Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

  1880, February 3 - Head-on collision at Franktown.

Kingston Daily British Whig 5 February 1880

Collision on the Canada Central.
A serious collision occurred on the Canada Central Railway on Tuesday evening at Franktown station, between two express trains which resulted in the destruction of the locomotives. From what can be learned it seems that the express which arrives at Brockville at 7:45. p.m., on arriving at Franktown was standing on the main line waiting the arrival of the Ottawa express, which left Brockville about to 4:45. By some means or other the Ottawa express instead of going on the siding came thundering down the main line and pitched into the other train wrecking the engines considerably. There were a large number of passengers on both trains and it is a miracle none were injured. The line was blocked for several hours. The Brockville train did not arrive at Brockville until after two o'clock this morning. It is impossible at present to ascertain who is to blame for the collision. The engineer of the Brockville train on seeing the danger immediately reversed his engine back, and both he and the fireman jumped to save their lives. It is said the force of the collision drove the Brockville train 2 miles back.- Ottawa Herald.

Almonte Gazette 6 February 1880

COLLISION ON THE CANADA CENTRAL - a collision occurred on the Canada Central Railway on Tuesday evening at Franktown, which fortunately, resulted in nothing more serious than the smashing of two engines and the delay of the passengers for four or five hours. The express train from Brockville to Ottawa crosses the express going south at Carlton Place junction, but being fifty minutes behind time, the conductors of the trains received orders to cross at Franktown. Conductor Chatterton was in charge of the Brockville express, and had reached Franktown and was about to run on the siding to clear the track for the Ottawa lightning express, which does not stop at that station, when that train was observed approaching at full speed. The engine drivers on both trains immediately reversed the engines, and the brakes were applied to the Ottawa Express, but too late to prevent a collision. The engines struck with great force, the trucks being knocked from under one engine. The engine driver on the Brockville train, after reversing his engine, jumped for his life, and after the collision the train ran back about two miles, when the brakes were applied. As there were a large number of passengers on both trains it was a providential occurrence that's none were injured. This is the first accident of the kind that has ever happened on the Canada Central

Ottawa Citizen 6 February 1880

Brockville 4th.  It appears that the train which arrives here at 7.40 in the evening is timed to cross the express going to Ottawa at Carleton Place Junction but last evening the Grand Trunk train was over an hour late and the Ottawa train waited for it.  After waiting at Carleton Place for some time, the conductor of the express coming south received an order from the train dispatcher to cross the Ottawa train at Franktown.  The above train proceeded to Franktown and the conductor and engineer went into the station to receive their orders.  The station master was out, he having gone down the track to signal the train coming from the south.  The conductor and engineer on coming out of the station house heard the other train coming, when the engineer jumped on his engine and reversed her, but by this time the train from the south was in close proximity and a collision could not be avoided.  The engineer and fireman of the express coming south jumped and the two engines came together with a crash.  The engine on the Ottawa train was not much damaged but the other was badly smashed, but not bad enough to stop its backward motion.  It ran the train back for nearly two miles, the only employee on board being a brakeman who at last succeeded in stopping the train.  The night was very stormy and signals could only be observed a short distance.  An investigation will be held when further particulars may be expected.

The same account also appeared in the Quebec Saturday Budget of 7 Februaty 1880

Almonte Gazette 5 March 1880

THE LATE RAILWAY ACCIDENT. - we give this space in this issue to the communication of ``Fair Play,` who gives the Franktown station agents version of the story of the late railway accident at that place. After the accident an investigation was held, with the result that the station agent - Mr. R. A. Baker - was saddled with the responsibility and dismissed from the service of the company. Of the actual facts of the case we know nothing more than what common report furnished us with, and that not being always the most reliable, we refrained from discussing the notion of the railway authorities at and subsequent to the investigation. We would suggest that all the evidence given at the investigation, if it is procurable, be published; and the public will then be in a position to judge as to what particular official was culpable and derelict in the performance of his duty. Accompanying the letter of "Fair Play, were a number of affidavits. We were not certain whether the writer intended them for publication, or merely for inspection by the editor, and as corroborative of certain points in his letter; but if for publication, they can appear next week, when the writer promises to again take the question up.

Almonte Gazette 5 March 1880

The Late Railway Accident at Franktown.
Editor Almonte Gazette:
DEAR SIR, - a short time since the Central Canadian made an attack on the management of the Canada Central railway, charging said management with being responsible for the recent collision at Franktown. The officers of the company, learning that the facts of the case were being prepared for publication, determined to stifle the discussion, and, knowing full well the character of the editor of the Central Canadian, forwarded to that worthy a pass to Brockville, which he meekly accepted, and repaired forthwith to the head office, where he was for some time closeted with Messrs. Baker and McKinnon. On his return to Carleton Place it was at once perceived that the roaring lion had been transformed into a meek lamb. He deliberately proceeded to swallow all his previous assertions, he confessed that former articles which he had indicted, had been false, he prostrated himself to true lick-spittle style before the august manager and haughty superintendent, and in consummation of his abject abasement, he deliberately attempted to exiculpate the railway officials, and transfer the blame to an innocent young man.
Let it be remembered that all this was done while he had in his possession the sworn testimony of gentleman of an unimpeachable character, that his statements were false and contrary to the real facts. Yet this unique scribe had the effrontery to suppress sworn statements, and deliberately publish a column of self-abusement in desperate contortions attempting to swallow the previous utterances of his own journal. Fortunately for the honor of the press, such exhibitions are rare in Canada but it is well that the public should understand that Carleton is disgraced by such a specimen of the genus homo.
The facts of the collision were as follows: No.13 train, which leaves Brockville at 4:05 p.m. crosses the train from the north at Carleton Place. On the evening in question, No. 13 was 55 minutes late when leaving Brockville. The train dispatcher called up the operator at Franktown at 5:16, sending him an order to detain No. 13 to cross No. 14. The dispatcher was well aware that there was no semaphore at Franktown, and that No. 13 was booked to run past that station. He also knew that the night was stormy and yet he did that which no other sane man, on any properly conducted railway in the world, would have done, he neglected to notify the conductor and driver of No. 13 while they were at Smith's Falls that they had to cross a train at Franktown, though he had plenty of time to do so. Failing to do this what excuse does he offer? Why, simply that he never did it. So much the worst, as it demonstrates beyond cavil that the management were deliberately hazarding, day after day, the lives of every passenger who traveled on the line. I challenge Mr. McKinnon to show that any other railway in Canada is operated under such a dangerous and disgraceful system. The following is the opinion of the assistant superintendent of the Grand Trunk Railway upon the point at issue:
"It is a very strict rule on our line that's no crossing shall be made with a passenger train unless the reply has been obtained from the conductor and driver of the train having right of track in addition to the reply from the agent and switchman at the station at which the crossing is made."
All fair minded railway men will agree with me in the conclusion that the dispatcher was responsible for the accident, at the same time bearing in mind the fact that the superintendent of the line is principally responsible for permitting the business of the line to be conducted in such a loose manner. This fully explains why during the investigation Mr. McKinnon did not examine the train dispatcher, knowing full well that the facts elicited would reflect upon himself. The defense of the dispatcher would be complete. He would say, "I never got any such orders from you."
Upon the receipt of the order to cross at Franktown, the operator at that place placed his red light on the extreme end of the platform which fronts the track in the direction towards the north and south. Five minutes before the arrival of the train he went out and picked up the light, which he left burning brightly, replaced it on the end of the platform, and still no trains in sight. Let it be distinctly remembered that these two trains had frequently crossed at this point under similar circumstances before. No.13 had the right to the main line. No. 11 [sic] had no right. On previous occasions No. 14 had gone on the siding from the north end, letting herself in at the switch, thus allowing No. 13 to proceed on her way. The operator swears that he has never turned the switch for No. 14, that the men on the train have always performed that duty themselves. But what is the excuse that No. 14 offers for not going on the siding? Simply that four cars were standing on the siding and that it would have occupied some time to push them out of the way. The confession is a remarkable one and discloses a state of affairs which will be a revelation to the outside public. This is a statement given in the official correspondence and shows that a little trouble was considered of more importance than the preservation of the lives of the passengers on the two trains. "Safety" is emphatically the first consideration in railroading. The dispatcher told a gentleman in Brockville that it would only have taken two or three minutes for 14 to have got on the siding. Now we will even suppose that No. 14 could not get on the siding, what was the proper course to pursue, under the circumstances. Evidently to dispatch a man down the main line, as both conductor and driver were well aware that No. 13 had the right of way. In place of taking even such an ordinary precaution, the very reverse was done, the train was run up the main line to the red lights, right in the face of the danger, and there remained until the collision took place. It is utter folly to attempt to justify such recklessness. It is worse than folly, it is criminal, when a deliberate attempt is made to shift the blame from the guilty parties and fasten it on the innocent operator at Franktown. Why, sir, the very first question the dispatcher asked after the collision was "What in the devil is 14 doing on the main line?" He told gentleman in Brockville this several times, and in fact he don't deny it. I can prove it by sworn testimony. The driver of No. 14 could with ease have pushed the four cars, standing on the siding, out of the way, yet he deliberately rushed into danger by proceeding where he had no right of way, and in the face of an approaching train. Will it be believed that the officials at the head office, in attempting to justify such conduct, set up the pleas "That the driver came down to the station to ascertain what orders the agent had received?" Did any person ever hear of such nonsense being offered in exculpation for an offense of like character. It was the duty of the conductor to proceed to the station, leaving his train at the switch (that is, provided he found it impossible to enter the siding) at the same time taking the necessary steps to warn the approaching train. The following is the opinion of an assistant superintendent of the G.T.R. upon this point, and will not, I believe be disputed by such eminent authorities as Manager Baker and Superintendent McKinnon.
"If a train stands at the station obstructing the main line, it is the duty of the conductor of that train to take steps to secure the safety of his train whilst occupying the main line, by sending out signals, if there were no semaphores at the station "
I have demonstrated beyond a doubt that the cause of the accident lies first with the superintendent for careless management, secondly with the train dispatcher, for not giving the necessary orders to No. 13 at Smith's Falls; and thirdly with the conductor and driver of No. 14, in not entering the siding, but recklessly proceeding up the main line to the station.
In the investigation, Mr. McKinnon asked the operator, "Why was he not down to the switch to let No. 14 in upon the siding," and "Why he did not proceed up the track with a red light to stop No. 13." It does not require a very wise man to ask questions, but let me investigate these profound conundrums. If he had proceeded to let No. 14 in and the red light had gone out, which it is liable to do on any stormy night, what would have happened? No. 13 would have come on at full speed and pitched into No.14 which, according to the story of the driver of No. 14 would have been on the main track or in the act of pushing the four cars out of the way. Besides the operator had no business at the north switch. It will be clear, even to the management, and it requires a good deal of light to make some of the functionaries of that institution see that the agent could not in human possibility have at the same moment been assisting in letting No. 14 onto the siding and also running for dear life down the track in an opposite direction, swinging a red light to warn No. 13. If Messrs. Baker and McKinnon expect an agent at Franktown to be omnipresent, the nearest they can come to filling the bill will be to employ the editor of the Central Canadian, who has demonstrated beyond cavil that he can be all things to all men and on both sides of a question at the same time.
Now as to the position of the red light. The officials claim that the red light was not burning brightly, but affidavits of Lightbody and of the agent proves the very reverse, and further sworn evidence confirming their statements can be produced if necessary. It is also claimed by the officials, that the light of the lamp was obstructed by snow on the platform, but the only evidence in support of this assertion is that given by the driver of No. 14, who, it will be remembered, was violating his duties and therefore anxious to escape from censure. On the contrary Lightbody and the operator both swear positively that there was not the slightest obstruction to the light being seen. In support of the evidence there is the testimony of the mail clerk on No. 14, a Mr. Campbell, and another railway man, who is afraid of being discharged if his name becomes public.
For the past four years the operator has crossed trains with the red light in the same position, and the superintendent and manager have often been on the train thus crossed, and were fully cognizant of the fact, but found no fault until the accident took place. The former agent also crossed the trains by placing the light on the end of the platform.
Next the officials, driven to extremes, inquire of the operator: "Why did you not hang the red light up on the side of the station." The operator in reply makes his affidavit that there is only one bracket on the side of the station, and that is used for holding the white light which is used for lighting passengers who are getting on or off the trains, this being the custom at all stations. No bracket was ever put up for the red light, and the operator challenges the manager to show that any instructions were ever given to put the red light at the side of the station. Even if the red light were placed where the white light stands, it would not be visible down the track in the direction from which No. 13 was coming, in consequence of the intervention of a telegraph pole, and from the north it would not be visible until a train arrived near the wood-shed. If the operator, upon the night of the accident, had put the red light in the white light bracket where it could not have been seen, would not the management very properly have demanded, "Why did you not put it in the customary place query?
Mr. Stephenson, assistant superintendent of the Grand Trunk Railway, writing upon this point, says: "If the red signal he displayed was the ordinary or customary signal it may be considered he had done his duty."
The operator very naturally concluded, it being in unison with the rules of railway management, that No. 13 had received orders at Smith's Falls from the train despatcher that they would cross No. 14 at Franktown, did not deem it necessary to go up with the red light, but the moment he discovered that No. 14 had come up the main line, he seized the red light and had run swinging the red lamp some fifty feet before driver of No.13 saw it, which shows plainly carelessness. One of the strict rules of the company says, "That at night or in foggy weather, all trains must approach a station with great caution, having their trains under proper control, so that in case a signal is displayed he may be able to stop." No. 13 was running at 15 miles an hour, which I can prove - notwithstanding the assertion of the driver to the contrary. Is this young man to be held responsible for the recklessness of other people? There is not a railway man in Canada and I have spoken to a good many on the subject, but lays the blame on the dispatcher of No. 14. The operator could take no more extra precautions than he did; he never dreamt of 14 coming up the main line and knew perfectly well there would be no necessity to run up south and signal 13. He claims he never expected fair play from the manager on account of the Manager's inexperience in out door work he was incapable of judging what was customary, but he did expect some justice from his man Friday. The young man does not care a fig for the position but wants the blame put onto the shoulders of those who deserve it.
You will hear from me again.
Yours, etc.

Ottawa Citizen 24 December 1926 "Old Time Stuff"

A bloodless head-on collision in snow storm at Franktown, 1880
Engines damaged, but nobody hurt, due to headwork of engineer of standing train in backing up when he saw other train approaching.
On Feb.. 3, 1880, there was a serious train collision at Franktown, on the old Canada Central Railway. The wreck occurred on a Tuesday evening. The following story of the smash will be the read with interest. This story was written by a reader of the O. T. S. from documents in his possession. His story makes interesting reading.
The south bound train was late and the north bound train had orders to cross it at Franktown. The latter arrived safely through the blinding storm and was standing on the main line, when the south bound train was head rattling along at her usual flight.
Uneasy feeling.
There was a feeling of impending doom from the engine crew of the north bound train. This was in the days of hand brakes. Johnson Elliott, who was engineer on the north bound train, reversed his engine and started to back up. This little back-away by the engineer considerably modified the force of the collision.
When crash came.
"The engine truck of Elliott's engine left the track and ran under the end of the platform Elliott's engine continued to back up for a short piece after they struck.
"Elliot and his fireman jumped after they started back and when he saw the other train was not stopping.
"When the trains stopped the passengers on the north bound train discovered the stove pipes down and lamp chimneys broken. The front ends of both engines were pretty badly done up.
"Another engine was telegraphed for at Brockville, and another went from Carleton Place. At about 12 o'clock the passenger and mail on the north bound train will pulled back, the mail, baggage and passengers all being transferred.
Jumped in Snowbank.
"The express messenger of the north bound train was missing at first but turned up. He had jumped and was buried up in the snow bank.
"Nobody was injured in the slightest. Major Elliot of Perth was among the passengers. He was considerably upset at being deprived of the pleasure of hearing the renowned actress Miss Neilson, who played in Ottawa that night.

Almonte Gazette 1 October 1880

CASE SETTLED -  In the collision which occurred some time since on the Canada Central Railway at Franktown, Mr. Brecklee of Smiths Falls, received a severe spinal injury, from the effects of which he has been laid up ever since. The action for damages was down for trial at the late Perth Assize but was settled by the Co. paying $2000.

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