End of the Line
The 1857 Train Wreck at the Desjardins Canal Bridge
by Don McIver
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In 1857, the Desjardins Canal bridge collapsed under a Toronto-to-Hamilton train, creating one of the worst railway wrecks in North American history. Sixty lives, including that of the main contractor, were lost. The story of how the Great Western Railway was conceived, where it was located, and how it was constructed is replete with high irony covering political intrigue, commercial skullduggery, and bold entrepreneurship. Woven into the tragic events of that cold March evening are a cross-section of pre-Confederation Canadians whose lives contrasted sharply with the dour stereotypical view of pioneering Canada.
End of the Line portrays the personalities of these global travellers, burgeoning industrialists, and simple railway servants -- all connected by the common thread of catastrophe. Particular attention is focused on the little-known life of Samuel Zimmerman -- the irrepressible contractor who died in the accident. Captured throughout is the spirit of economic venture infecting the mood of the continent.
- Dundurn, February 2013
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