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Canadian Transport Sourcebook > All works> Renfrew Mercury > Fatal Collision Near Sand Point

Fatal Collision Near Sand Point.

The "Soo" Express Trains Crash into One Another at Five o'Clock on a Bitter Winter's Morning.

Fourteen Killed - Twenty Injured.

Engineer Dudley Disobeyed Orders - Engineer Jackson Killed at his Post.

On Tuesday morning, the news quickly circulated around Renfrew that there had been a collision between the two C.P.R. "Soo" expresses, with terrible loss of life, at Rhody's Bay, between Castleford and Sand Point. Although the day was bitterly cold, and the condition of the roads problematic, many citizens drove down to view the wreck.

The story of the disaster which first reached Renfrew. and which is the same as that given to the daily press, is that Engineer Dudley, of the train going west, disobeyed orders. Definite orders had been given for the two trains to cross at Sand Point; but either through error, or a belief that he could make Castleford and take the siding there before the down train reached that point, he carried his train on beyond Sand Point. The train going east was in charge of Engineer George Jackson, and being three or four hours late had probably been making up lost time by extra speed. Towards Sand Point the track follows the river bank to some extent, and at Rhody's Bay there is a short stretch between two gradual curves; and on this, in the middle as it were of a flat letter S, the two trains, going at full speed, came together. In the darkness of that early morning hour, and hidden from each other until they were within a couple of hundred yards of one another, there was nothing that could be done to avert the catastrophe. The immense engines locked into one another straight until their smoke-stacks were within eighteen inches of one another. The impact was so great that the cars nearest to the engines were telescoped. When The Mercury arrived on the scene in the afternoon, the wreckage of the east-bound train had all been cleared away but the remnant of the baggage car and tender and engine. In the engine still was the gruesome sight of the head and hand of Engineer Jackson appearing amidst the tangled mass of machinery in the cab. His body had apparently been driven by the tender into the locomotive, as he stood at his post.

The engine and three cars of the west-bound train also still remained on the track, and the three cars had been telescoped into the space of one. And it was here that the greatest fatality occurred. The second-class car of the train going west had a number of shantymen aboard, and it was amongst these that the passenger fatalities occurred.

On the train going east, the fatalities were:—

Engineer Joseph Jackson

Express Messenger Nelson Robertson.

Fireman George Price, who was not killed outright, but died some hours later.

On the train going west, the killed were:—

Fireman Dubois.

Express Messenger Robert Thompson.

News Agent McMullen.

Baggageman O'Toole.

And Joseph Chalu, Dolphis Seguin, J. Carrierre, M. Lebrau, Wm. Pouliotte, Jos. Higgins, and two others unidentified.

The two mail clerks, E. A. Beach and A. P. Black, escaped with injuries. Beach, who is a brother of Mr J. H. Beach, of Renfrew, was pinned down in the wreck just above express messenger Robertson. They were so close together that he could feel the pulsations of Robertson's heart, and knew when it stopped that his companion had died. Beach was pinned for some hours before released, and one of his feet was frozen, and it was said an arm broken.

Rev. Father Paradis, who was a passenger on the train going east, took charge of the work of rescue.

The morning was a bitterly cold one—the thermometer being 20 below zero and the wind blowing sharply from off the lake. The passengers in the first-class cars and Pullmans escaped with bruises and the shock of the sudden jolt. And besides as the steam was cut off from the cars, those who remained in them suffered from the cold. The spot is isolated and there were no number of houses in which to take refuge. A few of the passengers walked to Sand Point. Wrecking trains were sent from Carleton Place and Chalk River. The work of clearing the track was slow. Engines and cars in their fierce embrace kept to the rails. It was nine o'clock at night before the body of Engineer Jackson was released from between his tender and locomotive. Father Paradis says that the Jackson's pluck in sticking to his post and seeking to slow down the train, saved the lives of his passengers.

It was noted as a strange coincidence that the locomotives were numbered 835 and 836. Railway men familiar with their history said that they were sister engines, built in the same shops at the same time, and going forth to work over many different runs, had met again in this fatal embrace.

Mail-bags, newspapers in profusion and damaged freight was strewn alongside the track. There were $800 worth of eggs in one consignment. Many of them had been smashed, and the balance were spoiled by the frost.

Although the track was not cleared for many hours, passenger traffic was not for long impeded. The C.P.R. sent its express trains from Arnprior to Renfrew over the Canada Atlantic tracks.

Dr. Cranston, of Arnprior, was summoned as coroner. The body of the young news agent McMullen was removed to Arnprior, and a jury there empanelled.

Conductor Nidd, of the west-bound express, admitted to the newspapers that their orders had been definite to cross at Sand Point. He did not know, however, with the frost-covered windows of the cars that they had passed the station. He admits his share of the responsibility; but the most of the blame must apparently rest upon engineer Dudley, who, however, would not make any statement to the papers.

The shock of the collision pitched Engineer Dudley out of his cab; and he escaped with a broken arm. To some of the spectators he expressed the wish that he had been killed.

There was some indignation in Renfrew when the train carrying the Railway Company's lawyers to the wreck—to make quick and cheap settlements with the wounded victims—refused to take any helpers down to the scene. Even the brother of the wounded mail clerk Beach was refused passage.

The man thought to be Pouliotte turns out to be Geo. Paquette, of Maniwaki.

Twenty others were injured more or less seriously. These were all either trainmen or occupants of the colonist car.

Thursday's Citizen says that there is no hope for the recovery of McCall and little for E. D. Larose.

Photographer Handford, of Renfrew, was one of the visitors to the wreck. He secured views which will be reproduced in some of the daily papers. He is endeavoring to arrange for the use of a lantern, and will probably throw a large picture of the locked engines on his show window on Friday evening of this week.

[Public Domain] Copyright/Licence: This work was first published in 1964 or earlier, and the author of the work was anonymous. To the best of my knowledge, the author of the work was unknown at the end of the year 50 years after the work was published, meaning that this work would be in the public domain in Canada, per section 6.2 of the Copyright Act. Note also this link. See disclaimers.