Train Wrecks and
Other Mishaps


A component of…

The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in Rivers, Manitoba

A Project of The Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee

Workplace Safety Through The Years

It was accepted that there were dangers in a railway job. The development of rail transportation was part of the much larger industrial revolution that began with the invention of the steam engine. These new machines brought new dangers to the workplace, and developing safety procedures that took this new technology into account were some time coming.

The process of building railways, bridges and other large-scale infrastructure often brought workplace accidents. Using and maintaining that infrastructure involved complex machinery and time pressure; two things that can get one into trouble.

River, being a busy railway centre, was the site of its share of train wrecks and mishaps and accidents.

The first accident on record happened in 1908 when twenty-two year old Samuel White had one leg severed by a locomotive and later died. The throttle had been defective according to a coroner's inquest which also noted that no ashpit was provided in the Rivers yard for the safety of those who cleaned out locomotive ashpans. The railway company was found guilty of gross negligence.

In 1912, Robert McIntyre, a River man, slipped beneath wheels of moving train and lost both legs.


This photo shows some rebuilding on the Rivers trestle, but also seems to involve some mishap.

In 1913 a yard engine and two cars crashed over the end of the coal dock after the locomotive throttle refused to function, causing serious injuries to brakeman George Hile and forcing engineer Joe Rymal and D.J.D. Ellis to jump for safety.

The most serious accident in the Rivers area happened in September of 1915 when a tornado took out a portion of the 115 foot high Minnewaska bridge near Uno and W. Files the engineer died when his freight train ran into a gap. For a time GTP trains had to be routed over CPR lines via Minnedosa. (Minnedosa Tribune Sept. 9.)

The wreckage of the Minnewashta Bridge near Uno, in 1915

In 1917 shop worker Robert McGregor was killed when caught up in the pumphouse engine.


The Pumphouse today

In 1917 fire destroyed the Train Station in what was termed, “the worst conflagration in the history of this decade-old community.”

In 1919 C. W. Angel suffered painful injuries when an electric magnet capsized in the railway yards and fell upon him.

The deepening depression saw the railways used as free transportation as men moved across the land seeking work. They often disembarked from freight trains at this point; hurried calls on local house- holds for handouts were followed by a dash to catch the next outgoing transport. On New Year's Day, 1931, one such traveller, a woman travelling with her son, while trying to board a moving box-car, slipped and fell beneath the wheels.

In 1951 25 year old James White lost both legs to a train accident. Also in1951 a head on crash of two freights occurred on the outskirts of Rivers, no one was hurt, but the damage was dramatic.