Train Wrecks and
A component of…
Trunk Pacific Railway in Rivers, Manitoba
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.
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.)
wreckage of the Minnewashta Bridge near Uno, in 1915
In 1917 shop worker Robert McGregor was killed when caught up in the
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.