Thursday, March 15, 1917, Vol. 54, No. 11 The Barrie Examiner

Wreck enquiry at Bracebridge

Trainmen explained circumstances responsible for the Utterson collision.

The Examiner is indebted to the Bracebridge Gazette for the following report of the inquest into the Utterson fatalities.

An inquest into the death of Albert Thornbury and Andrew Barclay was held on Mar. 14, before Coroner McLeay of Gravenhurst, with Crown Attorney Thos. Johnson looking after the Crown's interests.

Jos. Willoughby, agent at Bracebridge, told of receiving the order for the trains to meet at Utterson and of giving copies for conductor and engineer to former.

Kenneth McLennan, the conductor, was the next witness. Before giving evidence, he asked the protection of the court. All the questions put to him were answered frankly and freely. There was no disposition to shield himself in any way. His manner of giving evidence left a most favorable impression. The main portions of his evidence were as follows:—

Have been 4 years as brakeman and 26 years as conductor. Was on No. 41 at time of accident. Left Bracebridge 2.18. I received the order in duplicate for myself and Engineer E. H. Firman. I gave engineer his copy. I handed my copy to Supt. Lynch Firday night. Arrived at Utterson about 2.55. I got no further orders. Did not show order to agent at Utterson. He gave me no orders. I gave the proceed signal to the engineer. He made no objection. At 1 1/2 miles north of Utterson we collided with No. 1283 extra south. Collision took place at the worst possible place—a rock cut of 200 yards and sharp curve. Could only see each other six or seven car lengths. Engineer put the emergency brake on when the two trains were about a train length apart. There is a down grade going north. Freight was coming up grade. Agent at Utterson does not have to let us out. So far as I know the agent at Utterson had nothing to do with my movements. Of course, the order board was clear. I could and did move out without his order. I moved out because I overlooked a train. I had the order in my pocket but forgot. I was not speaking with Engineer Firman at Utterson. This was my first accident. The mail car and engine were the only parts of my train injured. I was in coach next baggage when accident happened. Express agent, baggageman and two mail clerks were in cars in front.

Questioned by Mr. Fergusson:—Is there any rule that governs transmission of order from agent at Bracebridge to agent at Utterson?

Ans.—Agent at Utterson should have copy of order. It was his duty to have his order board against me.

Ques.—If Agent Litchfield had the order he should have had the board against you?

Ans.—Yes, that is the Company's rule. He did not mention having the order.

Que.—Have you had conversation with Litchfield since? If so, what did he say?

Ans.—I would rather let Mr. Litchfield answer.

Conductor was not pressed.

Ques.—Was the mail car good or an old car?

Ans.—I do not know how old the car was. I do not remember the car as No. 27 more than 12 or 13 years. The car crumpled up. The tender entered it half way. It was a wooden car. The Company use both wood and steel. We had a light train for which I would think that car all right. Cars were all wooden ones. It was my duty to read the order to the brakeman and I did not do so. There is nothing in the order to indicate the order was given to agent at Utterson.

Ques.—Is the order given by the agent at meeting point only when it is not given previously?

Ans.—I would receive an order from the agent at Utterson if I were there first. We get such orders every day. I cannot conscientiously say I ever remember not getting an order from the agent at meeting place when I arrived first. It is not the duty of a trainman to board the last car of a passenger train. it could not be done. I was responsible regardless of any orders at Utterson. Under the rules, conductor, engineer, fireman and brakeman are all responsible.

Que.—What was your duty at Utterson if the board was not against you?

Ans.—It was my duty to wait there.

Mr. Litchfield, agent at Utterson, sworn, said:—

I received no orders for No. 41 but I received orders for myself that No. 41 and No. 1283 would meet at Utterson. When No. 41 arrived I did not communicate the order to them.


Ans.—I placed my board after getting it but took it down to clear No. 44 southbound and then forgot to replace the board. I did not think of it till 41 was pulling out. I thought she was just pulling out to the switch to wait for No. 1283. I then heard No. 41 put on steam and knew there would be trouble. I ran after the train to give the alarm.

The accident happened shortly afterward. I kept on running. I have been agent at Utterson since two years ago last June, and six years on the road. I was not speaking to conductor or engineer of No. 41. I promised to see an old lady on the train, and went to do so and then went up to express car to attend to my express and baggage. I put the board up after train started hoping the engineer might see it.

Sam. North, engineer on No. 1283, said:—The first I saw was 41 coming through the cut. I shut off engine and put on emergency. The I jumped. My train was going 20 miles an hour. Was just starting to climb up grade. I saw part of Thornbury squeezed between the engine and tender. I was the length of my engine, tender and one car from my engine when they struck. I had not got myself picked up. Firman seemed partly conscious and asked me if I had an order to meet them at Utterson. I said I had and he said, That's right.

Wilbert Gough, fireman on the freight, said: The first I knew of trouble was when I heard the engineer apply emergency brake. So far as I known our brakes were all in good order. I helped get engineer out and he only said a few words. All I heard was, How did it happen?

Reginald Bidwell, conductor on the freight, was not able to add anything to the information adduced.

Trainmaster Piggott described the manner in which orders are transmitted to the trainmen and also told of the condition of the wreck when he arrived at 8.20.

Mr. Litchfield, recalled, was asked: How do you account for overlooking and neglecting to place the board after letting No. 44 pass?

Ans.—I had to attend to freight and tickets and checking baggage, attend to express, get red for Port Sydney stage. That is my busiest part of the day. On that particular day I was especially busy. I am supposed to give preference to train orders.

Mr. Fergusson asked permission to call a witness to show the character of such interior cars as the mail car in this wreck.

Gordon Jackson, sworn, said: I am a mail clerk on this line about 14 months. I knew Barclary well. I knew car No. 27. From indications I would infer she was a rebuilt passenger car. The joints were loose. She was very short and light with light floor and light frame.

The jury brought in the following verdict:—

That Andrew Barclay and Albert Thornbury came to their death as a result of a collision on the Grand Trunk Railway, north of Utterson, Friday, Mar. 9, 1917, and we find Conductor Kenneth McLennan and Agent Wm. Litchfield had made a mistake in no obeying orders given to them.

The two men were formally charged before P. M. Wm. White immediately afterwards with manslaughter and will come up for trial at the next assizes.

E. H. Firman

Albert Thornbury

Railways: G.T.Ry.

Stations: Utterson