Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1887, March 17 - Passenger train collides with freight cars near Bell's Corners, CPR., Carleton Place sub.

Ottawa Journal 18 March 1887

A C.P.R. Passenger Train Overtakes Some Freight Cars and an Accident Ensures
A collision occurred early this morning shortly after midnight near Bells Corners, between the regular Toronto train from Montreal which left at 8 p.m., and the freight train also going west. The passenger train left the Union Station at about 11.45, and when nearing Bell's Corners overtook and collided with the freight. It appears that six of the cars from the freight train, which was in front of the passenger, got loose and were not observed by the conductor for some time. On becoming aware of the fact and knowing that the passenger train was behind, he immediately went back intending to signal the approaching train but was too late, as the collision had  occurred. The engine of the passenger train was thrown off the track, the plucky engineer reversing his engine quickly, holding fast to his post and escaping uninjured. Several of the cars on the freight train contained vitriol, tar coal oil and pork and when the collision occurred telescope to each other, sending the oil, which became ignited, over everything. The freight cars were in a few minutes a complete mass of burning ruins, all being enveloped in flames. A man was immediately despatched to Bell's Corners and telegraphed to Ottawa for an engine which brought back the passenger train to Ottawa.
Strange to say, many of the passengers in the sleepers did not awake, and if every effort had not been made to pull back the train a serious accident might have followed. None of the passengers were injured, but those in the cars nearest the engine was severely shaken up. The passengers remained in the cars on arriving at the Union Station till this morning when the majority of them, who were stopping at hotels, returns to them. A message was received from Bell's Corners about 10 a.m. stating that the road would be clear in an hour. According to the statements of one of the passengers the flames reached about 40 feet in the air, the oil having  saturated everything. Among the passengers on board were Mr. John Small, MP, of Toronto, Mr. J. Barrack, of Toronto, Mr. Charles Moss, QC, of Toronto, J.B. Carlisle, Toronto, Mr. Ellis, of barlow & Ellis, paper manufacturers, of Toronto, Mr. R Douglas, Barrister, of Chatham, William Kerr, of Messrs. Christy & Kerr, Toronto, and a number of others.
A wrecking train went out to the scene of the accident early this morning with a gang of men to clear the track. Assistant General Superintendent Spencer went with the train.

Ottawa Citizen - 19 March 1887

Railway Smash Up.
Serious Collision of an Express and Freight.
A passenger who was on board the midnight Toronto Express which collided on Thursday last with part of a freight train, a few miles east of Stittsville, thus describes the collision: "we left Ottawa on Thursday evening last, and having passed the flight station at Britannia, all was deemed right and the train proceeded ahead. We had travelled but a short distance when all of a sudden our progress were suddenly chequered by a violent crash, the passengers being badly shaken up and in a few cases slightly wounded. When all had recovered from the shock the whole party started to investigate, with the result that we found we collided with a freight train which had been left on the track, in one of the cars of the freight crushed in was oil of vitriol and other inflammable liquids which were soon in flames, consuming ten freight cars and threatened also to destroy our train. Making the best of a bad job, for the night was pitch dark, a strong wind blowing and in a blinding snowstorm, we dispatched a man to Stittsville to telegraph to Ottawa for aid, and set about uncoupling the cars. Several hours passed away, and then came seven o'clock and with it the long-expected help from Ottawa. Without any further loss of time the train was made up and we were brought back to Ottawa, arriving at eight o'clock" Several different accounts are given as to how the accident happened. One story is that the conductor of the freight train finding that the upgrade to Stittsville was too much for his iron horse, ordered the engineer to take up one half of the cars to Stittsville and return for the other cars sending at the same time a man with a lantern to signal the passenger train. It is asserted, however by the engineer of the passenger train that no signal could be seen and his statement is corroborated by that of the fireman. A closed investigation of the cause of the accident would likely be made by the energetic offices of the company and ere long the public will know who is to blame for the accident.

Ottawa Citizen 21 March 1887

The CPR mishap.
An erroneous report of injury to passengers.
In the report of the pitch-in on the CPR near Stittsville on Friday morning, which appeared in the citizen on Saturday, it was stated on the authority of one of the passengers, that those on the westbound train we're "badly shaken up, and in a few cases slightly wounded." This appears not to have been the case, the fact being that at the time the passenger train ran into the stationary freight cars it was going very slow, and having an exceptionally heavy engine, which is always used on account of the heavy grade on this part of the line, the passenger cars hardly felt the shock at all. No passenger was injured in any way, and the damage done was slight. Intelligence of the mishap having been promptly sent to Ottawa, a wrecking train was at once dispatched. Mr. H. B. Spencer, the assistant superintendent, went out with it, and saw that the passengers were put two as little inconvenience as possible. They were all brought back to Ottawa where every attention was shown them until the track was cleared and they were able to proceed upon their way. The railways have passed through an exceedingly trying winter, and many unavoidable interruptions to travel have occurred on the CPR in common with other roads, but in this connection the officials have earned nothing but praise for the energy and courtesy they have displayed in looking after the wants of the delayed passengers. A city gentleman who was on board the passenger train was seen on Saturday, and stated that several of the passengers were not even disturbed from their slumbers by the incident, and that the reports published were exaggerated.

Almonte Gazette 25 March 1887

A Wild Pitch-in.
The Toronto express, consisting of five of the most beautiful coaches in the world, was coming onto Carleton Place last Thursday night from Ottawa in charge of engineer Schofield. This was about eleven o'clock. At eight o'clock a freight had left Ottawa, but owing to the storm in the air that night - one of the fiercest in the year - the road had become blocked and the freight consequently became embedded in a drift between Bell's Corners and Stittssville. The conductor on the freight sent back a man, and a red lantern, and then all hands piled in to liberate the train. The engine and several cars were freed, and went on to Stittsville, but meanwhile the Toronto express left Ottawa and was coming on in serenity and swiftness. Owing to the thick storm the driver could not catch the danger signal; and on he rushed with wide open throttle, and not until his own headlight flashed into view like a lightning stroke an obstructed way did he realize that he was plunging into the jaws of a dead freight train. The thought in his brain and the crash of his engine was simultaneous movements, but while his engine was plowing her mad way through the train, separating the cars in twain and throwing the halves out wickedly on each side of her, he "threw her back," opened the throttle and applied the brakes. Then he sat still, barricaded by the boiler, and let her rip; and she ripped open no less than six cars. The engine was new; she was of the extension smoke- box pattern, was powerful in every part of her, and had a tender of proportionate strength. To these causes is attributed the inability of the coaches to crush her from behind, and her power to smash the freights ahead. But she suffered frightfully, so much so that subsequently she was dumped to one side in the clearing of the track. Neither Schofield nor his mate received so much as a scratch, and not a sleeper was disturbed. The hands lost no time. With shovels they sought to put out the fires but the fires were inextinguishable, and eight freight cars and their valuable contents went up in smoke, the flames reaching the height of forty feet. The passenger train had also a narrow escape from destruction. It would have fallen before the flames had not an engine arrived from Ottawa and drawn it away. A wrecking train was dispatched, but it took all the remaining night and all the next day to clear the roadway. All the expresses were laid up here (Carleton Place) from all directions, and the passengers resorted to all sorts of curious devices to kill the weary hours. It was not until eight o'clock in the evening that the train arrived, double-headed with the passengers who had been in the pitch-in. Only a part of the roof and the steps of the baggage car of that elegant train were injured. When it arrived, the passengers poured out in rich profusion of dress, and soon filled the dining hall, where they ate with unrestrained ardour. No blame can be attached to any person. The brakesman went back nearly a mile, and when he saw the express coming he waved his light and shouted and did all that mortal man could do to attract the attention of the driver. The storm, however, was so terrible that the driver could not put his head out of the cab, and it had, moreover, driven upon the windows so that they were pretty well covered. The locomotive was but a month old and was the best in the service. It was of course burned up. - C. C.

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