Monday, 26 March 2012

Railway Disaster at the Junction - 1889 Part Eight

The inquest into the cause of the junction wreck gets bogged down in legal matters before further testimony was given at the May 28, 1889 session, full Spectator account follows :
       The apparently interminable inquest on the junction cut railway accident was continued last evening at No. 3 police station before Dr. A. Woolverton, and again adjourned until Tuesday next.
          Chief McKinnon stated that he had spoken to Mr. Stiff in regard to the delivery up to him of the relics found in the wreck, and Mr. Stiff referred him to the company’s solicitor, Mr. Bell. Mr. Bell refused to deliver up the relics at present, but said that they would be kept for examination by relatives, and he would give the chief an inventory of all the relics in their possession. The reason for doing this is in order to protect the company from imposition.
          Mr. Applegarth asked the coroner if the company could be compelled to give the relics up.
          Dr. Woolverton said he had consulted the crown attorney regarding his power to make the company give up the relics, but got little satisfaction from him. He inferred that it was because he did not give the crown attorney a fee.
          Mr. Thorne suggested that part of the money at the credit of the jury be used to obtain legal advice.
          Mr. Pope, assistant solicitor for the company, said the company had no intention of keeping the articles permanently, but until the rightful owners had a chance to claim them. The company would give an inventory to the chief of police.
          Mr. Magill thought the Grand Trunk should grant the request of the jury, as the articles did not belong to the company and should be in the possession of the authorities.
          Mr. Thorne thought a test case should be made of it.
          The coroner had confidence in the company and thought every practical purpose would be served by having an inventory.
          Mr. Alexander moved, seconded by Mr. Thorne, that legal advice be obtained on the subject.
          Mr. Smith moved, in amendment, seconded by Mr. Luxton, that the company be requested simply to furnish a proper inventory of the relics.
          A protracted discussion then ensued among the jurors on the parliamentary law on the subject, and after nearly an hour had been wasted, the amendment was carried.
          Wm. McClure, car foreman, stated that he had held that position since 1876, and his duty was to attend to the running and rebuilding of cars. He reached the scene of the accident at 8:10. Mr. Nelson called his attention to the switch, and he found the west truck of one of the cars on top of the switch, four wheels being east of the points. The switch was alright and could not have been moved with the car in that position. On the following day, while clearing the wreck, he found the broken axle of the engine about twelve feet west of the locomotive, with the axles sticking up. One wheel was broken, and a piece of the flange was found, but he could not discover where it was found, or by whom. The piece was quite bright at the break, and had evidently not been under the fire or water, but must have lain somewhere outside the wreck. It was a piece about eight inches long – a splinter off the flange. Did not think such a break would cause the derailment of the train.
          James Steadman, sworn, said he was foreman of the erecting shop, and was engaged in clearing away the wreck. He gave it as his opinion from the marks on the track that the engine went off the track at the switch. He examined the locality and the marks on the rail and came to that conclusion. Coming round the curve might cause the engine to leave the track, or there might be a stone in the switch. When he reached the wreck that there was nobody in the debris. Did not think the curve was dangerous to trains going from thirty to thirty-five miles an hour.
          Mr. McLure, recalled, said that since his appointment he had known of about seven wheels being broken upon the Copetown grade and east of that point, mostly on freight trains. Some of them break through the middle, or a quarter or an eighth, is broken off. These wheels were broken by the brakes being kept on too long, thus causing the wheel to heat and burst.
          Chief Aitchison, recalled, said that from the same time he would receive notice of a fire at the junction it would take an hour to get to work. The Victoria avenue wreck was all ablaze within three minutes from the time of the crash, and from the fact that he gave it as his opinion that half an hour from the time of the junction accident the fire would have been beyond control and it would have taken quite a while to get it out. There were sixteen tons of coal in the junction wreck, which made a very hot fire and was located in close proximity to the place where the bodies were. He did not think it strange that the city department was not summoned, because the Grand Trunk has a trained fire department and apparatus of its own, and besides it was outside the city limits.
          Thomas S. Bell, civil engineer, said he was in the employ of the Great Western for eighteen years up to 1875. He considered the curve a dangerous one for fast trains, partly on account of the switch and because of the dangerous nature of the locality. Thought twenty-five or thirty miles an hour would not be too high a speed on a curve of 2,200 feet radius. The former chief engineer  of the Great Western objected to putting on switches on grades or curves, as they are more liable to get out of order.
          Joseph Wallace, recalled was asked if the conductor informed anybody officially if there were any bodies in the wreck. He said that Conductor Poole informed him as soon as he arrived from the bridge at 11 o’clock, and he went immediately out to the wreck, but could find no trace of any remains.
          The inquest then adjourned until Tuesday evening, when the officials of the roads will be examined, and it is fondly hoped that a verdict will be reached.”

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