Men working at the entrance to the Palliser Tunnel, Palliser, BC

The Golden Star – Oct 15, 1921

Double-Header Freight Crashed Into Cave-In Fourteen Miles East of Golden


Traffic Detoured over Kootenay Central Route Till Road Built Around Wreck

The dead: Palmer Dean, Revelstoke, survived by a wife and three children.

George H. Goodwin, Revelstoke, survived by wife and child.

Roxborough Richmond, Revelstoke, survived by wife.

Oscar Peterson, Revelstoke, single.

Myles McKerracher, Kincardine, Ont.

Robert Watson, Bairnbur, County Down, Ireland

William Stebbinger, address unknown

One of the worst wrecks in the history of the Mountain division of the Canadian Pacific Railway occurred at 11 p.m. on Thursday, October 20th, in the Palliser tunnel, about 14 miles east of Golden.

An eastbound freight train in charge of Conductor John Beck, of Revelstoke, drawn by two locomotives and assisted by a pusher, ran into a cave-in in the tunnel which is 310 feet long. The tunnel was being repaired, and it appears that a portion of the concrete lining close to where the repair work was going on gave way and allowed the gravel from overhead to fall into the track.

About three hours after the accident, fire added to the horrors of the situation, when the oil tank of one of the locomotives burst, throwing the burning oil over the debris, four cars being burned and four others badly damaged.

Palmer Dean engineer of the first engine, Roxborough Richmond, fireman of the second locomotive, Myles McKerracher and William Stebbinger were dead when the members of the train crew were able to make their entry into the tunnel. George H. Goodwin, foreman of the leading engine, Ole Peterson, engineer of the second engine, and Robert Watson were assisted back to the outfit cars which were lying on a siding at Palliser.

The last three men were brought to the Golden hospital, but all succumbed to their injuries. Goodwin died at 3 a.m. Friday, Peterson Friday evening and Watson on Saturday morning.

The bodies of the railwaymen were taken to Revelstoke in Saturday morning being accompanied by Dr. J.H. Hamilton, F.W. Crick and J.P. Hume of that town. The body of McKerracher was forwarded to Kincardine on No 3 Wednesday morning, and the funeral of the other two men will be held today (Friday) Rev. T.H. Wright officiating.

An inquest was held by Dr. Stevenson on Friday afternoon, the jury consisting of W. Wenman, Sr, foreman, W.E. Hobsod, R.G. Baumber, J.C. Tom, Elmer Anderson and J.T. Wood. After viewing the bodies the jury elected to visit the scene of the accident and were conveyed by special Train to Palliser. On their return the inquest was adjourned till 7:30 p.m. The sitting was resumed in the court house. Evidence of the train crew showed that the train was not traveling over 12 miles an hour at the time of the disaster as a “slow order” had been given for the tunnel, W. Miller, bridge and building master stated that in his opinion there was no danger of a cave-in and therefore no watchman was stationed at the tunnel. Joe Perresini, foreman of the gang re-concreting the tunnel, said that on finishing work at 4:30 p.m., he considered it safe. The crew of the pusher engine stated that it would be impossible for the engineer of the leading engine to observe any obstruction on the track owning to the curve in the tunnel and the fact that escaping steam would enshroud the cab of the engine on entering the tunnel and blow the view.

After an hour’s deliberation the jury returned the verdict: “That Palmer Dean came to his death on October 20th about 11 p.m. through the engine of a freight train running into a cave-in in tunnel No. 21.45 about half a mile east of Palliser on the Canadian Pacific Railway. And it is the opinion of this jury that when a tunnel is being repaired a watchman should be stationed at the tunnel so that warning could be given to approaching trains.”

In building around the tunnel 3700 feet of new track and three trestle bridges were constructed. It is expected that the remains of the two engines will be removed and the tunnel cleared by Saturday next. It is estimated that it will cost in the neighborhood of $50,000 to repair the tunnel.

All passenger and perishable freight trains were detoured from Golden both ways over the Kootenay Central until traffic was resumed on the main line on Tuesday morning.

Great credit is due to the crews of the train and the pusher engine and to Joe Perresini for their untiring efforts in helping in every way possible those who were injured and in bringing out the bodies of the three dead men before the fire enveloped the tunnel.

The grief-stricken families of the deceased men have the heartfelt sympathy of the entire community in their hour of sorrow.