Radial, HSR and CCL Accidents, 1874-1925
Any railroad or transit agency will have accidents. Whether due to mechanical failure, fire, operator error or a bad car driver, all of the radials, the HSR and the CCL have suffered accidents over the years. This a listing by date of some of the worst ones.
Author's Note: I've received a number of emails over this page, and I want to clarify two things. First, this page was not created because I'm trashing the HSR over their safety record or because I'm trying to increase readership by showing blood and gore. This page was created because in the past, just like today, when something goes wrong it makes news. There are several famous photos of accidents in the transit history of Hamilton, and many more newspaper articles. This page was created to keep track of accidents as part of the historical record.
Secondly, this page cannot keep track of every incident that ever happened on or to the HSR, the CCL, or the radial lines. There are too many. This page will be limited to incidents that: a) resulted in the destruction or retirement of one or more transit vehicles; b) killed or seriously injured riders or employees; c) were well documented or photographed; or d) were historically significant. For the most part, this page will not list pedestrians or motorists hurt or killed by hitting or being hit by transit vehicles.
March 30, 1892 - Hamilton, James St N & Macaulay
The last fatal accident between an HSR horsecar and a pedestrian happened on March 30, 1892 around 2 PM. James Collins was crossing James St N at Macaulay when he was hit by HSR #1 heading northbound on James St and being driven by Fred Bishop, with no passengers. The horse knocked Collins down and stepped on him, followed by one of the front wheels running over Collins' chest, causing serious internal injuries and derailing the horsecar. Collins was carried into his nearby home and attended to by doctors, but died of his injuries around 8 PM. A coroner's inquest ruled that both victim and driver were equally responsible for the death, that Collins had stumbled into the oncoming horsecar at a moment when Bishop's attention was diverted by emptying the cash box. The inquest recommended that drivers should not be allowed to leave the reins of the horsecar while it was in motion.
September/October 1892 - Hamilton, various locations
Three fatal accidents in a two week span resulted in a number of changes to speed and operation of the new electric streetcars. 15 yr old Thomas James became the first person killed by a streetcar when he was struck and killed at York St & Pearl on September 27. Conductor Thomas Snider was badly hurt on October 8 at the Locke Street carhouse when he attached the trolley pole of a streetcar undergoing maintenance to the overhead wire. The streetcar surged at full speed in reverse, crushing him against the carhouse wall and impaling the streetcar coupler through his leg. He died of his injuries the next day. Three yr old Harry Andrews was struck and killed on James St at Simcoe on October 13. The recommendations from the coroner's inquest after the last of these accidents would lead to city council implementing city-wide speed limits on the streetcars.
March 6, 1897 - Hamilton, King St E & Sanford
Just before 9 PM on March 6, 1897, an empty HSR streetcar running eastbound on King St E collided with the rear of a large ice wagon at Sanford Ave. The impact crushed motorman William Orr between the ice wagon and the body of the streetcar. Orr was pulled from the wreckage and rushed to hospital with multiple serious injuries. Richard Byers, the driver of the ice wagon, was thrown from his seat and sprained his arm. Conductor Michael Washington was uninjured. No fault or charges were laid in this accident, as neither party was in violation of the law, and it was a moonless night and neither party could see the other (The streetcar had no headlights and no streetlights existed in the area). William Orr recovered, and returned to work in mid-October. It is unknown if the streetcar was repaired or retired.
June 22, 1897 - Hamilton Beach
On the afternoon of June 22, 1897, Conductor Charles Guy was run over by an HRER car (one of the Crossen built cars, HRER #30-45) at the HRER powerhouse at Hamilton Beach, as the car was backing onto the powerhouse wye. The car ran over both his legs, nearly severing them. He was rushed to hospital in Hamilton, but died of his injuries shortly after 3 PM. A coroner's inquest blamed Guy for the accident, as he had opened the access door in the back of the car in order to grab the rope attached to the rear trolley pole while the car was in motion, and fallen through the open doorway when the car jerked. Company policy stated that when trying to grab the rope employees should open the window in the door and reach through it, the door was not to be opened until the car was stopped, and Guy had not placed a safety chain across the open doorway.
October 9, 1897 - West Hamilton (Now Hamilton, near present day Southview Place)
On October 9, 1897 at about 7:20 in the morning, a Dundas bound train made up of H&D #20 and pulled by H&D #4 was climbing the grade out of the Chedoke valley when a construction train pulled by H&D #3 rounded the curve at the top of the hill. Both crews (Engineer Platt and Conductor Sweet on H&D #4, Engineer McDonald and Conductor Harrison on H&D #3) hit the brakes, but the two trains collided head on. Injuries were minor as most crew members had jumped clear before impact. None of the passengers in H&D 20 were hurt. Blame for the accident rested with the crew of H&D #3, who were supposed to have waited for the passenger train to pass at Halfway House siding (near Main St). Arriving at Halfway House and with no sign of the passenger train, they tried to make Ainslie Wood siding (near Aberdeen yard) ahead of the passenger train. Becasue of its smaller size, H&D #3 took the most damage in the impact. Due to the upcoming conversion of the H&D from steam to electric operation, H&D #3 was not repaired, but retired.
Newspaper illustration of the collision of H&D #3 (background) with H&D #4 & #20. From the October 9 1897 Hamilton Spectator, pg 1.
June 25, 1903 - Winona
At around 2:30 in the afternoon on June 25, 1903, an eastbound HG&B freight motor collided head-on with the HG&B passenger car Grimsby at the intersection of Fifty Rd and Hwy 8. Both the freight motor (Robert Braidwood as motorman and Henry Patience as conductor) and the Grimsby (Peter Gibson as motorman and Harry Branton as conductor) were travelling at speed on a downward grade into the ravine of Fifty-mile Creek when they spotted each other. The impact knocked off the roof of the freight motor and crushed the motorman's compartments, but neither car derailed. Gibson was able to jump clear at the last moment, but suffered head and chest injuries when he landed against a fence. Branton suffered a head injury in the collision, and Patience received a shoulder injury. Braidwood could not get out of his compartment, and both of his legs were crushed in the accident. It took nearly 15 minutes to extract him from the crushed cars. Two passengers on the Grimsby, J. A. Doucette and Mrs. Ryckman, suffered sprained ankles, while the rest of the passengers had minor injuries. A streetcar transported all the injured to the hospital in Hamilton, but Braidwood died of his injuries en route. All the other people hurt recovered and were discharged in a few days. A coroner's inquest ruled that the cause of the accident was due to negligence by the HG&B, due to downed telephone wires that prevented the cars from communicating with the dispatcher.
October 12, 1903 - Hamilton Beach
At around 7:10 on the morning of October 12, 1903, a head-on collision occured between two HRER cars on the Hamilton side of the bridge over Black Inlet (now filled in and near the stretch of Woodward Ave between Burlington St East and the QEW). The two cars collided at high speed, causing serious injuries. On the Burlington-bound car the legs of motorman Elgin Choate were severed below the knees, and conductor Harrison lost a finger. On the Hamilton-bound car motorman Fothergill suffered serious cuts to his head due to flying glass. None of the passengers on either car suffered serious injury, a fact attributed to the cars' sturdy construction. The accident was blamed on Choate and Harrison for failing to stop the Burlington-bound car at Ghent's siding and wait for the Hamilton-bound car to pass by. Both cars were repaired and returned to service.
November 20, 1905 - Bartonville (Now Hamilton, near present day King St and the Red Hill Creek Parkway)
At around 5:35 PM on November 20, 1905, westbound HG&B freight motor #22 was pulling two freight cars, a hopper car loaded with sand and a boxcar, both belonging to the Canadian Pacific Railway. Reaching the eastern edge of the Red Hill Creek valley, the train attempted to slow down so it would stop near the Gravel Pit Spur, where it would meet HG&B passenger car Vineland coming east out of Hamilton. The Vineland would back onto the Gravel Pit Spur, allowing the train pulled by #22 to proceed to Hamilton. After the train had passed, the Vineland would then come back onto the main line and proceed east to Beamsville. Motorman Luther Cope discovered that the brakes were not slowing #22 down. Cope threw the freight motor into reverse while Conductor William Dunsmore climbed onto the freight cars to apply the hand brakes on each car, but neither action had any effect. The freight train ran down the slope into the Red Hill Creek valley, gaining speed. The Vineland, was now coming down the west side of the valley, also picking up speed. Just east of the bridge over the Red Hill Creek Motorman Peter Gibson saw the freight train coming down the track towards him. Gibson set the brakes and ordered Conductor A. C. Cole and the 50 to 60 passengers to the rear of the car just before the two cars collided head on. Both cars derailed, but remained upright. Dunsmore was still on top of the boxcar when the impact happened and was thrown clear, but landed with no injuries. Cope suffered a sprained ankle, and Gibson and Cole were both unharmed. Several passengers suffered broken ribs and back injuries, and several were transported to hospital in Hamilton. Walter Greive suffered internal injuries and died on November 25. His death prompted the local coroner to call for an inquest, where it was determined that wet leaves on the track had let the freight train slide down the slope out of control. The jury in the inquest blamed the crew of HG&B #22 for the accident, saying that they were not operating in a safe manner due to the conditions. Both cars were repaired and returned to service.
August 25, 1906 - Hamilton Beach
At around 6:30 on the morning of August 25, 1906, HRER #130 collided head on with HRER #140 at station 22, just north of the Burlington Canal. Motorman Alfred S. 'Fred' Barnes of HRER #140 suffered severe head injuries in the accident and was rushed to hospital in Hamilton where he underwent emergency surgery for a fractured skull. Barnes never regained conciusness, and died a few hours later. Motorman Claude Jasper from HRER #130 suffered minor leg injuries, while conductors Tom Hughes (#130) and H. Hayward (#140) were uninjured, as were passengers Joseph Bollam and W. A. Smith on HRER #140. During the subsequent coroner's inquest witnesses testified that Barnes had ignored warning flags on the radial car that had proceeded #130, which indicated that there was another radial car following closely. The jury accepted this reason, while also blaming the HRER for using this form of signalling system that could be so easily overlooked, and for not keeping sightlines along the tracks cleared. Both radial cars suffered heavy damage to their front vestibules, but were repaired and returned to service.
November 1906 - Hamilton
On November 5, 1906 a strike was called by the employees of the HSR. The owner of the HSR, the Cataract Company, refused to negotiate and tried to keep the streetcars running. Over the next 2 1/2 weeks there were acts of vandalism against streetcars and HSR property, to the point that the police were unable to protect the public or private property. After rioting began on the night of November 23 mayor called in the militia. Things continued to worsen to the point that on November 24, the riot act was read. Full details on the strike are here.
HSR #45 after the Riot. Exactly where and when this streetcar was damaged is unrecorded. The caption reads 'Street Car en route to Car Sheds after encounter with mob during Strike' (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
Postcard of HSR #111 after the Great Riot of 1906. The caption reads 'Car 111, which was wrecked by mob on King St. E, Saturday Night, Nov 23rd 1906. Every panel of glass in this car was broken, holes were smashed through woodwork, interior of car filled with stones and bricks up to the level of the seats'. The postcard is postmarked December 28 1906, so this photo must have been taken within days of the riot, possibly as soon as the morning after.
Postcard of HSR #111 after the Great Riot of 1906. The caption reads 'Interior of Car 111, which was wrecked by mob Sat Night, Nov 23rd 1906. Not a pane of glass remained, & the woodwork was badly damaged. The strike breakers used the cushions as barricades against showers of bricks & stones'.
August 25, 1907 - Hamilton, Hamilton and Barton Incline Railway (James Street Incline)
HSR #115 crashed into the ticket office of the Hamilton and Barton Incline Railway on the evening of August 25, 1907. The new motorman had swung the controller the wrong way, applying full power instead of cutting it off. The streetcar flew off the end of the tracks, and crashed into the ticket office, nearly injuring HBIR secretary Eddie Pope. Damage to the building was lessened by the presence of a large safe stopping the streetcar. There were no passengers on the streetcar.
November 12, 1907 - Hamilton, King St E & Ferguson
HSR #40 under the charge of Motorman James McIlwraith and Conductor Samuel Ryerson was travelling eastbound on King St when it collided with a Grand Trunk Railway freight train run by Engineer Robert Mack and Fireman Charles French that was running south along the tracks in the middle of Ferguson Avenue at 3:15 in the afternoon of November 12, 1907. The streetcar crashed into the side of the first freight car behind the locomotive, smashing in the side and wedging the front vestibule of the streetcar in the side of the freight car. The motion of the train tore the vestibule off the streetcar and dragged it along the platform of the adjacent King St station next to the tracks for a distance of about 20 metres. Six passengers were on the streetcar. Walter Howell suffered a broken right leg, W. W. Hesson of Toronto sprained a wrist, while the other four passengers suffered minor injuries. Two mailmen were also onboard en route to their rounds, one was injured. McIlwraith was charged by police with 'endangering life in running his car negligently and without proper precaution or care,' mostly based on the report that McIlwraith had not stayed at his post until the last second, but had jumped while the streetcar was still 50 feet from the train. McIlwraith claimed that the brakes had failed, and having no means to stop the streetcar he had jumped. On December 16, a jury found him not guilty. It is not known if HSR #40 was scrapped.
January 20, 1908 - Hamilton, Locke & Herkimer
On the evening of January 20, 1908 a fire broke out at the HSR's South Car Barn on the northwest corner of Locke St & Herkimer St. The car barn was destroyed, and fireman Roy Creen was killed when the north wall collapsed. Six streetcars were destroyed in the fire: three of the Stephenson cars (HSR #90-99), HSR #111, and two open cars (either in the HSR #20-24, #30-34, #65-74, or #76-88 series). Full details on this fire are available here.
August 3, 1911 - Hamilton Beach
At about 10 PM on the very foggy evening of August 3, 1911, HRER #305 was rear-ended by HRER #307 at station 12 (near today's Beach Blvd & 4th Ave). Motorman Shaver and Conductor Moore from #307 suffered injuries requiring hospitalization, and several passengers suffered minor injuries. Motorman DeForest and Conductor Flock on #305 were unhurt. Both cars suffered heavy damage, but were repaired and returned to service. Blame for the accident was placed on the crew of HRER #307, which was travelling at too great a speed for the fog conditions, giving too little time for the motorman to see and react to the parked #305.
February 14, 1912 - Hamilton, King & James
At 11:30 PM on February 14, 1912, the HSR had it's only multi-transit vehicle accident. HSR #422 was heading eastbound on King St E, under the charge of conductor W. Wilson and motorman W. Bowman. Due to the late hour the streetcar had not made any stops since Margaret St, and was running at full speed. The streetcar failed slow down as it approached James St due to brake problems and/or ice conditions. It collided with HSR #418 heading north on James, under the charge of conductor George Madden and motorman G. Gurne. #422 hit #418 on the front vestibule, derailing it and sending it crashing into the S. G. Treble store on the north east corner of King & James. #422 remained on the tracks, and rear ended HSR #414 at the crossover at James and York. #418 suffered damage to its vestibule and had several broken windows, but neither the HSR personel or the two passengers onboard suffered injuries. HSR #422 and #414 suffered little damage, and no injury to their crews.
July 5, 1912 - Cainsville
At 10:45 AM on July 5 1912, a westbound freight motor collided with an eastbound work car with a heavy crane on it east of Cainsville, near modern day Colborne St E and Garden Ave. On the freight motor Conductor George Williams was killed instantly in the impact, while Motorman Ralph Smith suffered head injuries. The work car crew of Conductor Fred Haley and Motorman Jim Stewart survived uninjured. The impact occurred on one of the few curves on the line. A coroner's inquest blamed the B&H for having a dispatching system that allowed cars to proceed as long as crews "look out for themselves". As well, it was recommended that the curve were the impact occurred "be made less dangerous"
July 6, 1913 - Hamilton, Main St E & Catherine
In the early morning hours of July 6, 1913, the Cataract Company's Hamilton freight station (formerly the Hamilton, Grimsby, & Beamsville's Hamilton station) burned to the ground. Described as ‘The largest fire to visit Hamilton in some years’, fire crews were unable to save the building, but were able to prevent the spread of the fire to several nearby buildings. Several large explosions caused when several large barrels of gasoline stored inside the building ignited aided the fire’s destruction of the building and several cars inside. Full details on this fire are available here.
July 8, 1916 - Hamilton, Burlington & Wellington
In the summer of 1916 the city of Hamilton was constructing a storm sewer in the vicinty of Burlington & Wellington. A temporary track crossover was installed just west of Wellington to allow streetcars to pass through the area while construction was progressing. At 6:45 AM on the morning of July 8, 1916, HSR #94 was heading eastbound on Burlington. As it passed over the crossover, the streetcar derailed. The streetcar flipped over, and as it was an open streetcar several passengers were thrown out. The rear truck ran over two passengers, badly injuring the foot of Marco Donato and crushing the face of Clarence Wilson, killing him instantly. Salvatore Capanella suffered a skull fracture upon hitting the ground, and four others suffered injuries. All were transported to hospital, where several of Donato's toes were amputated. Motorman Ernest Corbett and conductor William Tully had not operated on Burlington street in some time, and claimed that they had not been advised of the presence of the temporary crossover, and did not have enough time to slow down when they spotted it.
January 28, 1917 - Hamilton, King St E & Ferguson
In the early afternoon of Sunday January 28, 1917, HSR #435 was heading westbound on King St E when it was hit by a Grand Trunk Railway freight train that was running south along the tracks in the middle of Ferguson Ave. The impact derailed both the streetcar and the two locomotives at the head of the train, the first of which crashed into the railway station at King & Ferguson, causing heavy damage. On the streetcar the motorman and conductor were injured along with six passengers. The streetcar and both locomotives were repaired and returned to service. Full details on this collision are available here.
December 9, 1918 - Hamilton, Hess St
Just before 3 PM on December 9, 1918, HTC #603, under the charge of motorman McKean and conductor Beckerson, was coming down the long grade towards Hamilton from Ancaster when either the brakes failed or icy conditions prevented the radial car from stopping. It derailed on the curve at Hess St, just north of Aberdeen. Elizabeth Bryson's arm was severed in the crash, and several others suffered minor injuries. HTC #603 returned to service, but only lasted a year before being destroyed by fire
December 29, 1919 - Beamsville
Early in the morning of Wednesday December 29, 1919, The HG&B's Beamsville Car Barn burned to the ground. Inside the barn were three cars that were totally destroyed; HG&B #151, HRER #300, and HTC #603.
July 28, 1922 - West Hamilton (Now Hamilton, Cootes Dr & Main St W)
At about 7:10 on the morning of July 28, 1922, HSR #93 was out of service on the H&D, headed for Half-way siding to be used for the first run of the day to Hamilton, when it collided with a Hamilton-bound bus of the Dundas-Hamilton Bus Line at the H&D's crossing of the Dundas highway (present day Main St West, near Cootes Drive). Bus Driver Clem Gravelle reported that HSR #93, operated by Motorman W. Hall with G. Tarvis as conductor, was not blowing its whistle as it approached the crossing. The crew of HSR #93 denied this, saying that the whistle had been blowing continuously, and that Gravelle had mistaken the whistle for the whistle of the empty radial car headed for Dundas that had preceeded HSR #93 minutes before. Thick brush prevented either vehicle from seeing the other until the last second. Gravelle was creditted with preventing serious injuries and the death of passengers by turning the bus hard to the left, turning what would have been a T-Bone collision into a sideswipe. 3 of the 29 passengers on the bus were seriously injured, with Gravelle and 4 more passengers suffering minor injuries. The wreck was cleaned up by mid-afternoon, with HSR #93 rerailed and towed back for repairs, while the bus was shipped to Buffalo for repair work.
HSR #93 after colliding with a bus, July 28, 1922. Looking north. (Photo courtesy of the Dundas Museum & Archives, used with permission)
March 17, 1923 - Cainsville
B&H #210 caught fire on March 17, 1923 when a sagging power line under the CNR overpass in Cainsville brushed the heater’s exhaust pipe, creating a short circuit. No one was hurt in the fire, but the radial burned down to the frame. However, the trucks were salvaged and were later used in the construction of B&H #240
The remains of B&H #210 after the fire at Cainsville. HG&B #171 has towed the remains back to the Sanford Yard, where the intact trucks will be salvaged for the construction of B&H 240. (From the Richard Vincent collection, used with permission)
June 14, 1923 - Hamilton, Barton & Birch
B&H #230 was crossing Barton at Birch St bound for Burlington on the evening of June 14, 1923 under the charge of Conductor George Hines and Motorman George Cooks when it was hit by HSR #403, heading westbound on Barton under the charge of conductor William Tully and Motorman Frank Taylor. The streetcar had attempted to brake, but was unable to stop in time and hit #230 ten feet from the rear doors. The heavier radial car remained on the tracks, while the lighter streetcar derailed and toppled over, partially crushing a parked jitney (unlicensed taxi) before coming to rest against two telegraph poles. No one was injured, and both B&H #230 and HSR #403 were repaired and returned to service.
B&H #230 and HSR #403 on June 14, 1923 after their collision at Birch & Barton. 403 is on Barton, the view is towards the northeast. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
HSR #403 and the crushed jitney on June 14, 1923. The jitney was owned and driven by Gaetano Romanelli, who had just let off a female passenger. Russell Bryers was also in the jitney, sitting in the back seat when the accident happened. Both men escaped without serious injuries when the streetcar crushed the roof and chassis (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
B&H #230 and HSR #403 on June 14, 1923 after their collision at Birch & Barton. From a photo postcard.
B&H #230 and HSR #403 on June 14, 1923 after their collision at Birch & Barton. There's another streetcar just at the left edge of the photo, it looks like one of the early single truck cars. View is to the northwest. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
B&H #230 and HSR #403 on June 14, 1923 after their collision at Birch & Barton. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
B&H #230 and HSR #403 on June 14, 1923 after their collision at Birch & Barton. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
December 20, 1924 - Hamilton, East Barn
At 1 AM on the morning of December 20, 1924 a fire broke out in the yard of the East Barn at King & Sanford, possibly due to a short-circuit in a a streetcar's heating system. Fire crews responded quickly, and were able to prevent the fire from damaging any of the buildings. Three cars were destroyed in the fire: HRER #304 and two streetcars of the 'old, small type'. One of the 'big new streetcars' (This may be an Ex. Cleveland SEDT Streetcar, but eight years old doesn't sound very new) was badly damaged, and four other streetcars and a snow sweeper were scorched.