THE DUGALD TRAIN DISASTER

By George Siamandas

 

It was Monday Sept 1, 1947, the Labour Day weekend. Summer was at an end and cottagers from the Minaki area were packing up for the season and returning to Winnipeg for the opening of school the next day.

The Minaki Camper's Special 6001 was headed back west towards the city. In the opposite direction the No 4 Transcontinental Special was on its way to Toronto. It paused at Dugald station located 14 miles east of Winnipeg. At 9:44 that evening the camper's train barrelled at full speed into the waiting Transcontinental.

The two locomotives became fused together. Rail employees were immediately killed by the impact. In the mostly 13 wooden passenger cars a fire raged fuelled by the gas tanks supplying fuel for the lighting.

Thirty-one people perished. The tragedy wiped out almost everyone in three families. The Dixons, the Simpsons and all but one of the Adams family. The Dixon family of 121 Smithfield all perished. Their home lay decorated for their son's wedding later that week.

The funeral cortege was one of the largest in city history. Starting from Cook's funeral home in Transcona, the procession of 24 funeral cars moved east to downtown Winnipeg, it circled the Manitoba Legislative grounds and then moved west along Portage Avenue to then to Brookside cemetery.

Florists and Funeral directors donated their services. Of the 31 killed 7 were identified and buried privately. Railway workers lost included F Skosgberg, Gilbert Rougeau, Jimmy Papkie, and GB Lewis.

Two bodies were never recovered. The remaining 22 bore the names of the 24 other victims. Twenty-four souls were buried in a mass grave at Brookside cemetery. One by one the caskets were placed in the ground by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.

It was one of the worst disasters in Canadian Railway history. A desolate end to a happy summer.

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