Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1906, September 9 - Rear end collision Renfrew, Grand Trunk

Tidbits by Duncan du Fresne, Branchline November 2006

Here's a bit of history: CN took over operation of the BCR in 2004. About 1 00 years earlier, on the opposite side of the country, another event in the annals of Canadian railway history took place. The Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway (and its parent company, the Canada Atlantic) was taken over by the Grand Trunk Railway (and CN subsequently took over the Grand Trunk by 1923) Yeah, so what? - Read on! From the files of the Renfrew (Ontario) Mercury newspaper, dated September 14, 1906, the following story appeared:


"For some cause or other, since the Booth (J.R. Booth, owner of the Canada Atlantic Railway) Line has passed into the control of the larger railway, things are not running so smoothly. It may be that as part of a large machine there is too much "red tape", or the source of power is too far removed; or labour is too hard to get; or else it is hard to train. At all events, something is the matter. Grand Trunk trains do not run with the same to-the-minute regularity that Canada Atlantic trains did; and there seem to be more runoffs and smash ups. Two Sundays ago the wrecking train came up to Renfrew to raise freight cars which had jumped the track just west of Renfrew. Last Sunday it came back for several hours' work in removing the wreck from a rear-end collision.

A freight train carrying a good many cars containing lumber was stalled nearly opposite the D. Airth homestead, just east of the Fair Grounds, from a "hot box". It had trouble all the way down the line with this box, and had not got as far along in its journey as expected. Engine No. 626, running light, had come east after this freight. It was in charge of engineer Swinwood. It came down through Admaston at a good fast pace, as was observed by those who were attending the funeral of the late W.L Barr. It came through the town also at a swift pace, and on east; and although there was from a quarter to a half mile of straight track between the start of the Fair Grounds and the stalled train, engine No. 626 went dashing ahead as if there were nothing between it and Goshen. It struck the stalled freight with tremendous force. The engine crashed through the van and a flat car; making matchwood of both, and making wreck as well of the front of 626; and jambing the front of the tender close up to the engine. Several of the other cars had the couplings badly damaged as well. Fortunately, there was no loss of life. All of the freight train hands had been gathered around the hot-box, except the conductor who had gone back to flag the light engine which he knew was somewhere behind him, and engineer Rathbone, of the freight, who was under his engine. He had the narrowest escape of anybody. Under his engine, he heard the puff of another engine rapidly approaching. He swung himself out from under his engine, and hardly had his legs clear before the shock of the concussion sent his train forward some ten or fifteen feet.

Had Rathbone been a second later his two legs would have been cut off. The fireman of the light engine was stoking at the time of the approach on the freight, and the shock threw him against the boiler, and piled a lot of coal from the tender against him. He was somewhat bruised about the ribs; and he said it was the most sudden stop he had ever encountered. Engineer Swinwood was on his seat at the time and escaped without injury.

How did this accident happen? The Mercury gathered that there were possibly faults on both sides - that the conductor of the freight, relying on the stretch of straight track to the rear of his train, had not gone back far enough with his flag. Although it is said Swinwood was asleep and did not see the flag. Possibly he was asleep, or it may have been that having passed through the town safely, and expecting the freight was far ahead - not knowing of its frequent trouble with the hot-box - he had been watching his fireman at work and did not look in front. It was almost certainly one or the other, for the engine never slackened a turn of a wheel until it hit the van.

The wrecking train arrived from Ottawa shortly after eight o'clock - it was at 3:30 the collision occurred - and, working all night, had the track cleared in time for the morning express to go through on time.
People walking to the cemetery and going to the funeral had a plain view of the wreck - in fact, some saw the actual collision -  and in short order there was a crowd gathered about the trains.

One of the men had left his pocket-book in his clothes in the van. He found the pocket-book on the top of engine 626. Another had been taking home some dozens of eggs and a tub of butter. He saw them not again.

It was fortunate for Swinwood and his fireman that the flat car was between the van and the lumber cars. The flat buckled in two and acted as a buffer. Half of it, as well as the van, was thrown up on to the surrounding banks; while the other half of the flat up-ended against the lumber car. The observation cupola of the van was thrown on to the top of a car two or three lengths ahead. The front of engine 626 rose on the wheels and trucks of the van and flat; and the wheels made a great conglomeration."

The actual date of this reported incident was September 9, 1906. I received this information from R. Glenn Jamieson, retired CN -VIA conductor of Arnprior, Ontario, with thanks.

From the Ottawa Journal 10 September 1906

Unattached Engine Dashes Into a Through Freight Train on the Grand Trunk Railway. . . Speclal to The Evening Journal.
Renfrew, Ont., Sept. 10. Up till a late hour to-day traffic upon the Grand Trunk Railway was suspended owing to a rear accident yesterday at 3.30 p. m. The through freight going east stopped a mile east of the station owing to a hot box, and was dashed into a few minutes later by an unattached engine going east which did not stop at Renfrew, nor was an attempt made to flag it.
The van and three cans were demolished and seven or eight rendered unfit to .trave! the balance of the train being taken ahead. The offensive engine was badly wrecked.
The fireman waa buried for a short time beneath the ooal from the tender, but was rescued without serious in.jury. No othsr casualty.



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