MISHAPS PLAGUED RAILWAY FROM THE START (November 4/05)

“Up to the present time the Windsor and Annapolis Railway has had a remarkable record as to serious accidents occurring along its line,” reported the Acadian in July of 1894.

The Wolfville newspaper was reporting on what might have been a serious accident when an engine hauling passenger cars on an excursion from Windsor to Digby ran headlong into another train out of Kentville. Several crewmen on the trains were injured, some seriously. Some 50 passengers on the excursion train escaped injury, reported the Acadian.

In the future, communications along the railway line would improve and the odds of trains meeting headlong would drop considerably. However, mishaps plagued the railway right from the start. In her Dominion Atlantic Railway history, Marguerite Woodworth writes that “accidents of some sort began to occur with almost daily regularity.” Woodworth mentions derailments, sparks from engines setting fires along the line, and minor injuries to trainmen.

One of the first serious accidents on the line is reported by Valley man W. W. Clarke in Clarke’s History of the Earliest Railway. Clarke writes that on January 14, 1894, a special train that had left Kentville for Annapolis was returning when it broke through a bridge near Wilmot, killing the driver Obediah Pudsey and the fireman, Frank Smith. Other crewmen on the train escaped serious injury.

Historians dubbed this accident as “one of the most notable wrecks in the road’s history.” A much-reproduced photograph of this wreck exists, taken by one Lewis Rice of Windsor. Railway buff Leon Barron has a copy of the photograph in his railway collection, along with a detailed description of the accident.

Both Woodworth and Clarke note that the railway was plagued by a series of “minor accidents” involving cows and horses wandering onto the line. Some of the collisions involving livestock led to serious injuries, however.

In Leon Barron’s railway file, for example, is a copy of a letter written to the Berwick Register in 1935 by Addy Nichols of Kentville. In the letter, Nichols describes an accident involving a cow that had taken place some 50 years earlier between Waterville and Berwick.

Nichols, a boy at the time, was picking potatoes near the railway line outside Berwick. He said that as a train approached, he saw a cow wander on the track. “The engineer blew his whistle or cattle alarm,” he wrote, “but there was no time to stop the train, and in running over the animal the engine was thrown off the track.”

Nichols rushed to the scene and to his horror found that one of the passengers on the train had been severely injured. “Looking around, I saw this man with both legs off. His name was Bauer; he was going to old Aldershot (Camp) where the annual drill was in progress.”

There was an odd twist to this accident. The railway apparently was found responsible for the death of the cow, owned by one Mr. Chipman, and had to pay for its loss. Nichols writes that the fence the railway had erected to keep cattle off the line was down, allowing the cow to wander on the tracks.

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