Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1871, August 12 - Collision of two freight trains at Kingston, GTR., one fatality

 Kingston Daily British Whig 12 August 1871

Grand Trunk Accident
Collision of Freight Trains - One Man Killed.
Wreck of Both Trains.

This morning the city was startled by the report of an accident having occurred on the Grand Trunk Railroad, three miles east of Kingston. As usual there were greatly exaggerated rumors, and the public were deeply moved by the current statement that five persons had lost their lives in consequence of a collision. However, the accident, deplorable as it is, did not entail altogether such fearful consequences. Sad enough it was, though. Besides the wrecking of the trains, and the infliction of injuries on four of the employees, one life has been sacrificed to an unfortunate mistake.

The Accident.

About eleven o’clock last night, the despatcher sent off freight train No. 13 going East. It had scarcely left the station when he discovered that No. 14 freight train coming West had left Ballantyne’s Station, and had not yet arrived. The fiery monsters with their living freight were approaching with full speed, and a collision and a dreadful accident was clearly inevitable, tor though the receding train No. 13 was not yet out of sight, it was too late to recall it. The impending doom was seen and felt minutes before it was likely to occur, but the officials were powerless to avert it. “God help the poor fellows” very fervently uttered and the excitement of the succeeding minutes of suspense and dreaded anticipation, was all the aid that could be extended. Meanwhile there was an utter unconsciousness of danger

On The Trains.

No. 13 was proceeding rapidly on the down grade, and had turned the curve of Tuttle’s Hill, about two miles from the outer station, when the driver named Grey, saw No. 14 approaching. He had time just to comprehend the awful situation presented to his startled senses, and with his fireman to jump for his life. No. 14 was not proceeding quite so fast, and driver Ellis with excellent presence of mind reversed his engine and called to his fireman to jump. He put his foot on the step of the locomotive, and with that coolness in the face of terrible danger which in railway men is a proverbial gift,  waited until he saw his assistant disappear in a leap on the opposite side, and then as the two engines were on the point of meeting, he made a desperate leap for life, and as he met the ground with a severe concussion, he was made conscious of a more terrible disaster by the dreadful crash which attended

The Collision.

The trains were imbedded one in the other, and the locomotives - disabled monsters, were buried in debris of cars and freight to the height of ten or twelve feet. The engines were wrecked, and held each other in powerful embrace. The tenders were completely buried. Such had been the force of the collision that an empty freight car in No. 14 passed completely over both locomotives and fell disabled on the mass on the opposite side. Three cars of No. 13, containing flour, bran and coal oil, were completely broken to pieces, and the contents scattered around over the track. Two or three cars of No. 14 were alike smashed to pieces, while three others, with broken ends and bearing effects of the heavy collision, were thrown off the track. Eight or nine cars on the trains escaped with comparatively slight injury, and having kept on the track were brought away early this morning in order to assist in clearing the track, and prevent their taking fire. The scene of the accident is one of awful destruction, and the loss to the company must be very great.


The conductors and brakesmen of the train, escaped unhurt, but having had no warning of the danger were so overcome by the shock in the rear of the train as to be perfectly bewildered as to what they should do. They encountered driver Ellis, and the other driver and the firemen were found lying there disabled. The pilot engine came down from the station with a small gang about twelve o’clock and then the officials above learned of the full extent of the accident, and of the injuries to the employees. The pilot at once returned, and Dr. Maclean having been sent for to the city, with Mr. Stevenson, the superintendent of the central division, about one o’clock it again left for the scene of the accident. Doctor McLean at once gave his attention to the care of the injured. He found both drivers and the two firemen suffering; and they were at once brought to the station, and taken to Quigley’s, where he attended to their injuries. Driver Grey had received a severe concussion of the spine; driver Ellis was slightly bruised; one of the firemen had his ankle dislocated, and another had his shoulder dislocated. The dislocations were reduced, and the other injuries were as carefully treated as circumstances would allow. None of them are very severe, and it is expected the men will speedily recover.

One Man Missing.

Up to this time the men at the wreck were fruitless in their search for a trace of a passenger named Willoughby on one of the trains, who was missing. He had got on the tender of No. 14 at Gananoque, and had ridden up on it with the driver, contrary to the company’s rules. He was seen by driver Ellis still sitting on the tender box when he jumped off. He was an old man and either he was unable to jump, or lost his presence of mind in such an unusual exigency. Just now too, a

New Trouble

assailed the rescuers. The debris under the engines caught fire and threatened to make a complete sweep of every thing. Carloads of coal oil were scattered over the track, and if the flames once reached them there would be no possibility of stopping the conflagration. But by the prompt and energetic action of the employees the fire was suppressed, and the danger averted. At two o’clock the missing

Body Was Found

on the side of the track, about ten feet from the engines. It was lying under the roof of a freight car, on top of which rested another car, and under the weight of both, he was instantly crushed to death, so crushed, indeed, that his breastbone was turned into his spine. When the car was raised, his feet were seen protruding through a hole in the car top, and then to rescue the limp, lifeless mass was the work of a very few moments. The body was put on a car and taken to Quigley’s at the station to await an inquest.

The Deceased

was an elderly man, and a widower, and leaves a family. He was connected with a cheese factory and lived near Gananoque. He was very anxious to reach Kingston, and begged a passage on the train, and was unfortunate enough to be successful in his appeal for a breach of the Company’s rules. He had $62 in cash in his pocket, besides a great number of papers.

Crossing Trains.

From one o’clock until eight o’clock this morning Mr. Stephenson and his assistants were very busily engaged superintending the work of clearing the track so as to enable the business of the line to proceed. It was late in the day, however, before the road was opened. When the morning express from the West arrived the passengers were taken to Kingston Mills by cabs, and there met the express from the East, which returned to Montreal. The passengers from the East were brought up by cab, and left by the train which had just arrived from that direction. The delay to passengers was therefore trifling.

The young operator who gave the order for the despatch of No. 13, did so fully under the belief that No. 14 had arrived. He had been an employee for eight years without a charge against him, and had always borne the best character for carefulness and attention to duty. For several days he has been ill, and probably this and the night duty injured his faculties.

The accident occurred at 11:30 o’cock, as Ellis’ watch stopped at that hour from the concussion.

We may state that Messrs. Stephenson and Neilson showed the greatest solicitude for the comfort of the injured and the passengers on the trains.

The Inquest.

At eleven o’clock Dr. Barker, Coroner, proceeded to hold the Inquest at the G.T.R. Depot. A respectable jury was sworn, of which Mr. John Elliott was foreman. After the viewing of the body the evidence was taken.

Mr. Neilson, the Station Master, gave evidence of the despatching of trains by the operator, who is despatcher between Brockville and Belleville. No. 13 had the right of track. Mr. Neilson was in bed, it being beyond his hours of duty.

Dr. Maclean gave evidence of the finding of the body at the scene of the collision, with his chest crushed in, and skull fractured.

Jonathan Randolf, conductor of No. 13, swore that he had received written order from the operator to proceed with his train East. About two miles down he heard a whistle of down breaks, repeated once or twice, and then the collision occurred. He was on the pilot engine of his train, which was in rear. He is not allowed to carry passengers, but they do get on the train.

John Gorman, fireman on No. 14, gave evidence of the collision. About a minute elapsed before the danger first appeared and the collision. He jumped off and was injured thereby. Deceased got on the engine at Gananoque, and was on it before the collision.

Andrew Macadoo, conductor of No. 14, received orders at Gananoque to come to Kingston, to cross here Nos. 11, 13 and 15; was on time, two specials crossed at Ballantyne; received an order there to proceed; was on the rear of his train; did not know deceased was on it; never saw him; before the collision, heard a whistle of downbreaks.

James Ellis, driver of No. 13, saw the head light of No. 14 less than a minute before collision; was ahead of time at Ballantyne, but late when left; otherwise would have been in Kingston before No. 13 left. Deceased was on the engine, but was unknown to witness.

James Stephenson, Sworn.—Is Superintendent of the Grand Trunk Railway between Belleville and Montreal; is of opinion that the operator, John Neilson, who gave the order for train No. 13 to proceed East, imagined that train No. 14 had arrived at the Kingston Station. The operator, John Neilson, is an excellent steady and hitherto valuable servant of the Company.

The verdict was unanimous that deceased came to his death accidentally on the 21st of August in a collision on the G.T.R.R. having been on the engine without the consent of the Railway Authorities

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