Sunday, 25 March 2012

Railway Disaster at the Junction - 1889 Part Seven

The long delayed coroner’s inquest into the accident at the Y resumed on May 222, 1889. Full Spectator coverage follows :
The inquest in connection with the recent railway accident at the junction cut was resumed last evening at No. 3 station before Dr. Woolverton.
          Before the taking of evidence was resumed, J. K. Applegarth moved, seconded by S. Thorne, that the whole of the jewelry and other property belonging to the victims be handed over to the chief of police. The motion was carried.
          Constable Wm. Rasberry, of West Flamboro, testified that he lived near the scene of the wreck, and saw the train passing while he was at breakfast. His attention was directed to the train by his son, and he said ; “Yes, she’s running nice and steady this morning.” He meant by that that the express was not going as fast as ge had seen her go. He subsequently went down to the wreck and assisted generally.
          James McKenna testified that he had been in the employ of the Grand Trunk until Dec. 9, 1888, as an engine driver. He was suspended for accepting a time order from the train dispatcher at London between Princeton and Governor’s Road, a distance of five miles, and he had thirteen minutes to do it in. The time order leaves it to the discretion of the driver to make these points if he thinks he can do it. He accepted the risk in the case referred to and came within an ace of having a collision with the limited express, which saved itself by applying its air brakes. He went to the scene of the junction cut accident at twelve o’clock. The witness caused a good deal of amusement by his garrulous manner of giving testimony. He said that if he could see an engine’s wheels he could tell exactly what state the whole machine was in, just the same as by looking at the wear on a sole of a shoe you can tell the state of the uppers. He ran for seven years past the junction cut and knew the track well. There was a switch there as now. He sometimes came past the curve at the scene of the accident at the rate of thirty-six miles an hour and did not think it unsafe. All engineers check the speed just before reaching the curve. Did not think the curve and everything about it was beautiful, A 1, perfect. He, however, considered a switch was safer on a straight road than on a curve. The reason it was not safe was because in rounding a curve the wheels hung the outer rails and the flanges of the inner wheels are “tip-toe” on the other rail. In case the wing rail should give way or slide out of its place a little, it would let the outer wheels foul the frog. There are lots of switches on curves along the company’s line and he considered them as safe as running on a straight line. He said it was safe to run past the curve of the junction at fifty-five miles an hour.
          Q. – Could you judge of the speed the train was going at by looking at the wreck? A. (cautiously) – Well, one thing was evident – that they were running. (Laughter.)
          Continuing, the witness said he could not judge of the speed of the train, but thought it was going about twenty to twenty-five miles an hour. He never had any hesitancy in reporting anything wrong with the track and did not know why he should. On one occasion he ran round the junction curve at the rate of over forty-five miles an hour with a freight train. (Laughter.) He had not applied for reinstatement on the road, but might do.
          Sergt. Pinch, of the city police, said that he heard of the accident about eight o’clock from Sergt. McMahon, who had got word, by telephone, from No. 4 station. McMahon called up the Grand Trunk station and asked if it was true that there was an accident at the Y and the passenger coaches were on fire. He next asked did they require any assistance. He next said : “Why men;” and turning to the witness said it was a ridiculous question to ask what kind of assistance they could give. Witness subsequently called hospital, and Dr. Beemer said he heard of the accident. Later on he received an application to have the patrol wagon sent to the crossing at Victoria Avenue. To transfer the wounded. He heard of the accident about 8:05.
          W. H. Ralston, night operator at the telephone office, testified that at 7:30 on the morning of the accident he was asked to call up a number of medical men and the officials of the road. He received the call from Sergt. McMahon, about eight o’clock, to be connected with the Grand Trunk station. Did not receive a call from the station for the police until after this.
          John Weatherston, the aged general manager of te Hamilton and Dundas railway, said he was track superintendent of the Great Western railway previous to Mr. Broghton’s regime. He was familiar with the Y before the switch was put in. There was then a trestlework there, and the curve was much shaper than it is now. He did not believe much in having these point switches on the main line, as they were liable to get out of order, he thought. He had never seen them worked, and it was merely a matter of prejudice on his part against these patent switches. He thought a switch was safe enough on a curve if it was in good order. He considered that thirty-five miles an hour would not be too fast a speed to round the curve, provided the track was all right. He did not think that it would be dangerous to round that curve at fifty miles an hour, but it would not be wise to do so because of the terrible result  of an accident to a train going at that rate, should it occur. He never knew of men being reprimanded for reporting accidents. During the twenty-four years he was on the road, there never was an accident at that curve, and it was sharper then than now. On a curve of twenty-four in the 100, the elevation of the rail should be one and one half to two inches. Letting off the air brakes suddenly while coming down a grade gives the engine a jolt, but did not think it would be sufficient to make it jump the rail.
          John Hall, locomotive superintendent, said that engine 758 was built at Kingston in 1888. She was originally a freight engine with small driving wheels, four feet six inches in diameter, but was changed to larger wheels, five feet eleven inches in diameter. Seven or eight months ago, she had a cylinder replaced and her wheels were turned. Since that she has been in good condition. At 8:25 on the morning of the accident, he went out on an auxiliary with twenty-six men. The wreck was then all on fire to the last car. Shortly after ten o’clock he had steam up on the pumping engine and got a stream of water playing on the wreck. They extinguished a fire on a large heap of coal beside the track. Did not know there were bodies in the wreck at the time, having been told by Mr. Walker, of Toronto, that there were none. Pumped on the wreck until five o’clock. Gave an opinion that it was safe to go at full speed round a curve, and thought that a curve with a switch was not more dangerous than any other. Men were never reprimanded for reporting accidents or defects.  On the contrary, the difficulty is to get the men to make reports when anything occurs. He gave the driver of the limited express a very high character for carefulness and reliability. In his opinion, if the switch was partly open, as by a stone getting into it, the engine would go off the track without injuring the points of the switch in any way, and this would also account for the marks found on the rails after the wreck. The flange of the wheel would pass inside the point and then as the wheel dropped to the ties at the place where the rails separate sufficiently it would force over the east end of the switch and break the coupling as it was found; at the same time the pressure on the “butt” of the switch rail would cause the switch to close automatically, ands this would account for the baggage car shooting past the rest of the wreck. The south wheel, after dropping from the rail, would, in its subsequent course, strike the end of the wing rail and bruise it in the way it was found. He was inclined to think that the breaking of the axle occurred in the wreck after the train had left the track, and was not the cause of the accident. A train came from the west and entered the Y forty minutes before the accident.
          The inquest then adjourned until Tuesday night, when it is expected that a verdict will be arrived at.

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