This Week In Brooklin History

110 years ago this week
July 22, 1887

Train Wreck at Myrtle Station

The big news around Brooklin 110 years ago this week was the spectacular train accident at Myrtle Station. Witness these comments by the Myrtle correspondent in the July 22 Whitby Chronicle:
The collision of two freight trains on the C. P. R. at this station cause considerable excitement and much regret that the young man Mr. McIntosh lost his life in the smash up and many persons from the north, south, east and west visited the wreck on Monday and Monday evening and we presume that the collision will be sufficiently noted in the paper as Mssrs. Henderson & Graham were both here to see the wreck.
The main story follows:

The Myrtle Smash up.

On Monday morning last, about 3:10, just as the dim light was beginning to steal in to the mists which clung to the sides of ridges, an east-bound freight train stopped at the water-tank in Myrtle station to take a supply of water. Its orders were to pass another train there. The other train was soon heard coming thundering in from the east at full speed. Of course the hands on the train felt secure as they no doubt believed the train would stop at the simaphore. If so the idea was dispelled in a few seconds, for it appeared in the dim light bearing down upon them like a cyclone. There was nothing to be done but blow the whistle and all jump and run for their lives, which all hands did as far as is known or can be known in this world. The coming engine glared at the other with its one sparkling eye and with ten thousand times the strength and fierceness of a mad bull approaching its foe, rushed at its mate. Once they met it only took a second. Such a catastrophe as makes man shudder does not at all affect the great machinery that runs the world round and round, so the light kept on stealing slowly in from the east and opened out to the gaze of the trainman's scene of destruction such as is seldom seen on our Canadian roads. Like living things the locomotives had clinched each other in their iron embraces and, pitched up against each other, seemed to strangle with the escaping steam. When there was light enough to enable one to see a disastrous spectacle presented itself. One locomotive was totally wrecked, and stood up on its hind legs, as it were against the other, great irons on each being snapped like pipe-stems. The wonder is that neither one exploded. Behind each engine the tinder had smashed right through the engineer's van and was touching the boiler, and in each case the tender had telescoped its way into the car behind it. Between the locomotives there was no space, not even a sign of cow-catchers being visible; nor was there an instance for many cars back from the locomotives where the coupling had not been knocked into a cocked hat. A few cars--or at least a few rods, for one could scarcely count the cars, there was such a jumble--east from the water-tank, lay the dead body of James McIntosh, a brakesman. It lay in the ditch about ten feet below the level of the track. The head was almost entirely cut off, the left arm was broken and the face badly cut. It was a sickening sight, but in this age when men are destroyed by machinery to get them out of the way fast enough, it is not considered much of a tragedy which only puts an end to one man.

Well, the wreckers came along and proceeded to cut the cars to pieces wherever the disaster had failed. Tough looking brawny workmen pitched into the wreck and we heard one man gaily warble "Patrick's Day" while he was removing broken material almost from the very spot where the dead man's blood stained the grass, and where the flies were holding a camp-meeting. Tobacco is devoured by the cord, or ton, or however, it is sold in large quantities. These wreckers are always working in the tar and oil and dirt and are as black as Africans before they toil five minutes. But each of them has a large valise inside his shirt in which he carries a piece of tobacco varying from the size of a buggy seat-cushion to that of a pack of shingles.

Both trains seemed to have been loaded with miscellaneous freight, for here could be found (smashed of course) kegs of spikes, cases of zinc, barrels of sugar, wheat, straw, the remnant of a carriage, and the land only knows what all. From the way these articles were being looked after one would think these wreckers were no relation to the baggage smashers in the stations along this line. It always seems to be the business of the station baggage smashers to to break up all they can, while these wreckers try to save all they can. Perhaps the secret of it is that the efforts of the station destroyers don't cost the company anything, while the company has to pay for all that cannot be accounted for after a wreck like this one. For this reason a constable is sent along with each wrecking train, and this officer watches that nothing is stolen. This constable tried in our presence to stop some girls from eating granulated sugar, but he failed. They ate until they were tired and cracked off their fingers in the barrel, and smiled at the limb of the law and went away defiantly. This caused the young ladies to be much admired by the young men who stood around.

The loss was perhaps $75,000 by the railway and $4,000 worth of tobacco chewed by the wreckers during the time they were finishing up the wreck.


On Wednesday an inquest was conducted by Coroner Carson and Co. Attorney J. E. Farewell. The evidence went to show that any train moving east has the right-of-way, or in other words, has the right to keep the main track when crossing other trains, the trains going west being obliged in all cases to take the switch. From this it will be seen that the train which stood at the water-tank was all right. The train coming from the east should have stopped at the semaphore and switched itself off to pass the other. It had run from Manvers at the rate of ten or twelve miles per hour and for four miles had been running a heavy down grade with twenty-eight cars. It is obvious therefore that either the trainmen were asleep or indifferent or else their efforts to stop a heavy train on down grade with a wet track were futile. From the evidence it is obvious also that the witnesses did not intend either the railway company or any living man to be held responsible for this accident. We shall be charitable enough to believe the witnesses, but it should be borne in mind that men are being slaughtered every day by railway accidents, and it is time something was done.

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