The route of the original Great Western railway (by 1883, the Grand Trunk railway) proceeding easterly from the Dundas station led down the escarpment towards a junction, where trains were either diverted to Hamilton or directed onto the line to Toronto.
That route of the railway was widely considered to be very dangerous, primarily because of the steep descent, and serious accidents were not unknown in that vicinity.
During the evening of March 6, 1885, the day express left the Dundas station uneventfully, but it soon ran into difficulty :
“In coming down the grade about a mile this side of town, the driving shafts of the engine broke and were hurled with tremendous force against the cab, smashing it like an egg shell. The boiler was also struck and strained, two of the rivets being knocked out, and all the steam escaped. Wonderful to relate, both the engineer and the fireman were uninjured, though they were soaked through and through by the steam.”1
1 “A Close Call : Accident on the Grand Trunk Railway Near Dundas”
Hamilton Spectator. March 7, 1885.
The two men in control of the train, Engineer Williams and Fireman Collins, managed to keep control of the locomotive, and were soon able to bring it to a stop:
“The accident occurred on a high embankment, and unless the train had been brought to a standstill as it promptly was, it would certainly have gone over and many lives would have been lost. ‘The engine leaped and swayed so that I could not tell which side she’d go over,’ said Engineer Williams, ‘and I stood prepared to jump either way. ‘1
The train had a full compliment of passengers when the incident happened :
‘Most of the passengers were considerably shaken up mentally and physically, by the sudden stoppage, and, in a second or two, they came pouring out of the train with blanched faces to see what was the matter. An examination of the track was made, and it was discovered that one of the shafts had struck a tie with such violence as to smash the end clean off outside the rail. A relief engine from Dundas speedily arrived, and the train proceeded on its way to Hamilton.”1
For the passengers on that train, they probably never had narrower escape from sudden death than they experienced that evening. It would not be the last serious accident on that stretch of the railway.