Local Hero - Alfred Parkes
Grand Trunk Railway passenger train No.
The fireman, William Robertson Martin, aged 24, was found dead in the engine cab. He was badly scalded. Engineer Parkes was alive and still sitting in his seat. He was quite conscious, though in much pain. Every effort was made to save his life, but he was too badly scalded. Apparently no bones were broken but it is believed he inhaled much steam and he was scalded and probably seriously injured internally. He died the next day at St. Luke's Hospital.
The Immediate Aftermath
A couple of eye witness accounts have survived.
The Canadian Express Messenger, Griffiths, gave this account:
"I was just getting all my stuff in
order as we were
within ten minute's run of
"I crawled along over the boxes and then I noticed the steam going over the car. I knew it could not hurt me, however. Just then somebody called "Are you there?" I said I was and they asked me if I was hurt and I said "No, I don’t think so. I guess I am all right". With some difficulty I got out through the car door and immediately up to my waist in snow and water. I got to my feet very wet.
"Then I made my way up to the engine. By that time they had poor Martin out on the snow.”
Alderman Mcgrath was a passenger on the train. He said:
“We were sitting on the side of the car
which was lowest
when it turned over. In an endeavour to
get out we broke several windows and released some children, of whom
several in the car. But of course the
women could not be liberated in that way. For
a time we thought that the doors were blocked by the
following and anxiously we began to look for a way out. Just then a
forced a door open and we quickly emptied the car.
Making my way as fast as possible to the
front I found the engine lying on its side, fireman Martin was already
underneath it. At his seat in the cab was
Parkes, the engineer. He was quite
conscious, though in much pain. We
helped him down from the engine and he walked to the end of the train. But as he reached the steps of the last car
he collapsed and had to be carried into the coach.
Coming out again I heard cries of
"Help". On top of the baggage
coach was Rev. Rural Dean Taylor (of
“Finally, however, the fears were overcome by the persuasions of the men assisted by the train hands. Having succeeded in quieting the passengers, we began to feel alarmed lest another train should come along and crash into the wreck. Two trainmen started out to telegraph the news of the occurrence from Eastman's Springs, but after they had been gone some time we began to have considerable apprehensions on the grounds that as both of them were injured more or less when they started that they might not reach their destination. Mr. Mcbride volunteered to see if they had fallen in the snow, but before he had proceeded more than three quarters of a mile he was forced to return leaving a lantern on the track as a signal. All the men stayed outside and worked around. Conductor Leamy's efforts were heroic.”
A report of the accident reached Mr.
superintendent of the
It was quickly determined that the
cause of the derailment
was a broken rail. It had been broken by
the previous train which was freight train 98, engine 798, with 21 cars
passed over that line about an hour prior to train 27.
The rail was 80 lb Dominion Iron & Steel
rolled in June 1906 in
It was concluded by both the Board of Railway Commissioners and the Coroner’s inquest that the deaths were accidental.
The Stained Glass Window
Alfred Parkes was a popular man on the
railway and his
selfless act may well have prevented a greater toll. The funeral took
Holy Trinity church (now the Church of the Ascension) on
It is surprising that there was no
comment made on the fact
that the rail in question was new and had only been in use for about 18
months. This was a bad winter for broken
rails. 54 broken rails were found in 46
days between Coteau and
There were two other derailments in the
- A broken rail was responsible for an accident to the Canadian Pacific Pontiac mixed train. While rounding a curve near Deschene a rail broke after the engine and tender had passed over it and four freight cars and one passenger car were derailed and rolled into the ditch.
- A broken rail caused a run off and partial wreck of the westbound Winnipeg Express at Eganville Junction four miles west of Renfrew on the Canadian Pacific. The baggage car slid down the embankment and was standing on end and the mail car, dining car and sleeper were turned over on their side. The other four coaches simply left the track and were resting on the ties.
It would be another thirty years before the rail manufacturers developed a controlled cooling process (the Mackie process) which considerably reduced internal flaws leading to far fewer broken rails and helped reduce the accident rate.
SourcesDiscussion with Ms. Susan Bennett of the Church of the Ascension,
Shawville Equity, February 13 1908.
Public Archives RG 46 volume 1427 file 6894.
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, February 2008.