The Railways of Ottawa

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

Canadian Pacific Interprovincial Bridge, Hull Badly Damaged by fire  30 March 1946

Ottawa Citizen 30 March 1946

While flames at the Eddy plant were threatening the source of his livelihood and in some cases the lives of his fellow workers, Arthur Guertin, engineer in charge of the E.B. Eddy yard engine, called upon two companions and risked his life to remove from a particularly dangerous position, two tank cars filled with chlorine gas.
Manning a decrepit steam engine which is used to haul freight cars from one section of the property to the other, Engineer Guertin cautiously approached the flame swept tanks and with the aid of Frank Cain, 399 Arlington avenue, and Arthur Meunier, 37 Frontenac street, Hull, coupled the two dangerous filled cars to the tender of his engine and pulled away.  They were placed in a position far removed from the reach of the flames and heat.
Citizen Interview
In an exclusive interview with a representative of the Evening Citizen, shortly before he left for his Aylmer home, Mr. Guertin said, "It was necessary to remove the two tanks to a safer part of the yard.  The danger of explosives was imminent as one of the tanks had been shown to be leaking.  Had they blown," he remarked, "the explosion would undoubtedly have taken the lives of all the firemen and workers within a broad radius."
Although the engineer accepted his feat of bravery as a commonplace job of work connected with his position, Mayor Raymond Brunet and director Emile Bond looked upon his act as one of the most fearless they had seen in their several years of public service.
A resident of Aylmer and a father of five children, Mr. Guertin has been employed by the company for a steady period of 19 years.  He was on duty at the time of the outbreak of the fire but his action, which, according to fire and city officials, was responsible for the saving of several lives, and was on his own initiative.
NB. Emile Bond was the Fire Chief.
Mechanical hero of the tremendous conflagration was Eddy's minute locomotive.  Its whistle shrieking stridently, the tiny engine worked ceaselessly through the night, hauling freight cars loaded with material out of the danger zone.
Picture of rails "pretzelled" and several others.

Ottawa Journal 30 March 1946

Fire Sweeps Eddy Pulp Stocks and Interprovincial Bridge
Flames are Checked Near Main Eddy Company Mill
Cigarette Butt Starts Worst Fire in Greater Ottawa in 46 Years - Thousands Watch Blaze

Most spectacular fire to occur in the Greater Ottawa area since the destruction of Hull in 1900, last night destroyed the Quebec half of the Interprovincial Bridge, and raged unchecked throughout the night in the mountainous pulpwood stock pile of the E. B. Eddy Company, causing damage estimated in the, neighborhood of $1,000000.
Cause of the fire was said to have been a cigarette butt, tossed from an automobile some time late Friday afternoon. Another report was that a gasoline truck had taken, fire at the Hull end of the bridge setting fire to the heavilv tarred woodwork of the roadway.
Saved Lower Mill.
Throughout he night firemen of both the Hull and Ottawa fire departments fought steadily in an effort to save the Lower Mill, located just west of the stock piles and through almost superhuman efforts the roaring blaze was checked within a hundred feet of the sprawling buildings
The fire started shortly before seven o'clock. Withir half an hour a pall of heavy black smoke was hanging over the west end of Ottawa while the flames, already out of control, raged furiously ahead of the high wind that swept out of the northeast.
Three hours later the flames, roaring hundreds of feet in the air were visible for miles around and residents from all parts of Ottawa and Hull were flocking by to watch the conflagration.
The Quebec side of the bridge for a stretch of 500 feet was wrecked cutting off all traffic.
All CPR trains had to be re-routed from Ottawa West, via Ellwood station to Hurdman's bridre The plank floor of the bridge, heavily tarred and highly inflammable, burned away to the centre span before Ottawa flremen were able to check it.
Hull firemen were called to the bridre twice during the day to put out fires caused by cigarette butts.
At about 6.45 p.m. they answered a box alarm and on reaching the bridge found its northern end in flames The tarred surface burned furiously and their hose lines proved almost useless. The flames spread over the mud flats west of the bridge and soon reached the stock piles, containing pulpwood valued at half a million dollars.
The pulp, plled in huge stacks, had been dried out by recent warm weather and soon was ablaze. Hull firemen sent for more equipment and when the pulpwood began burning a two-alarm call was rung through to the Ottawa Fire Department. The wind was rising steadily, though fortunately away from Laurier avenue and toward the river.
The fire spread from the Hull end of the bridge to the stock piles along a sector of ground where the chain from the conveyor is stretched out for oiling periodically. The ground was said to be soaked with oil and to have caught fire, leading the flames to the pulp pile. A wooden tunnel beneath the stock pile was thought to have been a contributing factor, since it provided a draft beneath the pulp and fanned the flames
The tunnel was a part of the conveyor system

CPR Traffic To Be Re-Routed
Canadian Pacific Railway trains will be re-routed via Hurdman's Bridge, Ellwood and Ottawa West, so that CPR service will not be interrupted by the fire on the Interprovincial Bridge, last night.
In the case of the transcontinental Montreal-Vaneouver trains, numbers Seven and One, westbound, will come into Union Station and then back out to Hurdman's, swing on to the "Y" there and pass through Ellwood to Ottawa West, rejoining the main line at that point East-bound transcontinental, numbers Eight and Two, will reverse the procedure and instead of crossing the river at Ottawa West and, entering Ottawa via Hull, as usual, will remain on the Ontario side of the- river, running via Hurdman's Bridge into Union Station.
Ottawa-Montreal, North Shore, Maniwakl and other CPR trains normally using the Interprovinclal Bridge will be routed through Ottawa West and will cross the Ottawa River at that point.
The CPR owns the Interprovinclal. Bridge, officials of the company told The Journal late last night. They could not say how much it would cost to repair the  damage, but "it will be a major job". Montreal head office is expected to issue a statement today as to the cost of repairs and length of time it will take.
Three Hull Electric Railway street cars were stranded on the Ottawa side, and will remain there until the bridge is cleared for traffic again.
Buses and all the street cars of the Hull company will meet Ottawa street cars at the Chaudiere Bridge terminal, to carry passengers to destinations in Hull but no buses will come to Ottawa,

Ottawa Citizen 1 April 1946
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Huge Canadian Pacific locomotives hauling wrecking and bridge cranes pulled in alongside Alexandra Bridge Sunday afternoon as a check-up was begun of the fire scarred structure to determine whether or not it might be possible to put the railway section of the bridge, twisted and scarred from the "million-dollar fire" which swept the bridge and adjoining Eddy pulp stock yards, back into operation.
Tests were being made of the foundation piers and of the main girders of the structure which carries in addition to the CPR main trackage out of Ottawa, a two-track street car line, and two motor roadways and pedestrian sidewalks. Engineers expressed the hope that if the structure was not too badly damaged it might be possible to put the CPR track back into operation within the next few days.
A huge pile of glowing embers sending a spiral of heavy steam and smoke up into the sky, marked the only remainder of the stock pile of thousands of cords of pulpwood valued at several hunderds of thousands of dollars which went up in a blazing inferno which wiped out the flooring of the entire west end of the bridge, and brought huge steel conveyors crashing down all over the stock yard.  Only twisted and fire-scarred wreckage remain of the once towering conveyor system once a feature of the Hull waterfront visible for miles.  Blistered and fire-scarred the main mill of the company apparently escaped without serious damage.
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Preliminary inpsection of the bridge revealed the long ramp and one span on the Hull side to be twisted and buckled due to the heat of the flames.  The planking of the bridge was still smouldering in some of the burned out spans.  It is probable before entire repairs can be effected the damaged section of the bridge will have to be cut away and replaced. This work might take four or five months before it could be completed.
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Ottawa Citizen 2 April 1946

Aylmer Trams Have Motormen at Rear
Because of the fire that rendered the inter-provincial bridge impassable, Aylmer cars operating between Ottawa and Aylmer had to run backwards on the return journey Sunday. All cars on the Aylmer run are single end cars, the inspector of the Hull Electric Co. said yesterday.
"We were unable to get through to the turning point on the Ottawa side because of the fire." he said. "In addition a number of our cars, of the double end variety, were marooned at the Ottawa terminal and we had to carry on as best we could. To safeguard the public each car had two men, one at the controls and one at the other end, on the backward run, to warn of any condition necessitating the halting of the cars."

Ottawa Citizen 20 May 1946

No smoking signs on bridge walkway.
Pedestrians using the newly opened walkway across the Alexandra bridge are urged to cooperate in eliminating the fire hazard by not smoking while on the bridge.
Canadian Pacific Railway officials are having "No Smoking" signs in English and French posted at strategic points along the bridge and earnestly request the public to abide by them, so that no further interruption to traffic such as followed the damaging conflagration of March 29 will recur.
Much of the temporary walkway is of wood construction, and lighted cigaret and cigar butts thrown upon it would constitute a definite danger.

Ottawa Journal 6 December 1946

Hull Trams Use Railway Tracks
Freight cars and oil tankers have often used tracks of the Hull Electric Railway to deliver cargoes in Hull, but the tables were turned today when three Hull Electric street cars roared across the Interprovincial Bridge on the CPR tracks.
The three street cars were marooned on the Ottawa side by the fire which partly destroyed the Interprovincial Bridge. Until today they were parked at the Hull Electric terminal beneath the Plaza.
The cars were required for service in Hull and because the street car track had not been relald across the bridge the cars were hauled back on the railroad track.

Updated 3 December 2021

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