Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1903, September 27 - Canadian Pacific collision between Soo express and a freight train at Hurdman

Chesterville Record 1 October 1903

Express train collides with freight train in Ottawa
A despatch from Ottawa says:- Four people were injured, two engines were badly smashed, and three cars telescoped in a head on collision on the CPR Short Line at the Rideau Yard, just beyond Hurdman's bridge at 1 o'clock on Sunday morning.  Coming into Ottawa and travelling at a good rate of speed, the ""Soo"" train collided with a special freight, which contrary to the rules, had got on to the main line while the right of way belonged to the express.  The four persons injured were train hands Engineer J.M. Doherty, Ottawa; Express Messenger R. Thompson; Baggageman E, King of Montreal and brakeman Geo. Gobey of Hintonburg.  As to the cause of the accident the CPR authorities say there was no reason nor excuse for the freight being on the main line on the time of another regular train, for, knowing that the ""Soo"" express was due, the freight should have taken a siding.  The hands in charge of it however, had evidently forgotten the approach of the express and their thoughtlessness, while imperiling a lot of lives, will incidentally cost the company a tidy sum.
The loss to the CPR is estimated at about $50,000.  The engine, no. 303 attached to the ""Soo"" train was an expensive type and while not demolished, was badly damaged.  The locomotive on the freight train was entirely smashed up.  Then there were three cars which were almost entirely telescoped.  In addition to that a lot of express parcels and baggage were destroyed.  The company did everything to secure the comfort and convenience of the passengers and saw them on their way to their destinations before going ahead with the work of clearing the line.

Eastern Ontario review (Vankleek Hill) Friday 2 October 1903

The "Soo" Train in Bad Smash
The Sault express of the C.P.R. which passed here at 11.55 on Sunday morning, collided head-on with a freight at Rideau yard about one and a quarter miles from the Central depot, Ottawa, and created one of the worst railway smash ups that has occurred in the Ottawa district since the wreck of theToronto train near Stittsville in 1897.
No one was killed although there were some miraculous escapes.
Only four were injured. They were: R. Thompson, Dominion Express messenger, Montreal, cut about the head and nose broken.
Edward King, C.P.R, baggageman, Montreal, spine injured and badly bruised.
Michael J. Doherty, 69, Richmond road, Hintonburgh, near Ottawa, injury to head and sprained ankle, also badly bruised.
G. Coley, brakeman, Hintonburgh, slightly scratched about the head.
The cause of the accident is said to be the neglect of the conductor and engineer of the freight who were on the main line, when, according to the officials, they should have been on the siding.
General Superintendent J. Oborne, gave out the statement that: "No. 7, the Soo express, was running on her own time when she collided with a freight standing on the main line at Rideau yard. The freight crew had exhausted their orders and should not have been on the main line. The crew of the Sault express are exonerated."
The collision took place at 1.06 on Sunday morning, and the escape of the passengers and train crews was nothing short of marvellous. The baggage and express car was completely demolished and ten feet knocked off the end of a colonist car which was full of Swedish immigrants. None of the immigrants were injured, although they were thrown clean to the back end of the car. The passengers in the four last cars, beyond being badly jarred, were not injured.
The escape of Express Messenger Thompson and Baggageman King with their lives was the most miraculous feature of the wreck. They were asleep when the train struck and in different apartments. When found after the wreck they were piled in together under the tender of the express engine amongst the baggage and broken timbers of the car.
The baggage car telescoped on the engine, leaving the roof on top of the tender and the two engines. Both locomotives stood straight on their wheels. The tender of the express engine was hoisted on end, while the tender of the freight engine was thrown off the track completely on its side. The cab of the freight engine was torn off, and the smoke stack and valves stripped. It is only fit for the scrap heap now. The other engine will likely be repaired. The loss to the Company will be $17,000
When the express struck the freight it was running at about 25 miles an hour, The freight was standing still.
The blame for Sunday's accident on the C.A.R. short line has been placed upon Conductor Horan and Engineer Dolman, as the result of an official enquiry held by the divisional supernitendent of the C.P.R., and the findings will go to the general superintendent for whatever further action is necessary. All of the train hands in the accident were examined by the superintendent and other officials, and it came out that the freight train was on the main line on the right of way of the express. The conductor and engineer were ordered to shunt up to 12.50 and then be clear on the siding. In place of doing that they worked ahead and were on the main line when the Soo express came along. It was a case of forgetting and the smash-up was the result.

From the Ottawa Citizen 15 May 1936 (sic)

Tale of a railway collision at Hurdman's Bridge in 1903.
Soo train crashed into freight at midnight.  Four men injured but no loss of life. Impact heard a mile away.  Heavy express engine ploughed through lighter freight locomotive.  Crew of both engines saved lives by jumping.

Here is something hundreds of middle-aged Ottawans may recall.  It happened in the early morning hours of September 27, 1903.  Four people were injured, two engines were badly smashed and thee cars telescoped in a head-on collision on the C.P.R. short line, a little distance north of Hurdman's Bridge.  Coming into Ottawa and travelling at a good rate of speed, the Soo train collided with a special freight which, contrary to the rules, had got on the main line while the right of way belonged to the express. The four persons injured were train hands:
Engineer M.J. Doherty, Ottawa; Express messenger R. Thompson, Ottawa; Baggageman Ed. King, Montreal; Brakeman Geo. Gobey, Hintonburgh.

None of the passengers were injured although some had very narrow escapes.  That none of the train hands were killed outright was regarded as little short of miraculous.

At Midnight

It was just five minutes to one when the accident occurred.  The west bound Soo train had left Montreal on time and was in charge of Conductor McIntosh with Engineer M.J. Doherty and Fireman M.J. Walsh.  It was customary for freight trains to be moving back and forth between the Chaudiere and Sussex street and the freight in question had arrived a short time before from Prescott and was to be taken down to Sussex street.

From the account of the accident published at the time, it appears that at the tower the freight hands had received orders to do some shunting up to midnight and then go on a siding and allow the express to pass,  They mistook the time or forgot the order from the towerman and remained on the main line until it was too late.

Sharp on time the Soo express rounded the curve near the locomotive sheds.  It was then that the engineers of both trains saw what was going to happen.  The exprss was travelling at a good rate of speed while the freight was barely moving.  The engineers and firemen of both trains, seeing the inevitable, jumped for their lives and escaped serious injury.

Terrible impact

An instant later with an awful impact which could be heard a mile away, the two trains came together.  Engine No. 303 on the Soo was of a large type and it simply ploughed through the smaller locomotive.  Though the brakes were applied they were unable to arrest the velocity of the swiftly moving coaches and in less time than it takes to tell it the express and baggage cars and part of a colonial sleeper were telescoped.

Thousands of people who went out the following morning witnessed a hideous sight. Locked together with the smaller one underneath and partly obscured were the two locomotives.  In the rear was an express car badly smashed and then the colonist car with its end stove in.  In the express section there was a conglomeration of smashed trunks, valises, parcels and mail bags all mixed together while the cars were piled up in splinters.

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Updated 12 April 2018