Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1903, September 27 - Canadian Pacific collision between Soo express and a freight train at Hurdman

Chesterville Record 1 October 1903

Express train collides with freight train in Ottawa
A despatch from Ottawa says:- Four people were injured, two engines were badly smashed, and three cars telescoped in a head on collision on the CPR Short Line at the Rideau Yard, just beyond Hurdman's bridge at 1 o'clock on Sunday morning.  Coming into Ottawa and travelling at a good rate of speed, the ""Soo"" train collided with a special freight, which contrary to the rules, had got on to the main line while the right of way belonged to the express.  The four persons injured were train hands Engineer J.M. Doherty, Ottawa; Express Messenger R. Thompson; Baggageman E, King of Montreal and brakeman Geo. Gobey of Hintonburg.  As to the cause of the accident the CPR authorities say there was no reason nor excuse for the freight being on the main line on the time of another regular train, for, knowing that the ""Soo"" express was due, the freight should have taken a siding.  The hands in charge of it however, had evidently forgotten the approach of the express and their thoughtlessness, while imperiling a lot of lives, will incidentally cost the company a tidy sum.
The loss to the CPR is estimated at about $50,000.  The engine, no. 303 attached to the ""Soo"" train was an expensive type and while not demolished, was badly damaged.  The locomotive on the freight train was entirely smashed up.  Then there were three cars which were almost entirely telescoped.  In addition to that a lot of express parcels and baggage were destroyed.  The company did everything to secure the comfort and convenience of the passengers and saw them on their way to their destinations before going ahead with the work of clearing the line.

From the Ottawa Citizen 15 May 1936 (sic)

Tale of a railway collision at Hurdman's Bridge in 1903.
Soo train crashed into freight at midnight.  Four men injured but no loss of life. Impact heard a mile away.  Heavy express engine ploughed through lighter freight locomotive.  Crew of both engines saved lives by jumping.

Here is something hundreds of middle-aged Ottawans may recall.  It happened in the early morning hours of September 27, 1903.  Four people were injured, two engines were badly smashed and thee cars telescoped in a head-on collision on the C.P.R. short line, a little distance north of Hurdman's Bridge.  Coming into Ottawa and travelling at a good rate of speed, the Soo train collided with a special freight which, contrary to the rules, had got on the main line while the right of way belonged to the express. The four persons injured were train hands:
Engineer M.J. Doherty, Ottawa; Express messenger R. Thompson, Ottawa; Baggageman Ed. King, Montreal; Brakeman Geo. Gobey, Hintonburgh.

None of the passengers were injured although some had very narrow escapes.  That none of the train hands were killed outright was regarded as little short of miraculous.

At Midnight

It was just five minutes to one when the accident occurred.  The west bound Soo train had left Montreal on time and was in charge of Conductor McIntosh with Engineer M.J. Doherty and Fireman M.J. Walsh.  It was customary for freight trains to be moving back and forth between the Chaudiere and Sussex street and the freight in question had arrived a short time before from Prescott and was to be taken down to Sussex street.

From the account of the accident published at the time, it appears that at the tower the freight hands had received orders to do some shunting up to midnight and then go on a siding and allow the express to pass,  They mistook the time or forgot the order from the towerman and remained on the main line until it was too late.

Sharp on time the Soo express rounded the curve near the locomotive sheds.  It was then that the engineers of both trains saw what was going to happen.  The exprss was travelling at a good rate of speed while the freight was barely moving.  The engineers and firemen of both trains, seeing the inevitable, jumped for their lives and escaped serious injury.

Terrible impact

An instant later with an awful impact which could be heard a mile away, the two trains came together.  Engine No. 303 on the Soo was of a large type and it simply ploughed through the smaller locomotive.  Though the brakes were applied they were unable to arrest the velocity of the swiftly moving coaches and in less time than it takes to tell it the express and baggage cars and part of a colonial sleeper were telescoped.

Thousands of people who went out the following morning witnessed a hideous sight. Locked together with the smaller one underneath and partly obscured were the two locomotives.  In the rear was an express car badly smashed and then the colonist car with its end stove in.  In the express section there was a conglomeration of smashed trunks, valises, parcels and mail bags all mixed together while the cars were piled up in splinters.

Return to Main Page of Railway Accidents

Updated August 2016