Baptiste Creek, ON Frightful Train Collision, Oct 1854
The express train over the great western railway due at Windsor, last Thursday night, at 11 o'clock and 20 minutes, came in collision with a gravel train at half past 5 on Friday morning, about one mile east of Baptiste Creek, or nearly 31 miles from Windsor. The express had been delayed at various points by other trains off the track. At St. George, a gravel train had got off, and a baggage train was behind. One hour and a half was spent in getting the train upon the track again, and then, the express was obliged to follow the baggage train to Princeton, at a very slow pace. The train left London at 1 o'clock, and when out about four miles the cylinder head burst, and it was necessary to procure another engine from London, to draw the train back, in order to change engines. The train again started with a new engine, and was ordered by the conductor MR. G. T. NUTTER, to run slow as the night was dark and foggy. By means of these delays the train was now 3 hours and 45 minutes behind time. The train came up to the scene of disaster, at the rate of about 20 or 25 miles per hour. The gravel train was backing into Chatham, the engineer supposing that the express train had passed.
The collision was the most frightful affair ever known on a western road. The express consisted of four first class, and two second class cars, all full of passengers. So forcible was the shock that the car next to the baggage car was jumped completely over the 2nd class car, killing or wounding nearly all the passengers in both cars, and smashing them to atoms. The front first class car was also dashed to pieces, and the passengers in the front part nearly all killed, or badly injured.
When day light dawned through the dense fog, the most heart-rending scene presented itself. Amid the confused pile of fragments scattered in every direction, lay the mangled remains of more than 50 persons. Here lay the corpse of a mother mangled beyond description, while a few feet further on, was a mass of flesh and blood, which had once been her loving child. Here lay a leg and an arm, or a head, while the body to which they belonged, was buried in the mass of fragments, now smoking with human gore.
But sadder yet were the appeals of the wounded, who lay groaning under the broken cars, and writhing in pain, worse than death. Then the pleading, tearful entreaties of mothers for the darlings, which this calamity had rendered unsightly and unknown. Their shrieks even chilled the hearts of the bravest, and unnerved many a strong arm. He who has seen the sight, or heard the appalling cry, will remember it to his dying hour, but the hand of Divinity would fail to do it justice.
Several of our citizens were upon the train, of whom the son of S. M. Holmes and also Robert B. Toms, Esq., (who is our informant,) have returned to us unhurt, but impressed with the saddest picture of human suffering that has ever fallen beneath their notice. Mr. Toms says that among the whole number unhurt, very few had the nerve to handle the mutilated forms of those who but a few minutes before were as full of life and hope as they. But there was one whose heroism is worthy of particular notice - Thos. F. Meagher. No sooner was he clear of the wreck, than throwing aside his coat and vest, and seizing an axe, he began the humane work of helping the surviving, and never did a man work with better will.
Others, and Mr. Nutter, the conductor, among them, worked as men never worked before. The cries of the wounded hurried their arms, and disregarding fatigue and their own bruises, they worked for four hours as earnestly as for the lives of their dearest friends.
When Mr. Toms left, there had been 25 dear men, 11 dead women, 11 dead children, 21 wounded men, and 20 wounded women and children taken from the mass of ruins - making 89 in all killed and wounded. The ruins had not all been removed, and it is probable that this number will be increased some ten or fifteen. Of the killed a large portion are foreigners. It is thought probably that two-thirds of the wounded will die.
Mr. Toms says that nothing was omitted which could be done to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded. The killed were removed on side, and covered with canvass. A hand car was dispatched for a physician, who soon arrived, and the wounded were spread upon the cushions of the broken cars, and made as comfortable as possible.