Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1912, March 8 - Collision between a passenger train and a freight train on the Canadian Pacific near Hull.

Ottawa Journal 8 March 1912

Full account of wreck of Pontiac train in which five killed and 17-20 injured.  Hit by a work train.  Pontiac train was backing into Ottawa--just as it was rounding the curve near the steel bridge over which the Hull Electric cars go --Pontiac express--
Warrant issued for the operator--
Freight train consisted of engine 488 and two flat cars 30401 and 34189 loaded with logs and a heavy steel coal car 54358 and a caboose.  The freight train in question leaves Ottawa every day for Hull with coal, logs and other material.
Passenger train consisted of engine, tender, second class coach 1937 and first class car 507.

Ottawa Citizen 9 March 1912

RAILWAY COMPANY BLAME OPERATOR FOR FATAL WRECK ON PONTIAC LINE Five Killed and Eleven Injured Near Hull Yesterday When Working Train Ran Into Rear of Waltham Passenger Coaches,
Harvey Boal, Operator at Hull Station Apparently Has Fled. C.P.R. Will Hold Thorough Investigation Today;
Inquest Opened and Adjourned Till Wednesday.


Five persons were killed and about 13 Injured in a rear end collision on th C.P.R.. Pontiac line between Hull station and the Union station, Ottawa, about 9:35 yesterday morning. A work freight train going to Hull ran into the Pontiac passenger train, which was backing into Ottawa. There were 32 passengers in the two cars which were completely telescoped by the impact.
The cause of the accident is given as the failure of the operator at the Hull station to give to the conductor on the passenger train orders he had received to hold the train at Hull while freight work train arrived from Ottawa.

Of the injured three of them are in a serious condition, one having internal injuries and two suffering from concussion of the brain.

How accident happened.

The passenger train had come from Waltham and as is the custom, at the Hull station was reversed to back into the Union Station. It left the Hull station at 9:22 and the accident happened a few minutes later just south of the overhead bridge where the Hull Electric Railway line crosses the CPR. track, and between the electric line and the Aylmer Road. The freight train was going from Ottawa to Hull to have some work done, Fred Cole being the engineer and William Short fireman. Both trains were traveling at a good rate of speed and there is a sharp curve just where the accident happened it was impossible for the crew of one train to see the other train till too late. The passenger train was composed of an engine, baggage car, second class passenger and first class passenger in the order named. In backing up the first class car was first and it was the car struck by the oncoming engine of the freight.

The impact caused the first class passenger to completely telescope the second-class car, and over one half of the latter being completely demolished. It was in this car that the dead were. The first class car above the trucks was practically intact with the exception of the seats which were nearly all torn off their fastenings and the vestibules which were demolished.

Statement issued.

An official statement issued last night by the C.P.R. places the full responsibility for the railway wreck yesterday on Harvey Boal, the telegraph operator at the Hull station. A statement was also issued as to the deaths, injured, persons and property loss resulting from this blunder. The dead are the same number as first thought, five. the clearing up of the debris revealed no more bodies. The list of injured is given as 11 several being in a serious condition.

Worked in Ottawa.

Harvey Bowl the C. P. R. Operator at the company's Hull Station, whose mistake is supposed to have been responsible for the accident was originally employed in the Great Northwestern Telegraph company's office here. He came to Ottawa from Almonte and accepted a position as telegraph operator this he later left to enter the service of the Canadian Pacific and about two years ago came to Hull from Pembroke and held his position there ever since.

Official report

Statement as to responsibility and the injured.

That the responsibility for the wreck lies with Harvey Boal, the company's operator at the Hull station, is the position taken by officials of the Canadian Pacific.

"Engine number 488, a transfer between Ottawa and Hull," said Mr. J.H. Boyle, assistant superintendent of the company, "was given an order with right over all trains at 9:11, an order good till 9:25 a. m. This order was sent out to the operator at Hull to be delivered to all trains moving in the opposite direction till number 488 arrived at Hull. Train 540, the passenger from Waltham arrived there at 9:20. The operator had the order which was wired, on his desk in front of him, when the train came in, but he made out a clearance stating that he had no orders for number 540 and allowing it to proceed. It went three quarters of a mile out when it met the other train on the way to Hull.

"Operator  Boal is entirely responsible for the accident as he should have delivered the order to the conductor of 540 and held that train until 9:25."

"We are getting the men together for an investigation," declared superintendent H.B. Spencer, when seen, "we will hold it tomorrow if possible and sift the whole thing to the ground."
Hired Livery Rig

Operator apparently trying to leave country.

That the operator blamed for the wreck is trying to get out to the country is proven by statements made by a livery man in Hull and from a bank in Ottawa.

Around 10 in the morning, Mr. Pelletier of Meilleur and Pelletier, livery men, Bridge Street, Hull, states that a man answering Boal's description, came into the office in a state of great excitement. He had a pencil behind his ear and seemed to be in a great hurry and to be flustered. He told Mr Pelletier that he wanted a horse and driver to go to the Russell, in Ottawa. A horse was hitched for him and Mr Lacroix, an employee of the stable, was sent as driver. Neither horse nor driver have been seen since as far as is known in Hull or Ottawa.

It has been learned by the police that shortly after Boal went into the Bank of Ottawa  and drew out the money he had on deposit there. The amount is not definitely announced, but it is said to have been about $2,000.

On instructions from the Chief train dispatcher at Ottawa a warrant was issued shortly after the accident for the arrest of Boal. Police and detective searched all over both cities without avail.

One rumor was that he had driven to relatives in Graham's Bay. Detective Culver drove out there and found that his friends that knew nothing of his whereabouts.

From the Woodstock Sentinel Review:
Almost under the shadow of the Parliament buildings this morning, five people were killed and 24 injured, some seriously, when the CP freight train ran into the rear of the Pontiac passenger train, which was backing into the Union Station here. All those killed were in the second class coach, which was completely telescoped by the heavier first class coaches and nearly entirely demolished. The dead are: John Moyles, undertaker, Quyon; John Derby, Hull; Katerine Kehoe, Quyon; one unidentified boy and John Anderson, CPR conductor from Ottawa.

There were not many people in the train, or the casualty list would have been much larger. The injured were conveyed in a baggage car to Hull hospitals. Responsiblity for the accident is placed on a mixup of orders. The wreck took place where there is a sharp curve and a deep cutting.

From the Chesterville Record

Five killed. Fifteeen Injured.
Work train let go ahead of time and crashed into local passenger train.
Ottawa March 8.  A train was let go this morning five minutes before it should have moved. The result was a splintering of wood, binding of iron and five people gave up their lives amid the cries of fifteen others injured.
The accident occurred on the Pontiac branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway within three miles of the Parliament buildings.
The Dead.
John Moyles, Undertaker, Quyon.
John Anderson, CPR Conductor, Ottawa.
John Darby, Duke Street, Hull.
Miss Kehoe, Quyon.
E.J. Taber, Contractor, Hull.
Details of injured not taken except Fred Cole, Engineer.
The morning train from Waltham, a little late, had reversed as usual on the Y near Hull, and was backing to reach the Union Station in Ottawa.  This is the way in which it enters the station each day.  A work train was being held at Hull until the passenger train had safely passed. In some incomprehensible way the work train was let go. At Tetraultville it met with a crash the rear of the backing passenger train.
The trains were moving in opposite directions at a fair speed.  The locomotive of the work train came into contact with the first class car.  It was new of strong construction and resisted the shock. The second class car just beyond it was not so strongly built and collapsed like a berry box between the squeeze of the two locomotives.  It was the weak spot and gave.
The result was terrible for those within and the car was half full.  Men and women were jammed with smashed seats. broken glass, fractured woodwork and twisted steel in a mass of dead and injured.  Rescue work was promptly started.  Ottawa was communicated with, doctors and nurses rushed to the spot and the injured quickly conveyed to Ottawa.
The passenger train was in the charge of Conductor John Anderson who was instantly killed apparently from a blow to the head.  The engineer was Joseph Murphy and his fireman Camille Lemieux.
The freight engine was in charge of engineer Cole and William Short, fireman, all of Ottawa.  Anderson was one of the best known conductors on the road.  The accident happened where is a sharp curve and deep cut and it was impossible for the crew of one train to see the other till too late.
Harvey Boal, operator at Hull, whose mistake in issuing an order for a clear track is said to be the direct cause of the disaster, has disappeared and detectives are searching for him.  He is a young man with a good record on the line.
Chesterville Record 3/21/1912  William Kennedy the sixth victim of the railway wreck on the Pontiac line near Hull died at the Water Street hospital at 4 o'clock this morning.
Chesterville Record  3/28/1912  The jury conducting the inquest on the victims of the fatal wreck on the CPR at Hull on March 8, returned a verdict Monday night practically exonerating Harvey Boal, the CPR telegrapher, for whose arrest a warrant has been issued and placing the blame on the CPR.

The official report gave two killed and 15 injured.

This accident was responsible for the installation of the Electric Token Block system between Ottawa West, Hull and Ottawa Union.  
The Ottawa Citizen of 24 April 1912 explains:

Since the wreck of the Pontiac train at Hull last month, whereby five(sic) persons were killed and several injured, the C.P.R. has introduced a new block system between Hull and Ottawa which if it is strictly observed, will prevent a recurrence of the accident.
According to the rules of the present system a train cannot leave Hull or Ottawa before the conductor has obtained a staff which is locked and unlocked by an electrical arrangement.  Only by deliberately ignoring the system could another collision of two trains occur between Hull and Ottawa.  The Pontiac train still continues to back in from Hull to Broad Street station, but, by the new arrangement there is little or no danger of an accident.

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Updated 25 February 2019