Tignish Train Wreck
February 21, 1932 is a day that will always be remembered here in Tignish. This is the tragic day that train NO. 33 was on route when they slammed into train NO. 211 as they were stalled in a 13 foot cutting. The accident happened at 1:30am during a severe winter snow storm. The location was at Handrahan's Cutting, which was one and a half miles from the Tignish terminal.
Shortly after the train wreck occured around 27 men ran to the scene with shovels to try and dig them out. However, the severe winds filled with snow made this very difficult. One of the conductors and brakemen were seriously injured, and sadly four men never made it.
These men included Benjamin Richard (Snow shoveller), James Hessian (NO. 211 engineer, from Georgetown), Elliot Gavin (Snow shoveller), and Leo J. Murphy (Tignish cheese-maker). These men were dearly missed by their friends and family, and they are still remembered today.
Current day there are no railways to be found in Tignish. However, their location can still be visited by walking through the Confederation Trails that are now there. On March 30, 1932 Alec Shea wrote a song about this horrible accident, that is still sung today.
TRAIN WRECK, MARCH 30th, 1932
Written by Alec Shea
The worst P.E.I. did ever see
When freight Number two eleven
Was struck by Express fifty-three
'Twas Saturday night in mid-winter
A night that was stormy and drear
A freight enroute to Tignish
Rumbled on tho' danger was near
At last she got stalled in the cutting
Well into a thirteen foot bank
A mile and a half from the terminal
Some few hundred yards from the tank
Shovellers were called to relieve her
And bravely they strove in their fight
To release the stranded freight train;
At twelve-thirty they stopped for the night
Inside the small coach they crowded
Outside the storm did not abate,
They spoke of the regular express train
already several hours late.
The express with the two engines and snowplough
Came thundering on through the storm.
They stopped at the tank for water;
They proceeded but none thought of harm -
And then with a crash that was deafening
She split the freight cars right in twain.
Amid all the debris and wreckage
Men's bodies were found neath the train
The sorrowful scene that followed
Those at the wreck still do say
That they will never forget it
'Twill remain till their dying day.
A relief train was rushed to the rescue
With doctors and nurses and all
That could be done for the injured
Was done with all haste at the call.
There were Richards and Gavin and Murphy,
three men were as brave as can be;
How quickly their journey was ended
O'er life's long dark stormy sea.
Frank Murray, conductor, was injured,
Harold Harper, brakeman, was too;
But brave Jimmy Hessian, the driver,
He died, the sole one of the crew.
Some friends were there with him
and these words he did utter in pain
"I'm going to a new home
where I'll never touch throttle again."
Many homes are now filled with sorrow
That once were happy and bright;
The train wreck brought death and disaster
On that stormy Saturday night.
This story is told of a train wreck,
A sight that was gruesome to see
Four dead, and a dozen injured-
But it seemed it just had to be,