Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area



1892, November 16 - Derailment of a work train at Stagg Creek, Ottawa and Gatineau Valley Railway, 4 killed.



This accident occurred before this part of the line to Maniwaki was opened.

From the Ottawa Journal of 17 November 1892:

Late last night Coroner Graham of Hull received a message from Farrellton on the Gatineau Valley railway informing him of an accident by which four lives are said to have been lost and requesting him to come up and hold an inquest.
The accident spoken of occurred to a construction train which was engaged in ballasting the newly constructed portion of line north of Farrellton.
A FEARFUL PLUNGE
Either from a cave in or from some other cause then unknown, the train plunged over the iron bridge which spans Stagg creek, falling a distance of 30 feet and carrying to death the engineer, Soloman Wilson, fireman, R. Meagher, brakeman, W, Blakey, and a boy whose name would not be ascertained at the time of writing.
Stagg creek is about six miles from Farrellton and is a small sluggish stream emptying into the Gatineau river.  A good iron bridge spans the creek.
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Engine and thirteen cars, another engine was employed in shoving the loaded train and the engineer of this engine did not perceive anything was wrong until rounding the curve.
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Entire train was wrecked - piled up on top of the locomotive.

From the Ottawa Journal of Friday 18 November 1892:

The Gatineau Valley railway officials stated to the Journal today that the road at the scene of the accident Wednesday will be immediately repaired and construction trains will be running again by Tuesday.  The engine will not be raised until the water has dried up.  There would not be sufficient hold for raising machinery to work and further deaths might be caused.  The trucks of the flatcars and the good iron will be taken out and the rest of the wreck burned.  Section men are busy all along the road strengthening parts that might have been weakened by the recent rains.
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Inquest on the bodies of the four victims.
It was an appalling sight that met the gaze yesterday at the scene of the smash up at Stag Creek on the Gatineau Valley railway, when the special car with coroner Graham, railway officials and newspaper men drew up about one o'clock yesterday afternoon.  In the chaotic mess lay piled up the ruins of what had once been an engine and tender and 13 flat cars.  On one of the cars less demolished than the others were laid out the bodies of the four victims, who had been recovered a short time before.  The faces were covered by handkerchiefs and the clothes besmeared with the soft sticky clay from which they had been dug.  All presented a ghastly sight.  Driver Sol Wilson was found in the cab of the ill fated engine which had been literally embedded in the mud.  His hand was on the lever.  The poor fellow, as shown by the story of the rear engine, had neither time to stop the train or jump for his life.
SCALDED AND SWOLLEN
The face and chest presented a pitiable sight.  They were parboiled by the escaping steam.  His watch when opened by his brother-in-law, Mr. Ab. Hudson, was seen to have stopped at just 10 minutes past four.  Robert Meagher, the fireman, and John Hammond, the oiler, were dug out near the engine.  Both were close together.  Hammond's body was the worst spectacle of the four of them.  It was terribly scalded and swollen. The trip on which the unfortunate young fellow met his death was the first he had made.  For several weeks he had been working as a section hand on the upper end of the road, and the night before had been taken on the engine as an oiler and cleaner.  The morning of the accident he came down with the gravel train which passed the ill-fated spot without apparent danger and on the return trip met his death.  No one around knew anything of him or his parents but it was rumored that he had deserted from one of the batteries.  If friends don't claim his body today it will be buried in Beechwood.  Meagher, the fireman, belonged to St. Catharines, N.B., and the remains will be sent home.
William Blakely, the brakeman, whose home was in Aylmer, was found between the upper end of the tender and the rails, between which his head had been jammed.  Death must have been instantaneous.  One side of his head had been badly gashed.  John Blakely, a younger brother of the deceased, went up on the special.  He wept bitterly when he saw the bodies.
MIRACULOUS ESCAPE
Hugh McCann, one of the brakemen, had a most miraculous escape.  He was hurled into the middle of the debris yet came out without a scratch.  At the time he was on the seventh car back from the engine.  According to his own statement, he was looking back towards the rear engine, when he saw the driver jump out of the cab.  But before he could think of anything, much less jump himself, he was hurled forward.  There was a crashing noise, and that was all he knew.  When he came to, he was on the top of one car with the bottom of another just above, but not close enough to crush him.  Half unconscious, he worked his way out from the ruins. 
Sam Douglas, the conductor of the train, who was on one of the rear cars, jumped when he heard the first crash, but, in falling, broke his left arm and got badly shaken up.  He is now at one of the hotels at Farrelton.  Alex White, a brakeman, also jumped but was unhurt.
A PICTURE OF DESOLATION
The wreck presented a picture of desolation.  The land had slipped completely from under the rails a distance of 150 feet leaving them suspended in the air.  Twenty feet or more below, in a bed of thick mud, thrown on its side, lay the engine, considerably smashed, with the tender partly on top and also turned over.  In sliding, the land had carried half a dozen or more trees with it and these lay uprooted, adding to the uncanny look of the wreck.  Only three flat cars and the rear engine remained on the track.  Everywhere around the wreck it was mud, mud, mud.  Where the debris lay had been shallow water, and when the thirteen car loads of ballast were dumped into it a vast bed of liquid mud was formed.  When the engine with three of the victims went down the slope it was completely buried in the yielding gravel.  Only one of the driving wheels was left uncovered to show its whereabouts.  As one of the road hands said, the occupants of the cab had just enough time to know they were done for and that was all.
Where the accident occurred there was a sharp curve leading to the bridge, which was about 100 feet further on, and approaching it there was a down grade to always have the engine shut off steam.  But just at the point of the slide the road was level.
THE INQUEST
Fully two hundred persons, sectionmen, special hands and farmers from the surrounding district were on the spot when the special arrived.  The coroner had a jury picked from among the farmers and the following were empanelled; Wm. Farrell (foreman), Wm. Moore, Patrick Rice, Henry Beckford, David Brown, John Skillen, Wm. Maxwell, Robt. Reed, J. Cahill and S. Brooks.  The jury viewed the bodies at the bottom of the slope and the inquest was then opened in the car.  The coroner had to use as a desk the lid of one of the coffin shells which had been taken up by Mr. Maynard Rogers, the undertaker.  Sergeant Moylan of the Ottawa police force acted as special constable.
Hugh McCann, the brakeman who had the wonderful escape, as narrated above, told of it.  In addition, he said the road at that point seemed solid and good before the accident.  That day he had made two other trips.  He believed the accident was caused by a landslide, but he had not seen any washouts anywhere along the line.  It had been raining heavily off and on for two or three days.  He had only been on the road for about a month, but believed the track had been laid for several months.
He did not think any means could have been taken to prevent the accident.  That part of the road was not considered any more dangerous than any other part.
To Mr. Hudson, representing Wilson's family. - The train was running about 15 miles an hour.  If a flagman had been placed at that point the accident might not have happened, but they had no reason to suspect this part.
John Brennan, roadmaster, said that he had walked over this point at 10 in the morning and all seemed right.  The section hands were also over it about 10 minutes before the smash.  To his knowledge there had not been any slides around there before.  Trains had passed every day for two months past.  They were only construction trains, as the road at that point had not yet been accepted by government for passenger traffic.  The accident, he believed, was caused by the heavy rains though above the track no water had gathered.  A good drain carried it away to a culvert some 100 feet north of where the earth gave way.  The road there looked just as solid as anywhere else.  He thought the land had started to slide before the engine went on to it.
To Mr. Hudson. - Fifteen miles was the limit of speed allowed.  The second engine was on to push up the grade north of the bridge.  That day they had three cars less than usual.  Where the cars slid was solid earth, there was no filling. 
Mr. Rowley, superintendent of construction, stated he had not considered that point of the line any more dangerous than anywhere else.
Thos. Roy, civil engineer in charge of the section, said that part had been graded since May.  It had always been quite dry along there.  There was no springs around to douse the earth.  The roadbed was cut out of the side of a hill.  He believed the smash to be purely accidental.
Mr. Hudson asked if the accident might not have been averted if the roadbed was built 30 feet deeper into the side of the hill, as it would not then have slipped from under the tracks.  The witness said he could not answer for what might be.
Conductor McGinnis, in charge of the rear engine, had not heard any whistle for down brakes.  Steam was off at the time, and the rear engine stopped of herself just near the edge of the slip.  He had been over the ground twice that day and saw nothing to indicate danger.
John Cleary, engineer of the rear engine, owned by the C.P.R. swore positively he heard a whistle for down brakes.  The next second he saw the front engine go down.  He said to his mate "- were down on the dump" and as he did so he reversed.
Mr. Hudson - From this testimony it is plain to be seen that the slide was there before the engine came to it.
Witness - When the front engine began to go he saw the track rise up in front, Driver Wilson was too close to keep his engine from going in.  He would not have had even time to jump.
Mr. W.D. Harris, chief engineer of the road, stated the location of the section had been approved by government and built according to government specifications.  The accident was caused by a landslide which might have occurred anywhere.
This was all the evidence taken and, after some five minutes consideration, the jury brought in a verdict that the accident and death of the four men was "caused by the landslide under the railway in the township of Lowe on the 16th inst.  No blame be attached to anyone."
As soon as the bodies had been viewed the coroner gave permission for burial and they were then taken to the special car and embalmed by Undertaker Rogers of Ottawa and Undertaker York of Wakefield, the latter looking after Blakely's remains.  All of the bodies were considerably composed, the result of exposure to water and air. 
The casket for Driver Wilson bore the Masonic symbol.
At Union depot, Blakely's friends were present.

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