Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Railway Disaster at the Junction - 1889 Part Three

The third day’s coverage from the Spectator relating to the follow up to the major Grand Trunk Railway accident of April 29, 1889 :   
Yesterday morning there was considerable agitation apparent among the railway authorities here. General Manager Hickson had arrived from Montreal in his official car to ascertain why so many people had been killed on the southern division lately. He arrived on the 9:20 train from Toronto, and the fine, large engine Princess was attached to his car to take it out to the scene of the accident. Mr. Armstrong appeared with an immense armful of maps and plans, and the general manager, accompanied by Joseph Hobson (chief engineer), W. W. Pope (of the solicitor’s office), Joseph Wallace (chief clerk), and Samuel Barker (superintendent of the Northern and Northwestern division), started for the scene of the wreck and spent an hour there looking over the ground. Then they returned and examined the debris which is piled on cars in the yard. Mr. Hickson was seen by a reporter after his examination was concluded and asked if he had decided what caused the accident. “I have seen all that is to be seen in connection with the accident,” he said, “but I really can’t undertake to express any opinions while the matter is in the hands of the coroner. I would be glad to afford the Spectator any information, but it would not be right for me to express an opinion until the jury has given its verdict. I may say that when the inquest is over, a rigid investigation will be made, independent of that, by me in the interests of the company.”
          “I understand you are also going out to St. George this afternoon,” said the reporter. “Will the investigation which you propose to make cover both disasters?”
          “I think I will go over to St. George before I return, but that has already been investigated.”
          “As a result of this disaster at the cut will any change be made in the road at that point with a view to taking off part of the sharp curve at the foot of the grade?”
          “No, I don’t see that there is any necessity for it. The fact that there was an accident there does not prove that the spot is dangerous. The track has been the same there since it was built, and no accident ever happened at that particular spot before.”
          “It has been generally considered dangerous though. I understand Senator Sanford wrote to you some years ago pointing out the fact, and suggesting it be altered to lessen the curve?”
          Mr. Hickson smiled : “You know how that sort of thing is. If you were to see the number of letters I get in a year offering gratuitous advice you would appreciate the fact that running a railroad is something like running a newspaper.”
          It is said, Mr. Hickson, that the locomotives used on the Grand Trunk fast trains are not of sufficiently good class for the purpose, and that to this fact the recent accidents are attributable?”
          “All nonsense. The engines we use on our fast trains are as good as any on the continent. In fact, they are the best that can be got. The engine on the limited express was built in Kingston on the best model, and has only been in use six years.”

          The railroad authorities have been having the contents of the unclaimed baggage saved from the wreck investigated, with a view to ascertaining who the dead folk are. This morning they obtained the following list : H. Levy, Chicago; Mrs. Smith (no address); Capt. Butler, Cook county insane asylum, near Chicago; F. Randall Orr, Omaha, Neb. Also another piece of baggage belonging to a lady, in which the owner’s name does not appear.

Colvin, 550 Warren avenue, Chicago, arrived here  this morning in search of the body of Morgan R. Scullin, of 781 West Lake street, Chicago. Mr. Colvin examined the burnt remains and identified a body as that of Mr. Scullin by a fragment of the coat and waistcoat. The body was the one thought to be that of Mr. Curnick yesterday.  Mr. Colvin left for Chicago with the remains this afternoon.
Mr. Hall, locomotive superintendent, has discovered that in addition to one axle of  the engine truck being broken, the outside, or north wheel in front, had five pieces broken off it, and the fragments were found and brought in front the wreck this afternoon. The pilot of the engine was buried seven feet down in the sand. It is now thought that the accident was caused by the front outside wheel breaking and taking the guide rail instead of the proper one.
                   Toronto Globe
            Charles Fraser, who was mentioned in yesterday’s Globe as a probable victim of the awful accident of Sunday morning at the Y, is well known in this city, having been a resident here for some years. That he is among the killed is now certain, his brother Andrew having yesterday identified a watch chain found in the debris as that of his brother, and, still further, Mr. Stiff, G. T. R. superintendent, telegraphed last evening that the pass on which Fraser was checked at Windsor on the ill-fated train. There are circumstances attending the death of poor Charles Fraser of a most melancholy character, plunging, as it does, a wife and living relatives in unutterable grief. Six months ago, he left the city for Omaha, laving his wife in Toronto until such time as he was in a position to send for her. He succeeded in getting a good position in the Union express company, of his adopted city, and three weeks ago, in great hopes of a prosperous future, took steps to remove his family there. His furniture was shipped ten days ago, and his wife meanwhile remained with friends until her husband should arrive for her. He wrote Mrs. Fraser that he would in Toronto at latest on Sunday or Monday, but the stated time came to find him amongst the twenty so frightfully and tragically killed. The poor young widow is left with two children, and her grief at the loss of a husband, whose life was devoted to her interests, may well be imagined. The deceased was a brother of Mrs. Ramsay, of Grange avenue, who is now in Omaha, where she went two weeks ago. He was a prominent member of the Gaelic society, always taking a keen interest in everything pertaining to the maintenance of Scottish sentiment, and his death, of which there is no doubt, will be lamented by a large circle of friends.
          Another Toronto man was also a victim of the disaster, at least circumstances point strongly to that conclusion. George Duthie left this city some twenty years ago for Kansas City, where he has continuously remained ever since. Last week he wrote to his parents, who live at 263 Adelaide street west, that he would leave Kansas with his wife on Friday for Toronto to pay them a short visit. He did leave as stated, but up to a late hour last night, he had not arrived. His brother went over to Hamilton yesterday to try and find some trace of the missing ones among the ruins. He found two ticket stubs bearing the Kansas station stamp, the numbers being forty and forty-one, thus leaving no doubt, when the other circumstances are taken into consideration, that the unfortunate couple perished with the others. This is another touching incident of the deplorable accident. The unfortunate man did not see his aged father and mother for twenty years, and no doubt the son was as rejoiced at the prospect of meeting them as they were to again see a son from whom they had been so long separated. He was a man of about 40 years of age, of medium height and dark complexion.

                   THE INQUEST
          The adjourned inquest into the cause of the recent railway disaster at the junction was resumed last evening at No. 3 police station, before Dr. A. Woolverton. There was a large attendance of auditors. Joseph Hickson, general manager of the Grand Trunk railway, was present accompanied by John Bell, Q. C., solicitor for the road; Samuel Barker, superintendent of the Northern and Northwestern division; Jos. Hobson, chief engineer; James McLerie, freight agent; John Proctor, director; C. K. Domville, locomotive superintendent; Joseph Wallace, chief clerk; and Mr. Larmour. A shorthand writer was present on behalf of the Grand Trunk to report the evidence taken by the coroner.
          On opening the inquest, the coroner said that Mr. Hickson would like to address a few remarks to the jury.
          Mr. Hickson came forward and said : I only desire to express the regret of the directors and the sorrow of myself and the other officials of the Grand Trunk at the sad calamity that happened near your city on Sunday morning. It is a matter of deep sorrow to myself and the officers of the railway, and I desire to say that any assistance the jury may wish from the officers of the company will be cheerfully put before you. We desire a full investigation of the circumstances.
          Mr. Littlehales, before the taking of evidence commenced, said that as none of the jury had any experience in examining witnesses, he would ask the coroner to have the crown attorney present.
          C. R. Smith, another juror, said it might be necessary to have a counsel and also experts. He moved that the coroner request the attorney-general to grant financial aid for the purpose of paying the expense of such assistance.
          The motion was put and carried unanimously.
          Dr. Woolverton said he would have the recommendation conveyed to the attorney-general. He thought it would be impossible to have Mr. Crerar present at that session.
          Wm. Galbreaith, night station-master at London, was the first witness. He said : Have occupied that position for one year. The train arrived there in two portions from Sarnia and Detroit, and was amalgamated there. It was composed of two baggage cars, a smoker, two first-class coaches, a sleeper, a first-class coach and three sleepers in that order. It was about an average train. It was due to leave London at 4:45, but left that morning ten minutes late. An unusual number of passengers got off at London. The train was examined there and a fresh engine put on.
          Thomas McHattie, locomotive fireman at London, was sworn : Have been in that position at London one month, and before that was at Palmerston. Am responsible for seeing that any necessary repairs are made and that all engines go out in good order. Was not present when the engine of the limited express went out, but saw the engine the day before. It came in two days before. Two drivers and two engines run this train, and during the two days one of the drivers was laid off and the other did double service. Did not examine engine 738 personally. It is one of the largest and strongest engines on the road and is comparatively new, having been overhauled recently. New wheels were put under the engine truck on March 6, 1889. The express engines are given special care and examined by the driver every time he comes in from a trip. When the driver finds that repairs are necessary it is witness’ duty to see that they are carried out. The car examiners test the engine wheels as well as the cars. So far as reports showed, engine 738 was in perfect running order. A train of ten cars should take two men not less than five minutes to tap the wheels. It could not be done in a proper manner in three minutes, he thought.
          Capt. Wm. Hall, Toronto, sworn, said : Was a passenger on the train from Detroit, and occupied a berth in the sleeper until the train reached Harrisburg, when he was aroused by the tapping of the car wheels by the examiners. Got up then, and the berth was shut up and he took his seat. The speed from Dundas down was about twenty-five miles an hour. Was in the fifth car from the engine, and thought the car was well-filled. First indication of anything being wrong was a kind of “shock concussion,” as if the train had struck something. Then the car went ahead. There was no noise of breaking glass or timber, and the engine did not whistle. Then the car jumped the track, bumped about and stopped. From the time of the concussion, the car ran two or three lengths. Got off on the north side of the track, east of the switch, and observed the passengers coming out of the car ahead, which had its end knocked in. Saw the ladies stepping out over the timbers as cool and unconcerned as possible. Heard no noise or screaming anywhere. Looked for the enginemen, and could not find the engine for a while, as it was buried under timbers. Met the fireman walking past the engine, and some one said to look out, as the boiler might explode. Witness suggested that some one should go back and flag any oncoming train. Thought no one was specially hurt. Then started with Mr. Dixon to telegraph to Hamilton, but the conductor went instead. About that moment, the flames, which he hadn’t noticed before, broke through the roof of a car that had been telescoped. The flame was fully ten feet wide when it shot up into his view. It originated in the mass of wood next to the engine, but did not catch fire from the engine. The fire got a draft from somewhere and spread very rapidly. Witness ran down to the telegraph office and saw a train coming up on the Toronto track.  Went on from there to Hamilton thinking no one was hurt, and that the accident was not serious. The track, he said, was moved laterally two or three inches in a southerly direction. It was two or three minutes from the time of the accident that the conductor reached the telegraph office. Could not see the smoker after the accident. Three cars were jumbled up together, and the fire originated in the heap. Heard no one say that there was anyone under the wreck. Did not see any appliances there to put out the fire, and did not notice any efforts made to put it out. The fire was too large to be put out by ordinary appliances. On cross-examination witness said he was formerly bridge inspector on the Grand Trunk, but now owns vessels on the upper lakes.
          David Walker, of the Walker house, Toronto, said he was on his way home from Chicago, and was riding on the last car on the train, the sleeper Montpelier. The car was very full with people going to the Washington centennial. Went to sleep before the Detroit river was reached and awoke in Paris. On coming near the scene of the accident was standing at the door of the car talking with the brakeman, and on looking at his watch saw that it was 6:50. Immediately afterwards felt a concussion, and was thrown against the door, and then thrown backwards. Felt as though the car was off the track and then the train stopped suddenly. When he got off he saw the engine lying on the north side of the track and water rushing down the embankment from the broken tank. Helped to carry out three wounded who were underneath the smoking car. Looked underneath the car again and didn’t see anyone, but another man was looking in from the side and neither could see anything. Looked under another car with cane chairs, but could see no one else. Subsequently met the engine men and the baggage man, and the latter told him that several persons from the smoker had been dumped into the baggage car. Saw the flames commence to shoot up a short time afterwards and went through the cars waking up the people. The flames spread very rapidly and as soon as they reached a car would rush through it like a funnel. Uncoupled the last two cars and with the help of several men ran them back. Then witness went to the right side of the track and saw a dead body lying there. In a few minutes an engine arrived from Hamilton and the men called on the passengers that could to come on board. Witness asked if they had brought out any doctors and they said no, being Sunday morning they could not get an answer to their telephone messages. There was a heap of debris over the locomotive, which he thought was the remains of the tank. Did not hear any screams or groans under the wreck. The cars were on fire when the first auxiliary came up, but the cars had not all caught fire when the second auxiliary came, about eight o’clock. Thought the train was not running more than twenty-five miles an hour for some time before the accident.
          James Dargie, the man who tried the wheels at Harrisburg, said it was his duty to examine the wheels and brakes of all trains that came in there. The wheel-tappers begin at the rear of the train and tap every wheel except the drivers, one man going on each side of the train. Remember tapping the wheels of the limited express on Sunday morning. It is timed to arrive there at 6:23. Examined all the wheels on the south side of the train, including the front wheels of the engine. Thought it took him five or six minutes to do it. Found no defect in any of the wheels. Occasionally do find defects, and always take the car off and replace it. The train stops there on purpose to be examined.
          Alexander Dargie, brother of the last witness, said he tapped the other side of the train and found it all right.
          Alexander Douglas, London, said he was a yardsman there and made up all trains. Made up the limited express with ten cars.
          The inquest then adjourned until Friday evening at 7:30. The jury will go out to have another look at the locality this afternoon.

          Mrs. McLeod, of Toronto, looked over the watches in the superintendent’s office, but found none she could identify.
          Mr. Dougherty, the traveller for J. M. Williams & Co., has been heard from. His wife received a telegram from Wiarton saying he is all right.
          Yesterday Chief McKinnon received a letter from William Long, of New York, inquiring about Henry Pringle, a young man from Chicago, who is supposed to have been killed. He had about $150 in gold in his possession.
          David Booth, of Toronto, who was supposed to have been one of the victims, has been heard from. He is safe in Chicago, not having started for home.
          The fact that more watches than there are victims were found in the wreck has been explained by the fact that one of the passengers was an agent for the Waterbury watch company and had several time keepers in his hand baggage.
          The public may as well understand that William Burrwell, who lives near the scene of the recent accident, did not charge anybody a dollar for keeping a horse on the day of the accident; neither did any horse remain in his yard all day without food.
          General Manager Hickson went out to St. George to see the wounded who still remained there, and subsequently visited the wounded from the junction at the hospital here. There are six wounded still at St. George : Mr. and Mrs. Marshall; W. Benedict, Belleville; Dr. Le Quesne, Cleveland; Miss Andrews, Belleville; and Thomas N. Doutney, temperance lecturer.
          Eugene P. Newhall, formerly of the SPECTATOR staff, and now of Omaha, arrived in the city yesterday in search of his brother-in-law, C. J. Fraser, of Toronto. Mr. Newhall traced the missing man as far as Detroit, and when he arrived here he found that Fraser’s watch had been found in the debris and identified by a Toronto relative, so that there is no doubt whatever that Fraser was one of the victims.

          “The Railway Horror”
        Spectator.   May 2, 1889
        The week’s WEEKLY SPECTATOR, published this morning, contains a graphic description of the terrible railway accident at the junction cut, list of the killed and injured, identification of the bodies, inquest to date, etc. May be had at SPECTATOR counting room, in wrappers, ready for mailing, 4 cents per copy. Also for sale at the bookstores.”

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