Train Accident at Northern Bight 1923

Evening Telegram, October 3, 1923

Engineer Cahill Crushed to Death


A gloom of sadness was cast over the city last evening when news of the fatal accident along the railway was received. As a result of a washout, caused by Monday night’s heavy gale and rain storm, the locomotive of a west bound freight left the rails near Bight at 10 o’clock yesterday morning, and pinned Engineer Charles Cahill underneath the boiler, killing him instantly, while the fireman barely escaped with his life by jumping through the caboose window.

Owing to line trouble all day yesterday no direct news of the sad fatality was received until 5 p.m. when the agent at Bight immediately got in touch with Manager H. J. Russel, and it was not until last night that a statement was issued by the General Manager as follows:-

“West bound freight train in charge of Conductor Hewlett, which left Northern Bight 9.55 Tuesday morning, got locomotive and four box cars derailed about eight miles west of Northern Bight station. Locomotive turned over on its side and Engineer Charles Cahill got caught under boiler and was instantly killed. Firemen and other trainsmen uninjured. Cause of derailment due to extra heavy rains washing away the embankment.

“Several other places along Railway suffered from washouts, particularly on Placentia Branch. Bonavista Branch and vicinity Clarenville. Repairs are being effected as quickly as possible.”

H. J. RUSSELL, General Manager

As far as can be gleaned the freight train left the depot at 7 p.m. Monday to proceed to Port aux Basques. Conductor Howlett was in charge, with Charles Cahill, Engineer, the victim, who commanded the locomotive. The train after leaving St. John’s made only fair progress, due to the severe storm which prevailed all evening. Consequently the freight did not get away from Northern Bight until 9.55 yesterday morning.

After leaving the latter station good progress was made for a distance of eight miles when the freight was compelled to go through a washout along this section of the line. The rails it appears were not visible, and without warning she left the track and turned over on her side. When the engine toppled over, she took with her four of the loaded freight cars, but the trainsmen escaped uninjured. Following the accident willing hands rushed to the aid of the engineer and fireman. The engine it appears turned turtle over an embankment and they were horrified to find the lifeless form of Engineer Cahill crumpled up under the boiler, while the fireman, who had jumped through the window lay dazed close by. He recovered quickly and was found to be uninjured. The body of Engineer Cahill was extricated from the engine, and train officials got in touch with Hillview and Dr. Chrisholm who quickly responded. There was nothing, however, that the doctor could do as death had been instantaneous.

When news of the catastrophe reached the city Mr. H. J. Russell, Manager of the Railway, immediately got in touch with Rev. Dr. Kitchin who broke the sad news to the bereaved widow and family.

The late Charles Cahill was 45 years of age, and had spent practically his whole life time in the employ of the railway. As an engineer he had few equals, and for many years he ran the cross country express from St. John’s to Clarenville. In his capacity, as engineer, he seldom had a mishap and never a serious accident. The damage to the road bed was considerable, and a gang of men were engaged all yesterday and this morning making the necessary repairs. In the meantime all traffic is held up, consequently yesterday’s west bound express is unable to get through until the road is clear. A special train was despatched to the scene of the accident last evening. A casket was also sent along, and the remains of the deceased will be forwarded to the city this afternoon.

The sympathy of the whole community in which the Telegram joins goes out to the bereaved widow and family of the deceased. The funeral, which takes place from his late residence at the Cross Roads at 2:30 p.m. to-morrow, is in charge of Undertaker Carnell, and interment will be at Belvedere.


Evening Telegram, October 3, 1923

Will Sue Government

It is stated that as a result of the fatal accident at Northern Bight the Government will be sued for damages to the extent of $50,000. The matter of the death of Engineer Cahill it is understood is being taken up by the Railroad Brotherhood, and an investigation into the charge that the section men were at the time of the accident working on a cargo of coal at Clarenville will probably be demanded.

Evening Telegram, October 3, 1923

Train Notes.

Tuesday’s West bound express is held at Northern Bight on account of the railway run-off. There is no report of the incoming express leaving Port aux Basques on account wire trouble. There was no passenger list available up to press hour. The local Carbonear train was due to arrive at 1 o’clock


Evening Telegram, October 4, 1923

An Explanation of the Train Accident

In conversation with Manager Russel in reference to the fatal accident on the Railway near Northern Bight, the Telegram learns that the section men were on the line, but had not reached the spot where the derailment occurred. It is learned the gang from Clarenville proceeding some distance over their 5 mile section in the direction of Northern Bight, came to a washout. One of the number was sent back to flag the train coming from the East; the others were held up by the washout and unfortunately did not reach the scene where the accident occurred which, it appears, is not far distant from the end of the section looked after by men from Northern Bight. These men had gone over their line previous to the accident and found everything all right. Manager Russel states that a full investigation into the accident is being made. He further stated that he had no knowledge of any action for damages being taken. It is also learned that the policy of sending section men to discharge coal was abandoned some time ago and special gangs are now employed for this work.

Evening Telegram, October 4, 1923

Survivor of Wreck in Town

Fireman McCarthy, who had a very miraculous escape from death in the derailment at Northern Bight on Tuesday morning arrived in the city yesterday afternoon, having accompanied the remains of his friend and comrade Engineer Cahill, from the scene of the wreck. McCarthy, in his capacity as fireman on the road, has been very fortunate. On two former occasions the tender left the rails when he escaped with his life. Owing to the escaping steam and the general condition of the wreck, he found it impossible to get at the unfortunate engineer who could not be extracted for some time.

Evening Telegram, October 4, 1923

Repairs Nearing Completion

The repairs to the roadbed at Northern Bight, the scene of the recent wreck, is being rushed to completion, and both the East and West bound trains are expected to cross over the damaged section of the line sometime this afternoon. The incoming express has reached Clarenville, and it is quite possible .that she will reach the city before midnight. The repairs to that damaged portion of the rail on the Placentia line will be completed to-day. The delayed train will come up to-night to connect with the regular shore train. No crosscountry express was despatched from here to-day. The next express will go out 1 p.m. Sunday next.


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, January 2016
These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.