Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

 1908, May 24 - Ottawa Electric Rear End Collision at Westboro, about ten hospitalized, no deaths

City of Ottawa Archives CA-18261 - OC Transpo Collection
Note: The collision occurred on Sunday 24 May, Monday 25 May was a holiday.

Ottawa Journal 26 May 1908

A Score of Passengers Injured but No Fatalities Were Recorded
Motorman of car in Rear Was Unable to Stop. Those in Front Only Ones Injured. Prompt Measures For Treatment of Wounded. Investigation Will be Held by Company.

At least 20 people, most of whom are Ottawans, were injured as a result of a bad rear-end collision on the Britannia line of the Ottawa Electric Railway about 5.30 on Sunday afternoon. Nine are in the Protestant General Hospital and one in the Water Street Hospital, and while the doctors have hope of there being no fatalities, several are hurt seriously enough to render their condition quite critical. Two brothers, Frederick and Charles Byrne, Sons of Mr. Roderick E. Byrne, 435 Lisgar street, had their legs so badly crushed that amputation was necessary in the case of both.
An open car, No. 260, in charge of motorman J. T. Carroll, 596 Albert St. was coming towards the city, crowded with passengers, following the big car Duke of Cornwall and York. The first car stopped certainly at a spot about a hundred feet west of Barry's hotel, near Westboro', when the one following it crashed into it with terrific force. It was coming on at a fair rate of speed, and though motorman Carroll stuck to his post and did all he possibly could to stop the car and avert the accident, he was unable to do so. The front portion of the rear car was practically swept (illegible) for several feet on account of the (illegible) one being higher, demolishing the (illegible) and forward seats and injuring many of the passengers.
Most of those hurt were occupying the first three or four seats of the rear car. Little damage was done to the front car and few on it were hurt. The track is level where the accident happened but as an up-grade lies before it (towards the city) cars travel at a very good rate of speed. The motorman of the car running first, stopped suddenly to let off a lineman who had to do some repairs, and before the one following could be stopped it crashed into the one in front.
details omitted here
"It's an accident there doesn't appear to be any reason for " said Superintendent Hutcheson of the Street Railway to a Journal reporter yesterday evening. Mr Hutcheson had made an exhaustive inquiry into the affair during the day and could only explain the collision by taking it that motorman Carroll became nervous and tried to reverse without shutting off the power- something impossible to do.
" Z. Leclaire" said Mr Hutchison "was on the big car and he has been in the employ of the company for 17 years while Carroll, who was on the small car, has been with us for 16 months. Carroll is an uncommunicative man and while he might answer a question, I am sure he would not indulge in any continued conversation.
"In his written statement," continued Mr. Hutcheson, "Carroll says that he was going at a fair rate of speed when he saw the car ahead stop. He says he began to pull up when 300 feet distant and applied the brake but the brake didn't catch. Then he tried to reverse but couldn't. So I have come to the conclusion that, in his excitement, Carroll forgot to shut off the power before attempting to reverse and, as I have explained, that is impossible."
"The big car stopped between crossings, though," remarked the Journal man. "had motorman LeClaire any right to do that?"
"That does not relieve motorman Carroll in the least. The big car's trolley pole might have come off or a dozen other things might have happened to make the big car stop. It was Carroll's duty to keep his car under perfect control. If he had had it so the accident would not have happened. On that line the cars stop at most anywhere to take on or let off passengers and that makes vigilance all the more imperative.
"Then Carroll says he saw the car in front stop 300 feet away and that he was going at a fair rate of speed. The maximum speed on that run is about 20 miles an hour and he certainly was not going at that rate. Even if he had been he might have stopped his car in 300 feet or half that distance if the car was under control."
Conductor Carson of the large car, saw car 260 coming and Carroll trying vainly to stop it and signaled to go ahead but was too late.
Superintendent Hutchenson puts the property loss at less than $300 but of course the damage claims which may be made against the company can hardly be guessed at at present.
Journal Bulletins
Hundreds of people scanned the bulletins the Journal put out on Sunday shortly after the accident. First the general facts were given and as soon as names were available they were posted up. The corner of Elgin and Sparks street at times was almost blocked and there was the most feverish anxiety to ascertain who were injured. The Journal telephone rang almost continuously and the walks were crowded for hours, everyone on their way to and from church stopping to get the facts. All kinds of rumors were flying around; in the earlier part of the evening there being most persistent rumors that some people were dead. The Journal was glad to set these fears at rest.
Saw collision.
Mr. R. Barry, of Barry's Hotel, near where the accident occurred, was probably the only one on the road at the time who saw the collision he told the Journal: " I was driving along the road which runs parallel to the track when the pitch-in occurred. The big car at front stopped suddenly, and so far as I could see the motorman in charge of the rear car made every effort to stop but seemed unable to. The rear car smashed into the other one badly and its front part was wrecked."
At the Hospital.
Both when the patients were being carried through hundreds of spectators into the Protestant Hospital, and for hours after when people were visiting there, and nurses and doctors were hurrying to and fro the scene at that institution was an unusual one. Drs. Bourque, Whitton, Seager, Minnes and others were on hand and everything possible to relieve the distress as rapidly as possible was done. Hundreds of people throughout the city, anxious about their relatives, kept telephoning this hospital and the other city ones; and many went to these institutions to learn if anyone near or dear to them was injured.
Clock Still Going.
Car No. 260 at the barns on Albert street looks as if it had been struck with a battering ram. On the side step of the front part of the platform are some dark blotches of blood, showing where those injured the worst had probably been. The car striking against the heavier framework of the one in front had practically the first two rows of seats swept clear. The big controller was thrown flat on the car platform, and the seats badly bent and twisted. The trucks of the car were not damaged, but the upper works were forced back about a foot. The little clock which was in the car was torn down from the side, and although the glass was smashed out of it it was still going when No. 260 reached the barn. When the car is seen the wonder is how so many escaped.
Damages to car.
To many there is something strange in the rear car getting practically all the damage, but this is due to each being of entirely different types. The front one was the Duchess of Cornwall and York, specially built for the present Prince and Princess of Wales, when as Duke and Duchess of York they visited Ottawa. It is the largest car that company has, and is built upon an exceptionally heavy steel framework, standing from nine inches to a foot higher than the other cars. Thus when the rear car struck it the higher steel framework swept the front portion much like a scythe would a field of grain. The sheet iron railing surrounding the front part of car No. 260 was torn away. The heavy controller, weighing probably a couple of hundred pounds or more was torn from its fastenings and smashed, and the whole upper works were forced back. Women in the car screamed, and in a few cases where they could climbed up on the seats of the car. A few jumped from it just as the second it struck and in doing so took big chances.
Cars Delayed.
The accident delayed all the cars following, and at that time with hundred spending the bright summer afternoon at Britannia, crowded cars were arriving every few moments. Though there was much excitement, there was the promptest action. The big Duke of Cornwall and York car was not much the worse, there only being a few panes of glass broken in it, and some minor damages. It was quickly emptied of its passengers and turned into a temporary moving hospital. No doctors happened to be on hand, but passengers did all they could to relieve those whom they saw were hurt badly. Word was sent ahead to the city; traffic was stopped, and the big car was hurried along through Hindenburg and down Bank, Sparks, and Rideau streets to the Protestant Hospital.
Could Not Stop.
Mr. J. T. Carroll, 586 Albert street, who was motorman on the rear car, says the one in front stopped suddenly and he had to try and reverse quickly, but for some reason was unable to do this. He could not stop the car and it jammed into the other one with great force. Carroll had a miraculous escape from death considering he was right in the danger zone. He was cut and bruised about the head and face, and had his right leg hurt. No serious results are anticipated in his case. Carroll was pinned to a seat, but the heavy motor switch and other apparatus in front of him when he jammed downwards struck between his legs, which he spread out when the accident happened.
It is said Carroll applied the brakes promptly and did everything possible to stop the car, but in the limited time, and with some of the apparatus apparently not working at a critical second was unable to.
William Kearney, of Empress avenue, was the conductor on the rear car.
Cause of Stop
Charles Carson, 97 Hinton avenue was conductor, and Z. Leclaire, 137 Dalhousie street, was motorman on the front car. They had with them a lineman, and according to the story told this lineman had to get off to repair the trolley or wire hanger.
Leclaire let him off, and had just released the brake to start again when the rear car smashed into his, and the front portion of the platform was soon tightly wedged over that of car No. 260.
A car - said to be No. 61- following No. 260, was crowded with passengers. One of these was a sister of the two Byrne's boys hurt so badly. The startling news was broken to her, and though she tried it every way to keep up, she could not stand the shock she fainted and remained in a semi-conscious state for several hours.
The car following No. 260 could not be attached so as to trail it, and as it was important to get the wrecked one out of the way quickly, as there was a long string to follow, it was pushed into the city by No. 61. The site of first the long one with the injured; then one car, pushing another badly wrecked one; of several cars heavily crowded following; and of other strings being stalled for some time throughout city streets, gave a pretty plain indication that something was wrong and hundreds were running around, asking all kinds of questions.
Articles Missing
Strange as it may seem, several articles such as gloves, purses and small articles of jewelry are said to be missing. Many such articles were littered around the wrecked car, and the fact that some of these are gone would indicate that some light fingered gentry have perhaps been at work. However, nothing of any great value is reported lost or missing.
Some of the stories of the collision as told by spectators and a few of those injured are unusual though it all happened so quickly, and appealed to those concerned in so many different ways, that the story is different in certain points.
Some Incidents.
Mrs. Casey, of 444 Napier street, and her daughter, Miss Mary, occupied the third seat of the rear car. In the crush that came when it struck the front car they were both pushed from their seat and knocked off the car. Mrs. Casey was shaken up somewhat but is little the worst. Her daughter as intimated in the list above, had her right ankle broken. She is making good progress.
James Tierney, Bank street, was on the rear car. He was sitting near the back, and says that though there was a shock there the excitement was nothing to what it was at the front of the car. He says the people were crowded in and most of them realized there was nothing to do but remain stationary. After the crash, those not hurt, took no time in getting out of the car.
Saved the Children.
Mrs. Hercule Charand and two children, and her sister, Mrs. Peter Valiquette, were on a seat of the rear car. Mrs. Charand says she and her sister realized an accident was inevitable. She placed the little girl behind her and Mrs. Valiquette did the same for the boy. In this way they broke the force of the blows and doubtless saved the children from serious injury. The little girl was bruised and scratched about the limbs, but no bones were broken. Mrs. Charand and Mrs. Valiquette are suffering only from nervous shock. Mrs. Valiquette was in the hospital for an hour or so but her injuries were not serious.
Miss Lena Morin, of Mechanicsville, is doing as well as could be expected in view of her serious injuries. Her left leg is so badly crushed, however that the doctors say it may have to be amputated at the knee. However every effort is being strained to avoid this.
Emery Gauvreau, of the firm of Leclerk and Gavreau, lives at 321 St. Andrew street, and was one of those hurt. He was sitting on a seat at the rear of the front car . He heard a shout and turned around quickly to see No. 260 coming on rapidly. He and the others realized the collision was inevitable. Gauvreau was wedged in among the crowd, got a heavy blow in the ribs and had his face cut.
Robert Barrowman, of 214 Albert street, was a passenger on the front car and says that there was considerable excitement on it. He and others helped the injured and noted that most of the damaged seemed to be confined to the locality of the first three or four seats of the rear car.
Narrow Escape.
A brother of Jay Wolfe says the escape of his relative was a very narrow one. The brother said: he was sitting in the front seat of the rear car, right behind the motorman. He says the passengers were very excited, as the accident happened so suddenly. When he was rescued he was found penned down partially under some debris, but he had a miraculous escape, and is not really hurt - only shaken up"
A.M. Rice, artist, Bank street, was on the ill-fated car 260, at the time of the collision and claims to have witnessed every particular. He was seated a little way back in the car. He declined to be interviewed.
Mr. Godbout of St. Patrick street, has his back slightly hurt. He was attended by Dr. E.M. Lambert, but is in no way seriously hurt.
Mr. Charles Lord, of 111 Rideau street, who was a passenger on the car behind the wrecked one, says that the small car was smashed in as far as the second seat. Some woman was jammed among the wreckage of the seats and a number of men were putting the wreckage away from her. Mr. Lord noticed that the two Byrne boys who had been sitting on the front seat near the motorman were holding on to a fence near the track with their legs virtually hanging off being attached by shreds of flesh. About 100 men were standing around but none of them appeared anxious to help the brothers.
Plucky Boy.
Mr. Lord went up to Fred Byrne and with a handkerchief made a tourniquet on his left leg above the knee and took the boy in his arms into the big car. In spite of his severe injuries young Byrne was quite conscious and showed considerable spunk. He was worrying about his mother and said :" When mother hears this she'll go crazy." The boy took things coolly and on the way into town looked up once saying with reference to himself and his brother, "We're a nice pair of cripples from one house, aren't we?"
An idea of what narrow escapes some people have may be illustrated by the case of Fireman John M. Bradley, of No. 2 station, and Mrs. Bradley, who were at Britannia on Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Bradley got on the front seat of the car which was so badly smashed up by dashing into the big car and Mr. Bradley also got aboard. The crush was so great however, that Mr. and Mrs. Bradley decided to get off and wait for another car that would not be so crowded. Had they remained on the car they first boarded it is probable that they would have been seriously injured in the smash-up.
There is a young man employed at the Windsor Hotel - Mike Shea - who thanks cigarette smoking for his safety. Shortly before the accident he was sitting near the front of car 260 when he grew hungry for a smoke. He worked his way to the rear and soon was puffing away. He was hardly jarred in the collision.
Mr. E. Miles, of Sparks street, who is summering within 50 yards of the scene of the accident was early on the scene and saw all its horrors. He does not like to talk about these however, but rather of the kindness of the Misses Barry who came over from the hotel to do what they could for the relief of the injured. Towels and bandages were furnished freely as well as stimulants provided by their brother and several of those injured were cheerfully cared for at Barry's Hotel.
First Aids.
The police from the park were quickly on the scene and with the assistance of passengers who had escaped unhurt the injured were carried into the large Britannia-on-the-Lake car for transportation to the hospital. Dr. Omar Wilson, of 222 Lyon street, who was near Westboro at the time of the accident took charge of the early stages of attention to the sufferers. Dr. Bourque and Dr. Seager were taken abroad shortly after the trip to the hospital was begun. Dr. Whitton later joined the small band of medical men who rendered such valuable service in the emergency. Many of the injured had to be restored by means of stimulants and prompt measures were taken to prevent loss of blood that might prove fatal. Injured limbs were hurridly bandaged, restoratives administered, and every means adopted to alleviate suffering. It is stated that had medical attention not been immediately rendered some of the victims of the accident would have died before the car reached the hospital.
The scene at the hospital after the injured had been admitted was a touching one. The streets in the neighborhood were crowded with anxious people, some of whom were seeking information regarding friends or relatives who had been injured, others fearfully demanding to see the list of those who had come in on the car that they might know whether or not daughter or son or sister or brother had been hurt, others again impelled by sympathy for those who had suffered. The halls of the hospital, too, were lined with relatives of the injured who anxiously awaited for the verdict of the doctors in regard to the nature of the injuries. About the halls the doctors and nurses hurried in their work of setting broken limbs and dressing wounds. As they came from the room in which one of the victims was confined a circle of friends would besiege them for information and re-assurance.
The big car with its load of injured reach the hospital at seven. The doctors worked till midnight and operations that were not done at once were planned for the morning.

Ottawa Citizen 26 May 1908 (page one)

Patients Doing Moderately Well at Hospital Considering Serious Nature of Sunday's Crash of Street Cars.
Citizen's First Account Was Very Complete and Few More Details Can Be Added to Description.

Today's reports of the injured in the collision of the two electric cars on the Britannia line Sunday evening are more reassuring. Only two amputations have been found necessary so far and all the patients who are in the hospitals have a good fighting chance. While one or two of the patients are still in a critical condition, the attending physicians are hopeful that no fatalities will ensue.
Charles Byrne, who had his right leg amputated at the Protestant Hospital shortly after the accident, is in good condition today and was resting easily at noon. The fracture to the front of his skull which caused some alarm at first has given no trouble and it is now not considered dangerous. Fred. Byrne, the younger of the two brothers was weaker when he was taken into the hospital. His left leg was amputated at the knee yesterday and in addition it is fractured at the thigh, and the right leg is fractured below the knee. He was very weak last night, but this morning rallied considerable and was quite bright, though his condition is still critical. Miss Lena Morin, stenographer for William Scott and company, is also picking up remarkably well. She has a fracture below the left knee, the limb is rather badly crushed and there are bruises on her face and arms. She at first was considered one of the least hopeful cases, but today she shows a marked improvement. Miss Driscoll's condition is also very satisfactory in spite of the fact that there is a compound fracture below the right knee and a simple fracture below the left. The others in the hospital are all making splendid progress, though of course some of them will be laid up for a long time.
The opinion of the superintendent and of the other streetcar employees is that the accident was due to the motorman on the rear car endeavoring to stop the car without, in the excitement of the moment, shutting off the power. In his report on the accident he states that he shut off the power about three hundred feet behind and then applied the brakes. When he found the brakes did not stop the car he states that he attempted to reverse but the reverse handle would not move. In order to reverse it is necessary to first shut off the power completely, then move the reverse handle and turn on the power again. The superintendent thinks that the motorman neglected to turn off the power in the excitement of the moment. The car had been in use all day and there had been no complaints.
In support of this it is said by some of the street railway men that if the power had been shut off some distance away, even if the reverse did not work, the car would not have been damaged to the extent it was by the impact. At the same time all are unanimous in regard to motor man Carroll being one of the most careful on the road. He had been motorman for sixteen months, the inspectors had reported very favorably on his care and attention to duty, and only the other day, motorman Leclaire on the big car which was in front had remarked to his conductor on the care of Carroll.
Under the former running rules of the company the motorman was supposed to keep fifty to one hundred yards behind the car in front while running. It is understood that in future they will be requested to keep two hundred yards behind.
Last evening superintendent Hutchinson stated that the list published in yesterday's Morning Citizen was as complete as he had it. There are however, a few who received very minor injuries or shaking up. Mr. Dodtout, 227 St. Patrick street, was jammed between seats and Dr Lambart has since been attending him. He however, was able to assist the passengers who had been more seriously hurt. A. Julien, 265 Dalhousie street, had a hand badly bruised. He was on the front of the illfated car but jumped. Dr Bourque is in attendance.
In the account of the wreck it was stated that thieves were busy among the debris picking up purses. This might be true of some persons, but other more worthy citizens who were on the scene rescued some of the passengers' valuables and restored them to the owners immediately. One man in particular was performing this act of kindness to the losers immediately after the wreck.

Ottawa Journal 27 May 1908

By Board of Railway Commissioners.
A Conference With Superintendent Hutcheson of the Electric Railway.

For the second time the Board of Railway Commissioners are investigating a street railway accident here. Acting under orders of Mr. W.S. Blyth, assistant inspector of accidents to the board, today began inquiries relative to the smashup on the Ottawa Electric Railway company's Britannia line on Sunday, when some twenty people were injured. He had a conference with Supt. Hutcheson of the company, and others, this morning, and will make a full report to the board. Of course until that is in the members have nothing to say.
The other occasion when an inquiry was made was when a train and a street car collided at St.. Patrick street bridge some months ago and the late August Wank met his death.
The official the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board sent here for particulars of the Sunday wreck, saw Mr. Hutcheson and others, and after he had got the full facts returned to Toronto last night.
Mr. Hutcheson said to The Journal today that he had nothing further for publication; he understood Motorman Carroll and the others who were injured are getting on well.
"They are all doing well" was the reply at 3 this afternoon when The Journal telephoned the hospitals. Inquiries were made particularly concerning Miss Morin, Miss Driscoll and the Byrne brothers, who were so seriously injured. The reply was that they are doing well, and it is now thought will probably pull through.
There are four patients at the Water Street Hospital now, Mrs. Valiquette, Mrs. Rene and her daughter, and Mrs Charland and they are also getting along nicely.
Superintendent Hutcheson was today asked was it true that since the accident an order had been issued that people must not stand up on the cars. He said no such order had been issued.

Ottawa Citizen 28 May 1908

Railway Commissions and Britannia Line Collision.

The investigations into the streetcar accident on the Britannia line which have been taking place during the last two days under the auspices of both the Dominion and provincial railway commissions were concluded yesterday. Inspector Wyse of the Ontario railway board has returned to Toronto, and both he and Inspector Blyth of the Dominion railway commission are now at work on their reports.
The Ottawa Electric Railway company holds charters both from the provincial and Dominion governments and consequently both are looking into the cause of the accident. When the inspectors have completed their reports they will be submitted to the boards of the respective commissions and action as is deemed necessary will be taken. In the meantime the contents of the reports and the conclusions drawn by the respective inspectors are being kept secret.
In the course of the two investigations, which were conducted separately, the inspectors viewed the site of the collision and examined the crews of both cars concerned in the accident.

Ottawa Citizen 28 May 1908

A copy of the report of Mr. J.F. Wise, inspector of the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board has been received.
I took statements of motormen and conductors of both cars.
I secured the brake shaft and handle which were on the front end of the wrecked car.  A thorough examination convinced me that the handle and ratchet were in perfect working order at the time of the accident. I also examined the controller and found the reverse cylinder worked alright. The main cylinder shaft was so damaged by the collision that it worked only as far as first notch.
Car to which the accident happened was equipped with a Peacock hand brake, I believe it was in good working order at the time of the accident.  There are eighteen cars on the system with this brake which is recognized as one of the best hand brakes. The big car had Westinghouse air brake.
The front of the car where the motorman stood was occupied by passengers sitting on the front seat. In the face of imminent danger the passengers on the front seat hampered and disconcerted the motorman; he failed to keep his presence of mind and lost control of his car.  This I find to be the cause of the accident.
It is important to have the motorman free from embarrassment and distraction while attending to his duties on an open car of this type as on closed cars where he is within a vestibule where passengers are not allowed to ride.  I would recommend that the front seat on open cars be abolished so that a motorman in the discharge of his duties shall not be liable to have his mind distracted or his movements hampered by passengers either sitting down or standing up.
The OER is well run.

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