Ottawa Journal Monday 15 April 1907
Narrow Escape for Passengers
In the Saturday Morning Wreck at Sand Point
If Accident Had Occurred a Few Lengths Above or Below the Station, cars Would Have Rolled to River's Edge
Sand Point. April 15. Providence was certainly kind to the passengers on the C.P.R. transcontinental No. 97, which left the tracks in front of the station here at 4.20 o'clock Saturday morning. A couple of train lengths above or below and the derailed cars must have rolled down a steep embankment to the river's edge, and what would have been the reault is something one does not like to contemplate. As it was, the passengers all escaped without serious injury. A jolt, rude and unexpected, wakened the sleepers, and that was about all the damage done. Only three men required doctor's care, and in these cases the injuries were trifling. G. Belanger, of Montreal, had a cut over his eye which required a couple of stitches. and John McBriide and Charles Burr, of Ihe same city, had each an ankle slightly sprained. None were so injured that they could not mingle with tha crowd which curiously watched the work of the wrecking gang.
Cracked Rail Gave Way,
The accident, which delayed traffic for twelve hours, was caused by a cracked rail giving way. The engine and baggage car passed that danger spot in safety, but when the first tourist car, laden with navvies for work on the railroad near Medicine Hat, and colonists for the West, struck it the crack meant a broken rail. This car was followed by three others with the same class of passengers, and all went bumping along the ties and ploughing up the ground. The break occurred at the eastern end of the station, and the cars which left the track smashed like matches the heavy planking and sleepers of the platform. The greater part of it was carried bodily away in broken pieces and a flying plank smashed a hole clear through the waiting room wall. The train is not scheduled to stop at this station, and the derailed trucks ploughed through the soil with the cars tilting ever more and more until the strain on the coupling was too much and between the baggage car and the passenger cars off it snapped and the released engine and baggage car sped ahead free. The balance of the train stopped dead with a jerk. Behind the four colonist cars were a first-class coach, a dining car and a sleeper. None of these lost their level, the coach being the only one to pass the break in the rail.
Wild scramble at first.
In the cars off the track and tipped at such a dangerous angle there was at first a wild scramble, but as no danger seemed imminent this soon subsided. Some broke their way through the windows, but the greater part left by the doors, disagreeably wakened, but glad to be safe.
Word of the wreck was at once wired to headquarters and from Carleton Junction and Chalk River wrecking trains were soon on the way. Between seven and eight o'clock the wrecking gangs were at work. A gang was at hand to help those who had been employed laying new steels. Eighty-pound rails were replacing the present lighter ones, and in a couple of days Sand Point would have been reached and the defective rail would have been taken out before it had signalized its retirement from duty by such an expensive act to the C.P.R. About 8 o'clock Mr. H.B. Spencer, superintendent of the division, arrived and took charge of the operations. General Superintendent Zimmerman, of Montreal and Trainmaster D. Robertson, and other Ottawa officials arrived to see what could be done. On the special came also Doctors Mayberry and Kidd, of Ottawa, whose services fortunately were required only for minor injuries, which took them but little time.
A Temporary Track
The rear cars were pulled back into a siding and then the under structure of those derailed which projected was removed and the workmen set at once to building a temporary track around the wreck. This, however, was not accomplished until 4 o'clock in the afternoon and then the train, so inauspiciously stopped, was made up and attached to the Soo train, which had been waiting since early morning to get by for the west. With two engines coupled to the 14 cars the long train puffed pantingly forth on the interrupted journey and traffic was once again open. But all day yesterday the work of getting the dreailed coaches on the track and repairing the main line went busily on.
An Eye Witness
Probably the only eye witness of the accident was Mr. James Stewart, who lives close by the station. As every patriotic citizen Mr. Stewart is interested in the immigrants to Canada. "I got up early," he said, "to see the size of the train as I understood it was to be entirely for immigrants. I was walking from my house when I heard a ripping crash and then the cars ploughed through the ground. The noise was tremendous. The passenger coaches in front I could see tipping over and then the coupling broke and the engine and baggage car went ahead like a shot.
"Some of the passengers broke through the window and got out, but in a little the most came out by the doors. After the first excitement they seemed to cool down, for some were still sitting in their seats when others came to see the trouble."
Mr. H.B. Spencer was greatly pleased that there had been neither loss of life nor serious injury, though regretting greatly that the accident had happened at all. "So far as our investigation goes the trouble was caused by a broken rail," he said a couple of hours after his arrival. "Nobody was hurt at all seriously and those who were slightly injured are able to get around already. While very sorry that such an accident should happen, I am not worrying nearly so much as I would if if any lives had been lost. Wrecking trains were sent at once from east and west and we will work right through Sunday to get the cars on the rails and the track repaired."
The laborers and immigrants all took the accident in cheerful mood when it was found no one was hurt. They were good humored, although it rained during part of the day. and watched operations with interest. One old country man named D. Williamson took the delay very philosophically. "It sure was a big shock," he said, "but we were lucky it didn't happen lower down. One good thing the company stood us a good meal," he concluded with evident satisfaction.
Mr. J.D. Dixon, also from Merry England, was congratulating himself that he had left the upper bunk an hour before the wreck happened. He had examined the rail which gave way and was satisfied from its appearance that it had been cracked some time.
Another man was both surprised and indignant at the abrupt termination to the journey.
"H'ive been on the sea an' had to tike to the small boats, but such a thing as bein' stuck tight in such a blarsted way hi never see," he commented wrathfully.