London East, ON Railroad Shop Fire, Sept 1884



TORONTO, Ontario, Sept. 22--A disastrous fire occurred in the Grand Trunk Railway car shops at London East yesterday. The fire broke out in a box car which wass standing in the repair shop. No fire had been used near the car, and the origin of the conflagration is a mystery. The flames were first observed by some painters who were in the north end of the paint shop, some distance from the burning car, but the inflammable character of the material and the lack of an adequate supply of water rendered the extinguishing of the fire an utter impossibility. The flames spread to the other cars in the repair shop, and they were consumed. The large building in which the transfer tables and pit were situated, to the east of the repair shed, caught soon afterward and with all its contents and machinery fell a prey to the flames. Then, in rapid succession, the passenger coach shop and the wood-working machinery shop, lying contiguous to each other, were also consumed. These buildings were of brick and from 70 to 90 feet in length. Soon thereafter the dry piles of lumber and partly completed work, which were strewed about the mammoth yard, presented a veritable sea of fire, baffling the efforts of the city firemen and the crowd to subdue the flames. Indeed, the firemen were rendered perfectly helpless soon after reaching the spot, from the fact that the only supply of water from which they were able to work was in a few tanks scattered promiscuously throughout the yard. An effort was made to connect the pipes of the city works, but the precise location of the valves was not known to those in authority at the fire and a long delay ensued. Thirty-nine cars in process of construction, repairing, or finished were consumed, consisting of 28 freight cars, 5 conductor's cars, 2 Wagner, and 2 day coaches. The building in which were the offices, the stores department, the blacksmith house, the wheelwright shop, and the engine shop, all of which were somewhat isolated from the others, were saved, principally because they were roofed with slate. An area of fully 500 feet of buildings was destroyed, with valuable material, spread over almost as much ground. The loss is variously estimated at from $150,000 to $200,000, but the insurance cannot be ascertained. The entire property, as a matter of fact, had not a semblance of protection from fire, and the Grand Trunk Railway authorities can have only themselves to blame for leaving their valuables shops in that condition. Thirty-five hands are thrown out of employment.

The New York Times, New York, NY 23 Sept 1884