|Ottawa Citizen 15 January 1990|
VIA: Tragedy on the last trip.
Death of pair in truck-train crash mars already bittersweet journey.
VIA Rail's transcontinental train The Canadian met tragedy Sunday five hours after it left Montreal on its final journey. Two people died when a truck collided with the train at a level crossing near Pembroke.
The driver, Richard Moores, 23 of Petawawa Township, and his passenger, Jennifer Hill, 19 of Pembroke, died at a level crossing marked with flashing lights.
The Canadian had just left Pembroke station.
The accident cast a heavy shadow over an already bitter-sweet journey.
The Canadian route, famous for its exceptional scenery, is a victim of the sweeping federal cuts to VIA Rail that came into effect today and will see the crown corporation's weekly service slashed by more than half.
Seventeen of VIA's 38 routes finished Sunday. And more than 2,700 employees - about 38 per cent of VIA's workforce of 7,800 - are out of work.
Conductor Don Green and the other three members of the VIA crew boarded the train in Ottawa for the final run of their careers.
All were headed towards early retirement once they got the train to North Bay.
Ottawa resident, Lorne Blackburn was the engineer driving the train at the time of the accident.
"Its horrible," conductor Don Green said.
A railroader with 34 years experience, Green was shaken by the crash.
"It's quite a way to end it all. I haven't seen something like this in 15 or 20 years."
Hill and Moores were on their way to Moores' house for Sunday dinner with his family. Hill was a grade 12 student and a "friendly and outgoing girl," her father Jack said.
Pembroke OPP are investigating the accident.
Groups protesting the VIA cuts saw the train off in Montreal and gathered at stations along its route.
At stops in Alexandria, Ottawa and Pembroke they carried signs criticizing the federal government for the cuts.
The lobby group, Transport 2000 helped organize the protests and had loaded a coffin draped in black in the baggage car.
Most passengers were either tourists or rail buffs, sympathetic to the protesters' cause.
By the time the train left a group of demonstrators at Pembroke station about 3 p.m. the mood on board resembled an Irish wake. Many spoke of the romance of the railway as they toasted the passing of The Canadian.
Then the train lurched violently as engineers applied the brakes.
Within a minute the train had ground to a halt.The passenger cars were silent.
Ontario Provincial Police Const. Don Boire said the lights and warning signals at the crossing were operating at the time of the crash.
"They must have been talking or something because they didn't seem to notice the train," Boire said.
Word of the accident spread slowly.
But Maryilyn Masterson moved fast. The 36-year old nurse from Maine had come to Canada to make the trip of a lifetime.
Along with several reporters she jumped into hip-deep snow and ran up to the crumpled truck.
"It was just too late."
The train stood 90 minutes while police, ambulance and fire officials removed the bodies.
Guy Chartrand, president of Transport 2000 Quebec branch, was grim.
The coffin used a a prop for the mob of cameras now seemed inappropriate.
"This is horrible," Chartrand said. "It's already a very sad day and this makes it worse."
A train lover, Harris is making the trip for sentimental reasons.
"It's a poor analagy now, but it's like going to a funeral."