Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1904, February 9 - Canadian Pacific head-on at Sand Point.

On 9 February 1904 Canadian Pacific train 7 collided head on with Canadian Pacific train 8 about two miles west of Sand Point.  Thirteen people died and nineteen were hurt in this accident.

Tid Bits by Duncan H. du Fresne, Branchline, May 2006.

The meet of CP trains 7 and 8 at Sand Point, Ontario. Sand Point, is a little town along the shores of the Ottawa River and is located just west of Arnprior. It was not, usually, the meeting point for trains 7 and 8. The meet we're about to read about happened in 1904, just over 102 years ago. And, it was a "cornfield meet", or head-on collision to the layman.

Mr. R. Glenn Jamieson of Sand Point sent Branchline the following article and photograph, as a result of going through the effects of his late Mother. Mr. Jamieson is a retired CN-VIA conductor and a friend of a retired CP engineman, Doug Chalmers (a former colleague of mine) who also lives in Sand Point. So, without further comment, here is the article verbatim, just as I received it:


"Thirteen Dead, 19 Hurt, Sand Point Collision". The Citizen (newspaper) Ottawa, Canada, Wednesday, February 10, 1904.
"In a head on collision between two C.P.R. passenger trains near Sand Point early yesterday morning more than a dozen lives were lost and some nineteen people were injured more or less seriously. Travelling at a rapid rate of speed, the westbound Soo train #7 in charge of Conductor Nidd with Engineer Dudley, collided head-on with No. 8, the eastbound Soo train in charge of Conductor Forester and Engineer Jackson. Failure of the up-going train to obey orders and remain on the siding at Sand Point till No. 8 passed, was the cause of the smash.

An official list of the dead follow: Joseph Jackson, engineer, Ottawa W. Mullen, newsagent, Montreal Robert Thompson, express messenger, Montreal John O'Toole, baggageman, Ottawa Ernest Dubois, fireman, Hochelaga Nelson Robertson, express messenger, Montreal Joseph Chalu, Dolphis Seguin, J. Carriere, M.  LeBrun, Wm. Pouliotte of Whitney (ON) and two unidentified.
Badly injured were G.T. Price, fireman, Brockville J.M. Dudley, engineer, Ottawa and many others (names on file)

No. 7 left Ottawa about 3 am Tuesday, February 9, 1 904, one hour late. It was given orders to meet No. 8 at Sand Point. When Sand Point was reached the engineer instead of stopping and pulling his train into the siding, went ahead.

The night was cold and frosty and the conductor said they didn't know when Sand Point was reached. The engineer either forgot himself or was unable to distinguish the siding when he came to it.

The train went on travelling at a rapid rate until at a point a couple of miles beyond Sand Point it ran on the time of the down express having the right of way. It was a frosty morning - the mercury away down below Zero - causing the atmosphere to be filled with vapour. While the windows were frosted or beclouded with steam and as a result the engineers couldn't see far ahead. A minute or two later the crash came (about 5 am). Hero that he was, Engineer Jackson shut off the steam and applied the brakes -an act which did much to reduce the momentum of the train and lessen the number of fatalities. The impact was awful but it was particularly No. 7 the up train that suffered. Nearly all the cars save the rear one, were more or less smashed though they stayed on the track space with the engines locked tightly together and badly demolished at that. Beneath the ruins were the mail, express and train hands and a considerable passenger list, largely composed, however of those travelling on No. 7. Many were wedged down and unable to extricate themselves.

On No. 8 the passengers fared much better but three being killed while the occupants of the rear cars were so fortunate as to escape with a shaking up.

No. 7 was made up of the locomotive, a baggage car, a mail car, two second class cars, one first class and a sleeper.

Engineer Jackson on No. 8 was looking for the siding at Sand Point when he saw the headlight of No. 7 approaching. He applied the brakes and reduced the speed of his train. To this is attributed the fact that No. 8 escaped with a lighter death list and smaller damage to railroad stock. Jackson stuck to his post according to Father Paradis, a passenger, who was one of the heros of the post crash, and was killed instantly. The wreckage of the locomotive and cars were piled high above him and "we could only see his hand" the priest said.

The locomotive of No. 7 mounted the locomotive of No. 8. The tender of the westbound train was thrown on top of the baggage car of the eastbound train and the baggage, the express and the second class cars followed suit and piled on top of the eastbound locomotive. It was in this mix up that the list of casualties was greeted. It was a fortunate thing that the wreck did not take fire as the lamps in the wrecked cars made this possible according to Father Paradis.

It was dark and intensely cold (-30 degree F). Some of the injured froze to death before they could be rescued even though fires were lit close by.

A hospital train was sent from Ottawa to transport the injured to that city. Wrecking crews were dispatched.

Most of the passengers on the two trains were shantymen, hired by the lumber companies in Ottawa, going to or coming from the shanties west of Pembroke and beyond."

Well, that's it. Seems to me that newspaper reports are no better (or worse) today than they were a century ago. I can't help but wonder why Mrs. Jamieson kept this old newspaper clipping and photograph. Did she know someone on either of the two trains? Or was an accident like this such a momentous event in the little community that one kept clippings of these sort of goings-on?

When I railroaded as a CP fireman on transcontinental passenger trains on the Chalk River sub. which passed through Sand Point, many years later, on Hudson and heavy Pacific locomotives, I never gave much thought to "cornfield meets" with other trains, and during my time there was lots of traffic on that busy main line. No doubt train dispatching and signal systems had improved in the intervening years. I always enjoyed working on the Chalk River sub. - it was a place for "heads-up" railroading.

My thanks to Mr. Jamieson for sending in this historical gem of a flashback to another time in the annals of Canadian railroading, and to my old colleague, Doug Chalmers, for providing Mr. Jamieson with the Bytown Railway Society's magazine, Branchline.

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Updated January 2014