The Railways of Ottawa

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

Canadian Pacific was Damaged near Pakenham as a Result of a Landslip - 12 April 1887

From the First Annual Report of the Bondholder's Management of the Brockville and Ottawa Railway Company for the Year Ending 31st December 1864

"The Grading is all complete between Almonte and Madawaska Bridges, with the exception of some 3,000 cubic yards at Pakenham Station and Embankment, and about the same quantity required at Madawaska Bridge. The Cuttings are all taken out to a proper width and slope, and the Embankments are "well built and up to grade" with the single exception of that at Pakenham. This Bank, though built very full in the first instance, still, being composed of a very friable clay, and not having had time to become properly consolidated before the track was laid over it, has settled very much since we opened the Line, so that I anticipate some little trouble and expense there in the Spring."

Ottawa Journal 14 April 1887

The Landslide at Pakenham.
(Special to the Journal.)
PAKENHAM, April 14th - General Superintendent C. W. Spencer and other officials of the C.P.R., inspected the break in the line near here yesterday. It was decided to take up fresh ground for the track further from the river, as a large piece more of the bank gave way during the night. Mr. Spencer estimates the cost of repairing the damage at $14,000 apart from damage done to rolling stock. The work of taking up the boxx car was commenced yesterday. A large gang of men will continue work both night and day until the line is in complete running order again.

Almonte Gazette 15 April 1887

On the C. P. R. Near Pakenham - Half-a-dozen Cars Precipitated Down a Steep Embankment - Providential Escape From Terrible Loss of Life.

The C. P. R. Co. have struck a lot of hard luck of late, and there seems to be no let-up to it. What with accidents by snow-slides, run-offs, collisions, &c., and the severe snow-storms of the past winter, they have been experiencing quite a serious time of it. The latest we have to report is one entailing serious financial loss by destruction of rolling stock and impeded traffic, but providentially no loss of life. We refer to the
which took place on the C. P. R. track opposite the residence of Mr. Thomas McCann, a mile this side of Pakenham, early on Tuesday morning last. This spot has been regarded with suspicion for years past by residents of the neighbourhood. The express for Winnipeg that morning was somewhat late, and when passing over the scene of the slide the passengers got a good shaking up, showing that the earth had at that time being wearing away from the track a little. An examination of the wheels of the express was made at Pakenham, and everything was found right. A freight train composed of empty box-cars followed the express three-quarters-of-an-hour afterward, the engine running backward at the head. Just as the engine cleared the fatal spot the tender
at the right side of the track, stopping the train suddenly. The tender was badly smashed, as was also the cab of the engine, the engineer and fireman having a narrow escape with their lives. The fireman received a slight injury on the forehead. The train stood for but a short time when the earth (probably owing to the action of the frost and the water) began to slide away from beneath the track, and all at once one of the centre cars broke from the others and slid with the earth
to the river - a distance of between 60 and 75 yards. Two cars and the van were still left on the track at the rear end of the train, and the men lost no time in making themselves scarce therefrom. It was well they did, too, for after some time another large section commenced to slip, and all three cars were precipitated to the great chasm below. The third car from the engine turned a half-somersault, and remains, minus wheels, &c., bottom side up halfway down the steep declivity; while the second remains suspended over the brow of the hill in an extremely dangerous position. The whole presented
One that pen cannot properly describe. Nearly 100 yards of the track and earth were carried away. The Mississippi at that point will be narrowed by about 20 yards as a result of the accident. The ice was heaved up along the shore as if there had been a tremendous ice-shove, while for acres both up and down the river it was broken into large cakes. The railway fence and a telegraph pole which were alongside the track remained for some time in about the same position on the shore of the river as they had occupied up above, which will serve to show what a large portion of the earth must have become detached from its original position. The momentum obtained by the moving earth may be judged from the site that large clods were
on the river and remain 30 or 40 yards from the opposite shore. Fortunately the box cars were all empty, being on the way to McLachlin Bros'. yards at Arnprior to be filled with lumber; otherwise the loss to the company would be very much heavier. Every car was smashed more or less, while the engine was badly damaged. It will be a big job to haul up the cars that are now lying around promisciously on the ground and in the river.
is laid by most people who have visited the scene of the action to the water and the frost. The water probably insinuated itself into minute cracks, which were widened and deepened by freezing during the winter. The fissures thus created, under the influence of the late warm weather, may have produced the landslip. All of the bed or strata supporting the superincumbent mass may have absorbed water enough to render it slippery, causing the slid [sic], in that way.
in getting a gang of men to work to clear away the wreck and build anew the portion of the track that was taken away. Mr. H. B. Spencer, assistant superintendent, was early on the scene, with a large staff, to look after the interests of the company. The passengers and baggage on the express from Winnipeg were transhipped about nine o'clock, a special train being sent down for the purpose, so that comparatively little delay was experienced by travelers. It will take two or three days to get the track in shape again. In the meantime freight is accumulating at the stations in this neighbourhood.
Since the above was written some ten or fifteen feet of earth where the new track was being laid has disappeared, necessitating a considerable increase of work and more of a circuit in order to get a safe bed for the rails. A very large staff of men has been put on, and the work is being pushed ahead as rapidly as the circumstances will permit.

Almonte Gazette 22 April 1887

The Pakenham Landslide
has been visited by thousands of people during the past ten days. Mr Spencer estimates the loss to the company by means of it at about $15,000. The route through Mr. McCann's field was ready for the first train last Saturday afternoon. The rails were laid on the ground, making it a pretty rough piece of road, with quite a hill to climb at the end next Pakenham. It required two engines and a pretty full head of steam to accomplish the trip. Freight has been accumulating very rapidly, and on Sunday train after train was rushed through in order to catch up. The cars that went down with the slide will be fished up and repaired

Renfrew Mercury 22 April 1887

Mr. Spencer, general superintendent, estimated that the cost of repairing the damage to the C.P.R. line by the land slip at Pakenham, will be about $14,000, apart from the injury done to the rolling stock.  After building a line along the brow of the hill which was left, a portion of that also slid down, and then the Company concluded that it was useless to look for a safe line in that vicinity, and purchasing the right of way thorugh some fields, they changed the course of the line materially.  By the beginning of this week the trains were running pretty nearly on time again.

Ottawa Journal 23 April 1887

The landslide on the C.P.R. at Pakenham has given the company some trouble and they have been obliged to purchase the right of way through some fields and make a detour with the line.

Almonte Gazette 29 April 1887

Another Slide.
On Friday night last about  twenty feet more of the earth at the scene of the accident near Pakenham slid away, taking with it the portion that had been partially prepared for the rails. This proves that it was a wise move to make the circuit through the fields. The officials of the road have not yet decided whether they will make the route now in use permanent or build trestle-work and use the old route. In either case it will be quite a big job

Renfrew Mercury 29 April 1887

When Mr. Spencer asked the man who, with his team, was portaging trunks, express &c. around by the fields at the Pakenham landslide, how much he intended to charge, he looked up with face of high anticipation on deck and made reply: "One dollar an hour."  Mr. Spencer was thunderstruck and went like a rocket to Pakenham where he made a contract on proper terms for three strapping teams.  Central Canadian.

Almonte Gazette 27 May 1887

The C.P.R. have decided to build trestle-work across the place where the late landslip took place near Pakenham.  The work will be gone on with at once.

Almonte Gazette 10 June 1887

THE WASHOUT. Quite a gang of men have been at work for the past couple of weeks at the washout above here on the C.P.R. and expect to have itcompleted in about four weeks. The job looks as if it would be a good, serviceable one. We trust it may prove to be so.

Almonte Gazette 28 June 1887

For the last five weeks a large gang of men have been at work for the C.P.R. making a trestle bridge over the part of the line where the land-slide took place last April. Neither pains nor money have been wanting in order to make the place quite secure, and from this time forwars the trains will run on the old track

Almonte Gazette 20 June 1890

The C.P.R. intend raising the railway track here four feet in order to lessen the grade. Where the landslide took place opposite Mr. McCann's farm will be filled in and the track straightened at Morrisons crossing. It is also said that a new station is to be erected on the side of the track next the village. This is a much needed improvement, as when freight trains are on the siding there is much delay and annoyance in getting to and from the station.

Almonte Gazette 19 May 1893

Where the landslide took place on the C.P.R. on McCann's farm, near this place, the continual wet weather has caused the clay to settle, and it is being closely watched by the railway men here.

Updated 20 May 2023

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