The Railways of Ottawa

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

Canada Atlantic Ottawa East car repair shops at Stewarton burned 21 March 1902

Ottawa Citizen 22 March 1902

The wooden car repair shops of the Canada Atlantic Railway, situated east of Elgin street at the terminus of Catharine street were destroyed by fire last night about 10 o'clock.  The building, which was one of the first erected when the C.A.R. was established here about 15 years ago, with more recent extensions, covered an area of about 10,000 square feet.  It was totally destroyed along with six cars which it contained.  These were two passenger coaches values at $4,000 each; a combination passenger and baggage coach, valued at $2,000; two freight cars, valued at $400 each, and a wrecking car valued at $400.  Besides these there was a considerable quantity of paints and oils, repair materials for coaches and workmen's tools, which with the building will make the total loss amount to between $15,000 and $20,000.  The destruction of this establishment will result in the temporary laying off from work of about 15 to 20 men.  The loss is covered by policies in the Home Insurance company of New York.
The fire was first noticed by James Meyers about 9.40 o'clock.  He is an employe of the C.A.R. and saw the flames bursting from the western end of what is known as the check office.  He pulled an alarm from box 134, corner of Catharine and Elgin streets.  When Chief Provost with the first section of the brigade arrived the fire had extended to the center of the shed and was roaring out through the roof.  The chief pulled the second alarm which brought the whole brigade including the Lafrance and Waterous engines.  The latter was stationed on Elgin street and the hose lines 8 and 9 were attached to it, producing two splendid streams.  This pump was considerably longer in getting to work than the other.
Low Pressure
Hose lines 3 and 4 were attached to it.  Then there were four other streams from adjacent hydrants but the pressure was very poor.  On the hydrant on Elgin street to which the Waterous was attached there was only 29 pounds pressure.
There was quite a number of freight cars in the building besides those destroyed but these were pulled out into the yard by a shunter.  They were blazing on top but streams were turned on and this rolling stock was saved.  The fire was out by about 11 o'clock.  At one time the flames caught in a high coal shed adjacent to the destroyed structure but Chief Provost had stream no. 6 removed to another hydrant and turned on this threatening fire.  About 10.30 the flames reached a barrel of benzine at the eastern end of the building and there was quite an explosion which scattered burning debris for some distance.
Fireman William McKay of No. 2 hook and ladder truck was engaged in tearing down part of a wall when a section of it fell on him, throwing him violently against a rail.   He was rendered unconscious and was carried across the street to a railway office.  After regaining consciousness he was sent home.
The burning oil and light woodwork caused a big reflection which attracted an immense crowd from all over the city, in fact the largest that has been at a fire for some time.
Only yesterday at noon, a parlour car, valued at $8,000 was removed from the building.  Engine 692 stood close outside the destroyed structure but was undamaged.  It is valued at about $25,000.  Considerable stock was saved, including paints and oils.  Messrs. C.J. Booth, J.W. Smith, M. Donaldson and Ogilvie of the C.A.R. were at the scene of the fire.
The building which was of wood and practically saturated with oil. Was burned to the ground and will likely not be erected again.  The repairing will be done in other shops west of Elgin street.

Ottawa Journal 22 March 1902

A hot night fire in Canada Atlantic yards
Car repair shops and 3 Passenger Cars Destroyed in an hour.
Loss about$45,000. Blaze drew big crowd
The old repair shops of the Canada Atlantic Railway company which have stood as a landmark at the Elgin Street crossing for the past 15 years were completely destroyed by fire last night between 10 and 11 o'clock. The building covered an area of 10,000 square feet and including the cars inside, undergoing repairs, and those outside which were destroyed, the loss will be in the vicinity of $45,000, which is covered by policies in The Home Fire Insurance Company of New York. The fire, while it lasted was a hot one and caused a vivid reflection which drew a very large crowd of people. It was confined to the one building, however but necessitated the utmost vigilance on the part of the firemen to keep it from spreading.
When first seen.
The fire was first noticed about 9.45 by James Meyers, a car inspector employed in the yard. It was then only a small blaze in the north east corner of the shop next to Elgin Street and was in an office used by the superintendent of repairing.
Meyer at once rang the alarm, box 134, at the corner of Catherine and Elgin, but before the brigade got there the shop which was all dry wood with considerable oil about was almost totally enveloped in flames. Chief Provost said last night that the building was ablaze from one end to the other when he got there. He put on all the hoses available  from the uptown portion of the brigade, but as the fire looked like spreading to adjacent buildings, dwellings across the street and the water pressure low, he sent in a second alarm about 10 o'clock. The lower town brigade soon got to work. Soon after this engine commenced to play the fire was under control, but the shops were destroyed, also two first class coaches valued at about $7,500 each, one baggage car worth $7,000, freight cars, and a wrecking train standing on the siding alongside the shops badly damaged. There was also a snowplow burned to ruins. This was worth about $500.. The cars were saved by being shunted across to the west side of Elgin Street. In the shops there was a large quantity of paint oil, glass and vanish. There was also several bottles of benzine  in the rear of the shops. These exploded early in the fire and lent much greater volume to the flame.
Mr. C. J. Booth on hand.
Mr. C. Jackson Booth, president of the Canada Atlantic Railway company, was on hand shortly after the first alarm was pulled. He was in his home on Elgin Street at the time, and knowing the box, he at once concluded something was wrong. When he got to the scene the fire had gained enough headway to ruin the building.
About $45,000.
To a Journal reporter Mr. Booth said the loss would be between $40,000 and $45,000, which is covered by policies in the Home Fire Insurance Company of New York.
Mr. James Ogilvy., the mechanical superintendent of the road, estimated the loss at about the same rate as Mr. Booth.  He, as well as Mr. Booth, said that they had no idea how the fire started. Both were early on the scene. Mr. E. J. Chamberlain, general manager of the road, and Mr. Morley Donaldson, superintendent, also among the spectators.
Several large freight engines was standing alongside the building, but were not damaged. These were worth about $30,000 each.
Mr Booth said that the fire was well handled and kept well within bounds. It would have been, in his opinion, hard to save the building owing to the amount of oil and paint which was about the cars.
It was an ideal night for fighting a fire. The moon was shining brightly and the night perfectly calm.
The shops were some of the oldest in possession of the company. They were first constructed in connection with the old Canada Atlantic system when it was first stared [sic]. A few years ago there was an addition added which considerably enlarged the shops.
The brigade were again troubled with low pressure. The hydrant on Elgin Street to which the Victoria was attached had only 29 pounds pressure when opened.
The Lafrance down at the canal bank behind the shops did good work. She was fed from the canal.
The burning of the shops will temporarily throw some men out of work, but not for long, as they will be required in the new shops at Ottawa East.
There was no machinery in the shops, but some workman's tools were destroyed.
The old round house was destroyed by fire about three years ago. It stood adjacent to the building destroyed last night.
All that now remains of the original Canada Atlantic buildings is the old Station House on the west side of Elgin Street.
Fireman William McKay of No. 2 station met with a nasty accident. He was pulling down a piece of the wall when some more fell on him, throwing the man to the ground. His head struck on the car track rendering him unconscious. He was picked up and taken to his home. The side of McKay's face was badley cut and bruised.
The actual building was valued at about $2,000. It was built completely of wood.
A valuable parlour car was removed from the shops yesterday at noon. It was worth over $9,000.
The fire started about 9.45, by 11 the shops were in ruins and the fire almost out. It simply burned to a finish. All that remains is a few pieces of charred wood.

Updated 19 October 2021

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