Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1948 , July 8 - Canadian Pacific Runaway on the Cornwall Street Railway Tracks

Val Edwards photo Ancestry/ca
Pictures from the Chris Granger collection. See below for additional pictures from this collection.
RG 46 vol 1566 file 22902.12 Board of Transport Commissioners

Train crew was shunting cars in the CPR yard about a quarter of a mile or more east from Pitt Street.  The locomotive, CPR #853, was moving towards Pitt Street tender ahead with nine cars behind it, coupled onto the head end of the locomotive.  A car which had been placed on a yard track, without brakes set, started to move down the track on a slight grade and side swiped the engine hauling the nine cars.  It side swiped on the right side and broke the piping and instruments in the cab.  The crew could not then shut off the steam or set the brakes and had to get off the engine on account of escaping steam. The engine and train, crewless, then kept on going down the track for a quarter of a mile to Pitt Street and started around the 50 degree curve connection to the street railway tracks on Pitt Street.  The locomotive could not make the curve and crossed the street on the pavement and upset.  It broke two trucks and a private car, damaged a house principally by smoke, injured two people slightly, and broke up 50 feet of sidewalk.  A truck getting under the tender probably upset the locomotive.
The nine cars made the curve, went down Pitt Street on the electric tracks to a switch to a passing track and all derailed.
There was a sliding derail operated from a switchstand about 100 feet east of Pitt Street.  It was not set to derail the train and it is never set to derail cars getting loose on to Pitt Street.  It is locked with a CPR switch key and works alright.

From the Cornwall Daily Standard - Freeholder 9 July 1948

Runaway Engine Overturns on Pitt Street
Roars Off Siding as Controls Jam: Two Cars Smashed
Minor Collision in Yard Starts Trouble; All Clear Today
Anything can happen in Cornwall.
That’s the consensus of residents of this busy little industrial city after seeing a runaway CPR freight engine overturn on Pitt Street Thursday afternoon at the height of suppertime traffic, while its nine errant box cars did an adagio down the centre of the street on a street railway track without further mishap.
When it was all over, the toll stood at one car and one truck crushed beneath the overturned engine, the engineer and fireman slightly injured, one man with slightly burned hands and his wife in a high state of hysteria.
Order was restored early this morning after a wrecking crew righted the overturned engine in a three-hour tussle.
Mayor Lloyd D. Gallinger said this morning he intends to order a full investigation into the accident.
Engineer William Nicholson, 52, of Montreal, and Fireman Gerald Suffel, 25, of Ottawa, gave their version of the unusual accident.
"We were backing up with nine freight cars on No. 2 siding," said the engineer. "Without warning several freight cars which had already been shunted on No. 1 siding started to roll down grade and struck the cab of the engine a glancing blow.  The top of the cab was torn off by the impact and steam filled the cab from broken pipes.  Our air pipes were also broken.
Controls Jammed
"When I tried to get the engine out of reverse I found the reverse gear and throttle both jammed by debris.  It was impossible to stop the engine.  We both jumped off the engine when she was doing about 15 miles per hour and was picking up speed at the Sydney street crossing."
His story was corroborated by the fireman.  Mr. Nicholson suffered a gash on his head at the time of impact which required five stitches to close, while his fireman suffered a sprained ankle in the leap from the cab.
The runaway engine then continued on out to Pitt street.  The box and tank cars negotiated the turn onto Pitt street safely, but the engine left the rails, breaking free from the cars and toppling over.
It narrowly missed several pedestrians who scuttled to safety.
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lalonde, 526 Pitt Street, were standing on the verandah of their home waiting for a streetcar.  The engine toppled over practically at their feet.  Mr. Lalonde suffered burned hands as he dashed into the house to escape being crushed.  His wife collapsed from hysteria and shock while the house was filled with smoke and steam from the overturned engine.
Both were taken to hospital for treatment.  Later they were released.
Doing "Dipsydoodle"
"They may say those cars were only going 15 miles per hour, but I'll stake my life they were going 50," said Mr. Lalonde today as he rested at his home. "The box cars were doing a dipsydoodle and my wife ran into the house.  I waited outside expecting the electric engine.
"All of a sudden, the big black engine came around the corner on two wheels and started to slide right up to the verandah where I was standing.  I couldn't see anything for dust after it hit the verandah.  I tried to come in the door and it was jammed.
"I went to run back and something pushed me against the house.  I was knocked out for a second and then I got clear."
Mrs. Lalonde said: "For me it was just awful.  I was just inside the door when the engine hit.  It was too much for me to even think.  Bert was outside and he was all I could even think of.  Next thing I knew I met him at the back.  I guess the relief at seeing him was too much for me."
Arnold Pitts, East Front, had just parked his car in front of 524 Pitt street.  His father, Garnet was in the rear seat of the car while Arnold went to get some water from Albert Lalonde, to whom he is related.
Garnet Pitts saw the runaway engine approaching and jumped from the car.  As he did, he said he was struck by "something" and buried to his waist in coal.  Water from the tender sloshed all over him.  He managed to work himself free and suffered injury to his right foot.  He was taken to hospital where he was to undergo X-rays this morning.
A panel delivery truck owned by Edwards Electric Company, which was parked between the two houses, was also crushed beneath the overturned engine.
The runaway box and tank cars meanwhile continued for several blocks down Pitt street, negotiating a slight upward grade and then rolling back towards the overturned engine.  They were brought to a halt by a man who applied the emergency brakes but not before several cars had been derailed.
Firemen rushed to the scene and rigged lines of hose in case fire should break out, while police and bystanders searched around the locomotive and the wrecked cars to see if anyone had been trapped.
The area around the crash scene was roped off as a broken hydro pole supporting high tension wires posed a threat.
Word of the mishap was immediately forwarded to Montreal and a wrecking crew was shipped to remove the overturned engine.
Many Spectators
Hundreds of curious citizens flocked to the scene during the examining.  Streets of service on the Pitt street and belt lines was rerouted because of the wrecked locomotive.
Street railway linemen cleared away a section of the trolly (sic) in the wreck area to allow freedom of movement for the derrick which arrived shortly before midnight.
There was a delay while the track was prepared to bring in the engine crane which was to move the locomotive and work actually got under way shortly before 2 a.m.  Three hours later engine and tender were back on the tracks, the huge crane handling the 90-ton locomotive with deceptive ease under the careful guidance of the salvage foreman.
A hop crew then took over preparations of the engine for her trip to the shops and refitting.
Meanwhile, an auto salvage crew hauled away the wreckage of the crushed car and truck, while linemen replaced streetcar trolleys in preparation for resumption of service.
By daybreak, all that remained as a reminder of the unusual incident was a section of badly battered pavement and sidewalk.

From the Ottawa Citizen 9 July 1948

Locomotive Wrecks Auto, Crashed Cornwall House
A runaway freight train that lumbered down street-car tracks on the main street, Pitt street, gave Cornwall residents a scare last night,
An unscheduled trip ended when the locomotive broke loose from its nine freight cars, toppled on a sharp curve and smashed into a verandah on which two people were waiting for one of the city's red street-cars.
Four injured
Engineer William Nicholson, 52, of Montreal and Fireman Gerald Suffle, 25, of Ottawa leaped from the cab just before the locomotive overturned. Nicholson suffered a head cut which required five stirches to close.  Suffle sprained his ankle.  Both men were released after treatment at hospital for their injuries.
Albert Lalonde who, with his wife, had been waiting for the street-car, suffered burns from steam after the engine landed almost on the verandah.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Lalonde were taken to hospital, where Mrs. Lalonde was treated for shock.
Afer the accident, thousands of curious onlookers converged on the scene of the crash.  cars and bicycles blocked many roads and at times police traffic constables were unable to clear Pitt street of the surging mob.
The locomotive, in addition to wrecking the verandah, flattened an automobile and damaged a light truck parked near the car.
"It was awful".
"It was awful, terrible," one witness, Mrs Arthur Parker of Cornwall stated. "Steam and water spurted all over the place, coal scattered all over the lawn and the cement curb was all torn up."
Timbers from the wrecked verandah lay strewn over the dug up lawn, some scattered several feet away.
Arnold Pitts of Cornwall was sitting in his automobile when he saw the train come around a corner of Pitt street, the main thoroughfare.  He jumped from the car seconds before the toppling engine flattened it.
A panel truck near the Pitts car was damaged.
All the freight cars remained upright after the engine became uncoupled.  They coased to a stop.
Railway officials said the locomotive, a switching engine, had been standing on a siding which connected with the street-car track system when freight cars broke loose on another siding and struck it.  The impact apparently jammed a gear and started the locomotive off in reverse, pushing the nine freight cars.
Extinguish Fire
City firemen extinguished the fire in the toppled locomotive firebox.  CPR wrecking equipment was being sent from Montreal to remove the locomotive from its resting place on Pitt street three blocks north of the main business area.  At midnight the wrecking crews had not yet arrived in Cornwall but were expected "any minute now."
The Cornwall Street Railway System operates a switching service for the many industries of the city.  These firms have sidings at the three railway yards in Cornwall and their freight is hauled from the sidings to the factories by the street railway system.
But where the companies have no direct siding from a railway yard, the street railway hauls the freight and tank cars along their own recently-installed rails on back streets.  Until a few years ago freight cars ran on Pitt street
The locomotive had been standing on a siding which runs into Pitt street opposite the foot of Sixth street.  When the nine freight cars, shunted from a parallel siding, rammed into the rear of the standing locomotive, the engine began to move in reverse, pushing the freight cars towards Pitt street.
At the curve leading on to Pitt street, the freight cars became uncoupled but continued to roll south down the main street.  they eventually coasted to a halt.
The locomotive, however, jumped the tracks after rounding the corner and crashed into the verandah of the Lalonde home, the sixth house from the junction of the street railway and the railway tracks.

From the Ottawa Citizen 9 July 1948

Asks Probe At Cornwall
Special To The Citizen
CORNWALL Mayor Lloyd Gallinger today called for a full investigation into the cause of the accident which occurred last night when a freight locomotive ran wild on the town's main street.
The mayor said city council would be called upon at its next meeting to pass a resolution asking the Canadian Pacific Railway for a detailed probe of the incident.
The runaway engine careened down Pitt street, overturned and came to a stop on the edge of a verandah. Four people, two members of the engine crew and two persons who were waiting for a street car were slightly injured In the spectacular crash.
A wrecking crew from Montreal worked through the night removing the 98-ton locomotive. By mid-morning conditions had returned to near-normal on Pitt street north. Street car traffic, re-routed after the accident, was again running on the customary routes.
The locomotive was lifted back on the railway tracks by a giant crane. It was not badly damaged but it will be about a month before it is put back in operation. The engine was taken to the nearby CPR yards.

From the Ottawa Journal 9 July 1948

Locomotive on "Runaway" Injures Three in Cornwall
CORNWALL, July 8-(Special). Its throttle jammed In reverse gear and its air and steam brakes smashed, a runaway freight locomotive injured three persons and demolished an automobile and a truck when it ran down Pitt street north, pushing nine box cars, late this afternoon.
The locomotive moved in reverse off a siding, owned by the Cornwall Street Railway Company, when the string of empty box cars crashed into it from another siding. The collision tore off the cab roof and jammed the throttle and brakes.
When the locomotive began to push the box cars along the street railway tracks down Pitt street, the engineer and fireman jumped clear.
The motor vehicles were demolished when the locomotive turned over after becoming uncoupled from the empty freight ears.
Owner of the automobile, Arnold Pitts, East Front, leaped from his car ust seconds before the careening locomotive crashed down on it.
City firemen rushed to the scene and found the locomotive sprawled across the street. Its front end resting a few feet from a residence occupied by Mr. and Mrs- Albert Lalonde.
Waiting for Street Car.
The Lalondes were standing on their verandah waiting for a street car when they saw the train coming for their house. They jumped to safety, but Mr. Lalonde was burned slightly on the hand by escaping steam from the overturned engine. Both were treated at hospital. Mrs. Lalonde suffered severe shock.
When the engine toppled over it snapped off a power pole. High tension wires hung precariously for several minutes before a Utility work crew arrived to remove them.
Fires In the engine were extinguished quickly by city firemen.
William Nicholson, 52, of! Montreal, was engineer of the switching engine with Gerald Suffle, 25, of Ottawa, fireman. Both men were slightly injured when they leaped from the cab. Nicholson suffered a head laceration which required five stitches. Suffle sprained an ankle in his leap from the engine.
Engineer's Story.
Nicholson, relating details of the accident, said his switching engine had been coupled to nine freight cars. The train was on a siding owned by the Cornwall Street. Railway Company, which turns on tb Pitt street The siding paralleled tracks in the CPR yards.
The engineer said the train was set in motion when several box cars slipped down a grade on a nearby siding and crashed' into his engine. The collision ripped off the top of the engine's cab and jammed the throttle in reverse gear.
Also smashed were the engine's steam and air pipes.
Nicholson said the locomotive started pushing the freight cars west along the siding towards Pitt street. The train was travelling at a speed of about 15 miles an hour. Both , Nicholson and Suffle tried desperately to free the jammed mechanism, but were unsuccessful.
When they realized the train could not be stopped they jumped from the cab.
Reaching Pitt street, the freight rounded a sharp bend and headed south towards the city's business section. It had proceeded less than a block, however, when the engine became uncoupled from the cars and toppled over.
All the box cars remained upright, but several were derailed. They were removed early tonight by work crews.
Pedestrians Flee in Panic
Pedestrians and verandah sitters in the area fled in panic when  they saw the lumbering freight round the curve and head down the street. Most people raced into their homes for safety.
Police and firemen soon were on the scene and roped off the area.
The accident which happened on tracks normally used by Cornwall's tram cars, forced re-routing of street car traffic,
The automobile pinned beneath the locomotive was flattened like an accordion. Coal from the tender was scattered through the immediate area.

From the Ottawa Journal 9 July 1948

RunawayTrain Probe Asked
CORNWALL, July , (Spe cial) Mayor Lloyd Gallinger said today the city will demand a full investigation Into the accident in which a runaway freight train careened down Pitt street Thursday before the locomotive toppled over: Three persons suffered minor injuries and two motor vehicles were demolished. The parked vehicles were flattened when the engine fell on them.
The overturned locomotive was removed from its sprawling position on the street early today, after a wrecking crew from Montreal had worked throughout the night The locomotive was lifted by a crane and taken to the nearby CPR yards. An official said the engine would be In working order within a month.
Street car traffic, which was re-routed following the accident returned to normal this morning.
The 98-ton locomotive, from which the engineer and fireman leaped, came to rest a few feet from a dwelling occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lalonde. Mr. Lalonde was covered with soot and suffered minor hand burns, when the engine turned over practically on his front doorstep. The Lalondes were standing on their verandah awaiting a street car when they saw the plunging freight train bearing down on them.

From the Montreal Gazette 10 July 1948

Bruce Chapman writes
CP D-10 853 at Outremont Quebec August 1st, 1949 by George Parks
George Parks was a CN hostler in Moncton NB, but he made several trips to Montreal on his pass and shot lines of CN and CP steam locomotives over the  years.
Here is a pic of the 853 just out of Angus off its overhaul and repair on August 1st, 1949, so it was out of service over a year after  the Cornwall mishap.

More pictures from the Chris Granger collection:

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Updated 23 April 2019