Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1962, January 7 - "The Dominion" derails 
three diesels (8474-1902-1910) and several cars at St. Eugene, Canadian Pacific, M and O subdivision.

.Tid Bits by Duncan H. du Fresne, Branchline, December 2006.

CP Train No. 8 - "The Dominion"

The following incident involving CP train No. 8 near St. Eugene, Ontario, at mileage 27.4 of the former M & O subdivision, on January 7, 1962, holds a special memory for me for several reasons. I left CP as a locomotive fireman in 1957. It was not easy. I had been a company employee for 1 2 years, never much wanted to do anything else but be an engineman, and I must admit it was the steam locomotive that made me think the way I did (and still do). In any event circumstances well beyond my control and understanding (the introduction of diesel-electric power and the elimination of firemen) resulted in my having to leave CP and do something else with my life. That "something else" (by pure luck) resulted in my joining the Federal Government's Department of Transport as a trainee Air Traffic Controller. I started training at the Department's ab-initio (VFR) school at Malton Airport (Toronto). Again, it was not easy. It was a very tough course and, for me, having little formal education which ended at age 1 5 when I joined CP, meant that getting my nose into the books was something I never had much experience with. But, when your back is against the wall and you have to do something, it can surprise you just what you're capable of.

Jump ahead a few years. Unlike the railway, advancement in the air traffic control business, for those who fitted in, was fast and furious. After more courses I very quickly advanced to become an (IFR) air traffic controller. This, after nearly three years of working in what amounted to a "probationary" period, I had reached my goal. (When I started I really didn't know what my "goal" was!) At that time (the late-1950s) the Department was introducing radar for air traffic control purposes and, once again, I quickly went through the training and became qualified to control IFR (instrument flight rules) traffic using radar.

Jump ahead to 1962. Now, with a few years experience behind me with the use of this new control "tool" at the Ottawa Terminal Control Unit, I learned that this early radar system (AASR-1, for those of you who may be interested) had several idiosyncrasies, not the least of which was that of detecting large moving objects on the ground as well as in the air (a small change in the "tilt" of the antenna corrected this), however, on the morning of January 7, 1962, yours truly was working as the departure controller when I spotted a slow moving target moving away from Ottawa in an easterly direction. There was little doubt about it, it was a ground target. A quick 'phone call told me that CP train No. 8, with 11 cars, had just departed the old Ottawa Union Station and was east of Hurdman. I was following the progress over the ground of that train on air traffic control radar!! Well it didn't last all that long but I did get intermittent "hits" on the train for about 20 miles. This really amused me and I told my controller colleagues to take a look. It also brought back a lot of memories of my days on CP as I, from time to time as a spare fireman, got called for No. 8 to Montreal. In the steam era, this was a very good job for there was a lot of "miles" (pay) in it as there was a lot of terminal detention time in Montreal (Windsor Station) and the return of the "draft" to the Glen Yard which was done about as slow as a Hudson could turn her driving wheels (no point in being in a hurry when you're making money).

Sometime later I heard the news. Train No. 8, "The Dominion", had derailed near St. Eugene, Ontario (just west of the Ontario/Quebec boundary). No one had been killed in the accident, but there were injuries. Most notable, for me anyway, was the engine crew of Harold Greenlaw (engineer) and Frank Alexander (fireman), both long service company employees and former colleagues and friends. Both men were returned to Ottawa and ended up sharing the same room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital where they enjoyed giving the nurses a hard time. They both had been bruised up pretty good and I just can't remember or not about broken bones.

Looking towards the rear of the train shows the extent of the damage to  mostly head-end equipment. The Smiths Falls auxiliary on the left and the St Luc auxiliary on the right grapple with the lead unit of train No. 8, MLW RS-10 8474.

I visited them at the hospital and Frank told me of his harrowing experience of being thrown across the cab of RS-10 8474 and attempting to grab hold of the control stand to keep from getting chucked out a cab window as the unit rolled over. Both Harold and Frank seemed to agree on one thing though. They believed the derailment was caused by the deep and wet heavy snow they had been running through at high speed which caused one of the front end foot boards to buckle back where it was caught by the leading wheels of the front truck which resulted in the derailment of the truck. That was their version of what happened. The official version differs in that it found the cause of the run-off was the result of ice accretion in the flangeways at a public road crossing, and I believe a certain roadmaster caught hell over it.

In this scene we see the two auxiliaries lifting wrecked GMD F7B 1910. GMD F9B 1902 is just about back where she belongs in this Don Gaw shot, albeit not on her own trucks. All the units involved had their trucks ripped off.

In any event, when I think about it now, and recognizing that hindsight is 20/20 every time, I think we were all a little foolhardy to think at the time that those footboard pilots gave us any protection whatsoever. Oh, I know they were handy, if somewhat unsafe, "back in the good old days". But you don't see them anymore, do you? It took a while, but finally they're gone, and we're safer for it.

Meanwhile, back at St. Eugene. Auxiliaries were sent out to the site from both St. Luc in Montreal and Smiths Falls (Ontario) to clean up the mess. While I have not been able to determine which cranes were used, the St. Luc crane appears to be a modern 250-ton Industrial Brownhoist. The Smiths Falls crane, although slightly smaller, was still steam powered. The conductor on the Smiths Falls auxiliary was my old friend, Don Gaw. In fact it was Don who took the photographs that accompany this Tid Bit. He ultimately became a member of the Bytown Railway Society (BRS) and many members of the Society accompanied him on his retirement trip from Ottawa to Sudbury and back on the local Budd car(s) in 1 983. Don is no longer with us but his brother Sam (J.C.), also a one time C.P. railroader, is, and is also a BRS member.

So, were these wrecked first generation units scrapped? Nope! They were traded in for second generation power. The 8474 went back to MLW for more modern C-424 unit No. 8300 (and later renumbered No. 4200). Similarly, GMD F9B unit 1902 became GP30 8200 (later 5000), and F7B 1910 became GP30 8201 (later 5001).

Bytown Railway Society,, Branchline, December 2006, pages 10-11.

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Updated January 2014