospital this morning. The poor fellow was bearing his suffering like a man, and was doing well. He was smoking a pipe as he reclined in his bed. Stewart Thompson is also doing well, being merely badly bruised.
Return to Main Page of Railway Accidents



Updated 1 April 2018