Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area



1913, June 25 - Derailment of a Canadian Pacific passenger train at McKellar near Ottawa.





A Winnipeg bound Canadian Pacific passenger train, the Imperial Limited, was derailed at McKellar (Westboro), near Britannia, on the Carleton Place subdivision.  Eleven people were killed and 40 were injured in this accident which was caused when a track crew had not completed repairs.  Three colonist, one first class, one tourist and one dining car were derailed, several lying close to the Ottawa River.  All the dead and practically all the injured were immigrants, principally from the British isles.


LAC PA 206027


LAC PA 25111 Samuel Jarvis collection

Ottawa Journal Thursday 26 June 1913

Saw Train Wrecked; Tells Thrilling Story of the Scenes After the Crash
Westboro Resident was Watching Express from Electric Car
Four Coaches Suddenly Jumped Outwards Into the River - Terrible Scenes Immediately Followed.
Mr. H. Hill, of Westboro, witnessed the wreck. Mr. Hill and his wife had taken a car ride to Britannia. He says: "Returning, when near McKellar Townsite, between McKellar homestead and Mason's mill. I noticed the train coming. Two track-layers had just stood aside to allow the train to pass when suddenly four coaches upset. Two fell inwards and two outwards into the Ottawa River.  The two which upset towards the shore side of the tracks fell on the two track men. They must have been killed.
"The engine and first three coaches and the last two did not leave the rails. The engine and first three coaches broke away from the wreck and went forward. Then the last coach of the three broke loose again from the engine and front two cars. The last two coaches stood on the track. They did not telescope. Two of the cars, the ones which fell inwards, buckled and fell nearly lengthwise. We got one man out from right underneath one of these cars. His chest was badly mangled and he died immediately afterward without gaining consciousness.
Cars in Water
"The cars in the river were only half submerged and when the rescue party arrived we broke in the windows and commenced to pull out the people in these cars'"
"Some of the dead came from these cars. Whether they were pinned down and drowned in that way, I do not know. They may have been stunned and drowned in this manner.
The first people we took out of the cars on the bank were a man and a boy with their hands badly injured. They were placed in the ambulance and hurried to the hospital. The first doctors to arrive on the scene were Dr. I.G. Smith and Dr. Kidd.
We took a Salvation Army girl out of the first coach to go into the water. She was uninjured and was taken to the Salvation Army headquarters in the city. Another old gentleman, his wife and five children were in the last coach to overturn. The old gentleman broke a window and climbed out. They were all uninjured. A girl of about seven years of age and her brother of fifteen years were on their way to Edmonton, to meet their father. They were with their mother and she is as yet unaccounted for. They were taken from a coach which overturned into the water, and the supposition is that their mother was drowned.
"There were quite a number of foreigners, Russians, Scandinavians, and others in the colonist car which overturned into the water.
From what I could see they will be unable to find just how many are in the cars which went into the water until the wrecking crew lift the cars. One of the cars broke of its trucks and fell in the stream nearly turning upside down. It finally lay on is (sic) side.
Old Man's Story
"The old gentleman with the five children told me his experience of this wreck. 'I was standing up', he said, 'when I felt the car going over. After the first shock I braced myself and fell into the corner without any injury. I was merely shaken up. Although it happened in a second it felt as if it took the car half a minute to fall on its side. The Salvation Army girl was thrown violently from one side of the car to the other side of the car but was uninjured.
"The first men on the scene were the section men," continued Mr. Hill "I and some other people in the car ran across the fields to the train, but the section men commenced the work of rescue immediately.
"Two girls who live close to the wreck, the two Misses Barrie, did heroic work in attending to the injured. They carried pails of water and stimulants around to the injured, helped dress wounds and assisted the surgeons.
"Mr. Dunning, who lives close to the scene of the wreck, telephoned to the Chief of Police, also for ambulances and doctors, and it was due to him that ambulances and autos to care for the injured reached the scene of the wreck so quickly. He also provided linen to dress the wounds received by the injured. The first ambulance arrived about 15 or 20 minutes after the wreck had taken place.
"There was a lady and her daughter taken from the first car to turn into the water. The lady's head was badly crushed. Her daughter was uninjured but hysterical.
"The most pathetic incident was that of the two children bound for Edmonton. They searched the faces of each injured person taken from the wreck, looking for their mother.
Rail Torn Up
"Whether the accident was caused by a spreading rail or not I do not know. When I got there one of the rails was turned clear of the ties altogether. I do not know what the section men were doing at that spot but I imagine that they were engaged in laying new ties.
There is no curve at that spot, so I imagine that the track was weakened in some way and that the weight of the engine spread the rail and the swing of the back coaches would strain the weakened track and bulge it to one side. I didn't hear any of the officials discussing the cause of the wreck.
The insides of the cars were very badly wrecked, although the cars themselves were not telescoped. The seats were ripped every way , all torn from the floor. The floors were not turned up, but the sides on which the cars fell were caved in and smashed to splinters. I think that the majority of the people hurt were on the side which fell and that the fall of the heavy seats, torn from their fastenings, caused quite a number of fatalities."

Chesterville Record 26 June 1913


Eight dead and fifty injured, two probably fatally, is the toll of the railway accident three miles from Ottawa yesterday afternoon when the CPR train from Montreal for Winnipeg left the track.  All the dead and practically all the injured are immigrants, principally from the British isles.  The cause of the wreck is not known, but it is thought to be either a loose rail or what is known in railway parlance as a "sunkink".
Also reported in Globe and Mail for 26 June 1913.  This was the wreck of the Imperial Limited.
Ottawa Journal 25 June - occurred at Springfield Park near Britannia. Pictures in June 26 edition.



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Updated 21 March 2018