The Railways of Ottawa

Finding No. 21   Railway Structures Destroyed (Mainly) by Fire

CPR Aylmer Station 24 November 1926
Ottawa Citizen 24 November 1926

Two volunteer fire-fighters have narrow escape when chimney collapses. Estimate loss at about $7,000.

With damage amounting to about $7,000 the C. P. R. Station at Aylmer, one of the old landmarks of the town, was almost completely destroyed during the early hours of this morning. Two of the volunteer firefighters had a miraculous escape from at least serious injury when a chimney collapsed and the bricks sliding down the slanting roof shot out over their heads.
The fire was first noticed about 1.20 a.m. by people on their way home from a dance at Holts Hotel. These were attracted by a bright reflection as the flames broke from the building. Immediately an alarm was sounded and within a few minutes Fire Chief Telesphore Lortie and his volunteer firemen were on the job. However the building being old and of frame construction, it proved a difficult fire for them to fight so that all that is left standing is part of the section used as a freight shed.
Spread very quickly.
The building was about 75 feet long by 30 wide. At the north end was situated a waiting room, in the centre a ticket office, and at the south end a freight shed. Those who were early on the scene of the blaze said that the outbreak started in the waiting room and spread with lightning rapidity through the remainder of the building.
The origin of the blaze is unknown but it may have started from a stove in the waiting room. Mr. Richard O'Leary, the station-agent, said that a fire is kept burning in a stove in the waiting room and he usually banks up the fire each night. A resident near the station said that a few minutes before he saw the fire he heard a report like that of an explosion, and that on looking out a few minutes after saw the place a mass of flames.
Mr. O'Leary said that the station had been closed up since about 6 o'clock last night. Until recently it had been kept open at night, on account of coal being shipped into the town, and then there was a watchman on duty. Last night there was no watchman about.
Cut Trolley Wires.
Provided with good water pressure the firemen fought a brave but losing battle in their efforts to check the progress of the fire. It was found necessary to cut the trolley wires on the Hull Electric Railway line, which runs close along one side of the building, as a precaution against the fireman being electrocuted through the water streams coming in contact with the live wires.
When the fire was at its height a brick chimney projecting about five feet over the peak of the roof at the centre of the building collapsed. Firemen Edward Cooper and F. Leon were playing a stream into the burning building from the station platform, and escaped being struck by the bricks only by inches. Fortunate for them there were projecting eaves out over the platform and the bricks rolled onto the railway tracks.
In the freight shed were several pieces of freight awaiting delivery and shipment, and all these were successfully taken from the building and were undamaged. The end of the building occupied by the fridge shed was also saved.
Was Town Landmark.
The station, which was one of the remaining landmarks of the town, was built over half a century ago by the old P. P. J. railway, which was taken over by the Canadian Pacific.
The fire while it lasted was quite spectacular and on account of the overcast sky could be seen for miles, hundreds of people gathering.
The destruction of the railway station marks the third outbreak of fire at night in Aylmer within about the last week. Fire broke out in a separate school, and then the Bourgeau Arena was rendered a total loss with a damage amounting to about $9,000.

Ottawa Journal 24 November 1926

Mystery Blaze Breaks Out Shortly After Midnight - Firemen Have Narrow Escape.

The Canadian Pacific station at Aylmer was destroyed by fire breaking out shortly after one o'clock this morning with a loss estimated at $7,000 or more. The waiting room and office were burned practically to the ground, but excellent work on the part of Fire Chief Telesphore Lortie and his volunteer fire brigade saved the freight sheds at the north of the waiting room from the flames. Damage in the freight sheds was confined wholly to loss due to water.
The origin of the fire is uncertain, but it is thought that it started from a range in the office. When the fire was first noticed, the office at the south end of the building was a seething mass of flames. Young people returning from the Aylmer hockey team dance at Holt's Hotel turned in the alarm at 1.30 o'clock, and firemen were on the scene within a few minutes. However, the frame building burned with great rapidity and was doomed when Chief Lortie and his men arrived
Chief Lortie recognized that there was no hope of saving the office or waiting room, and turned his chief attention to keeping the flames from the freight sheds. The firemen were favoured by excellent water pressure, and several streams were brought into service to combat the blaze.
Cut wires.
The alarm of fire spread quickly and in the neighbourhood of 700 people viewed the destruction of the station. Many scares were thrown into the onlockers when the reports were spread that the electric wires to the station might fall at any minute, but this danger was removed when an employee of the Hull Electric Company cut the wires.
By 2. 30 o'clock nothing remained of the station proper except sections of the walls. The roof collapsed amid a shower of sparks while the fire was at its height.
Edward Cooper and A. Leon, volunteer members of the firefighting force, narrowly escaped serious injury when a large brick chimney in the middle of the station crashed to the ground.
Was a Landmark.
The destroyed station was one of the landmarks of the vicinity. It was built over 50 years ago. Including the freight shed, it was about 80 feet in length and 30 feet in width. The value of the building was in the neighbourhood of $10,000.
No one was in the station when the fire started, as it had been locked up for the night, late in the evening. A good fire had been left in the ranges in the waiting-room and in the office, and it is thought that the fire started either from one of the ranges or from the chimney.

Ottawa Citizen 30 November 1926

Since the arrest of Napoleon Lavigne and Romeo Gravel, at Aylmer, Que.,, charged with having set fire to St. Jean Baptiste hall there on Sunday morning, the services of the Quebec proylncial police have been requisitioned by the town. Provincial Detective Arthur Malo arrived at Aylmer this morning and will conduct an investigation by which it is hoped the mystery surrounding the incendiary blazes which destroyed the skating rink, C.P.R station and badly damaged St. Paul's Roman Catholic school will be solved.

Railway and Shipping World January 1927

Aylmer station, mile 7.4, was almost completely destroyed by fire Nov. 24.  The town council subsequently passed a resolution asking the company to replace the old structure by a modern station.

Updated 27 September 2021

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