Details of Railway Incidents in the Ottawa Area

1882 July 12 - Four horses caught on a bridge at Arnprior

Almonte Gazette 21 July1882

A FEARFUL LEAP. - on Wednesday night of last week four horses belonging to McLaughlin Bros., Arnprior, being frightened by a train, plunged over the railway bridge at that place into the Madawaska river, a distance of over forty feet, and yet were saved without much injury. Last week's Chronicle gives the following particulars of the occurrence: anyone who knows the height of the bridge above the Madawaska river, its open trestle work on top, the large number of saw logs which were at the time floating below, and the darkness of the night at 11.30 p.m. Wednesday, would think it almost incredible that four horses could keep their footing for such a considerable distance on the open timbers, and finally make such a terrible leap among the logs in the water below, and yet swim to shore apparently none the worse for the perilous adventure. This singular accident occurred in this manner. The horses, all fine large animals, had been placed with others in a pasture which adjoins the east end of the bridge, but had got out and were on the railway track when the midnight freight train came along from the south. The engine driver discovered them ahead of him as he turned the curve before entering the bridge, and he gave the short sharp whistles for "on brakes," which were equally promptly applied, and the train brought to a halt on the steep embankment just before entering on the bridge. The horses having taken fright at the approaching train, four of the animals sped along on the centre of the railway track and soon reached the bridge. The night was wet and very dark. The top of the bridge is open timbers placed 18 or 20 inches apart, the only covering being the rails and a couple of narrow planks placed lengthwise between them, barely sufficient for a foot passenger to pass over with safety. Yet along this bridge and trestle work the fleeing horses kept their feet a distance of 25 or 30 yards before they fell or took the wonderful leap into the depths below. One of the horses leaped from the bridge on the south side and swam to shore, another one taking his headlong leap over the north side. The remaining two, however, fell on the trestle work on the north side and could not extricate themselves. The splash of the two horses as they entered the water was heard distinctly at the station, nearly half a mile distant, and the station master concluded that some of the cars had gone over the bridge, he having just previously heard the danger signal of the engine. Mr. Henderson, the baggage master, hurried forward with his light. Mr. A. McDonald, of the marble works, also hurried to the scene and rendered valuable assistance. A couple of raftsman, who had been asleep in their boat a short distance from where the horses entered the water, woke up in alarm, but soon lent their aid in piloting the horses ashore, and in clearing away the logs from the place where the two remaining horses would require to be thrown over. In the meantime the train hands had procured a number of fence rails with which to pry up the horses still on the bridge, as the only means of extricating them, and then roll them over the side and let them take their chances of escape. This task was one of considerable difficulty and no little danger to the men, but was safely accomplished. The first horse struck the water broadside with a loud thud, and soon came to the surface. The last one took the leap head first, making a beautiful deep dive. They were both landed in safety, accepting a few scratches. The water being over thirty feet deep was no doubt in favor of the horses. It was fortunate that the train was stopped before entering the bridge, for an all likelihood, had it been otherwise, the train itself might have been thrown off the track into the river. This is the second narrow escape of a train at this bridge. A few years ago a passenger car jumped the track and broke the couplings just as the train was entering the bridge, and only stopped when the forward end of the car hung over the side of the bridge at the very spot where the horses were rolled over.

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Updated 7 August 2022