Manitoulin Expositor January 27, 1910


Nairn Center, Ontario January 22nd

An appalling railway accident occurred five miles west of the town at 1 p.m. yesterday at the Canadian National Railway bridge crossing the Spanish River at the at point 120 feet and thirty high when No. 7 the “S00” express left the rails on a straight piece of track just east of the bridge.

The engine, tender, mail, express and baggage cars remained on the rails and the second class car narrowly escaped the rear track going of where the rails spread. The next second class car swung around the front part striking the diagonal strip of the bridge, knocking it completely out at the bottom and –ing side of the car struck the batter post and came to a stop and was there burnt.

Following these came the diner and first class cars, three in all, which plunged downward into the river on the north side of the bridge. The sleeper following plunged down an embankment 20 feet high, and turned over on its side at the edge of the ice.


The dining car is partially submerged and the first class car is almost wholly under water and the death toll cannot be estimated at present, but every indication point to one of the worst fatalities of the history of Canadian Railways. Fourteen passengers were enjoying lunch in the dining car when the accident happened, but it was stated that only 8 got out safely.

About 25 passengers were in the first class car which is partially or wholly submerged and how many are dead will not be known until the diver who is being rushed on a special train from Sault Ste. Marie arrives at the scene.


Twenty passengers at least were in the second class car which took fire and was burned adding additional horror to the terrifying spectacle.

How many escaped from the burning coach is not known as yet as there is no telegraph communication with the scene of the wreck at present. When the cars left the rails, tearing loose from the front part of the train, the crash of timbers groaning of girders and shrieks of twisting steel was followed by cries of the injured passengers and the lamentations of the imprisoned passengers in the shadow of death as the water of the Spanish filled the doomed cars.

Conductor Thomas Reynolds was injured but ignored his hurts and did every thing he could to mitigate the sufferings of the injured passengers.

Physicians were hurried to the scene from Sudbury as soon as word was received and a wrecking train with General Superintendent Gatelius made record time form North Bay. Arrangements were made to rush a diver on a special train from Sault Ste. Marie to recover the bodies from the submerged cars and is now at the scene with full outfit.


Many injured were rushed to Sudbury Hospital and six have already died. The report that Canadian Pacific Railway Claims Agent Thomas Hay ha been severely injured seems to be unfounded, as reports have been received from him since the wreck. The engine baggage. express, mail and one second class car remained on the rails, while one second class first class diner and sleeper left the rails plunging down the embankment, the first car remained on the ground but the second class car was burned.

Engineer Telford and the train crew with the exception of Conductor Reynolds escaped injury. The passengers from the east bound “Soo” express are being transferred around the wreck, as the bridge is considered unsafe which will cause considerable delay in traffic.

From the car only partly submerged a number were rescued and taken by rescue trains on either side of the bridge to Webbwood ten miles west or east of Sudbury, forty miles distant before dark. Physicians arrived from both towns one, Dr. Arthur from Sudbury had just left this train for Nairn.

Timely assistance was rendered by the Dickson Bridge Company erectors who are building a steel bridge not many hundred yards from the scene of the accident. Government Bridge Inspector, J.W. Hackney was also early on the spot. Contractor D.B. Campbell and his men, also employed at the Government Bridge, rendered yeoman service.

Conductor Reynolds was sitting at lunch in the dining car with Claims Agent Hay when the accident happened. As the diner sank in the river and the water crept up threateningly, escape seemed impossible, as the upper door was jammed and exit by the windows impossible. Reynolds took a chance and dived to the bottom of the sinking car and found the door, came up outside and rose under an ice floe, cut his head. Battling for life he came to a clear space and escaped out on the ice.

His first thought was for the imprisoned passengers. He kicked the ventilators in but the space was not wide enough to be effective, and he called to some men on the bridge above for assistance. They threw him an axe, which he caught and speedily made a hole large enough to draw the passengers through. Working desperately despite his injury and the cold, with his garments soaking and blood flowing from his wounds he assisted seven passengers to escape from the dining car, including D.M. Brodie and Wm. J. Bell of Sudbury, a little boy and others. It was a hero’s work, but Conductor Reynolds in his bluff way thinks it nothing but part of his duties as a railway man.

The later reports give the list of dead at 39. It is impossible to get a full list of the dead and injured and they will probably never be known.


Some anxiety was caused by the fear that Mrs. Brown and family, and Mrs. Dryburgh her mother, were in the wreck. Mr. Dryburgh however had a telegram Sunday saying they had not started. Manitoulin Expositor, January 27, 1910

Inspector Barrie who adjusted the fire insurance in town was reported in the wreck but later accounts do not confirm it. Manitoulin Expositor, January 27, 1910

Mr. R. Shannon left with 18 head of cattle for Sheho, Sask. last Friday. Last report says he is still at Massey owing to the wreck. Manitoulin Expositor, January 27, 1910

Mr. and Mrs. R. Hay returned from a short visit to Toronto on Saturday. Mr. and Mrs. Hay were on the first train transferred at the wreck near Nairn and the last. Mr. Hay says very little damage was done to the bridge, but the scene at the wreck was not soon forgotten. Manitoulin Expositor, February 3, 1910.

Manitoulin Expositor, February 10, 1910

Sudbury, Ontario, February 5 — The jury investigating the Webbwood disaster last night brought in a verdict that the accident was the result of the derailment of the forward truck of the first class coach, the cause of which they could not determine. They added a recommendation that the following named points be thoroughly investigated by the board of Railway Commissioners.

1- Are three sectionmen sufficient to keep an eight mile section in proper condition during winter in the rigorous climate of New Ontario?

2- Should not openings be placed in the roofs of cars capable of being opened from either inside or outside and suitable for the escape of passengers in case of an overturned car?

3- Should not emergency tools be carried at convenient places outside of a car as well as inside?