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Local History
The Train Wreck at Sucker Lake
(Presentation by Mitchell Crain to the 2008 Perth Region Historica Fair )

In the late hours of December 31, 1985, on a cold snowy night, a freight train derailed at Sucker Lake, in OSO Township, North Frontenac, at Mile Point 32 on the Belleville Sub. Sucker Lake lies about five miles south-west of Maberly, Ontario, and north of Bobs and Crows Lakes. The cause, according to a later investigation by C.P.R., was an excessively wide gauge (width of the tracks) and possibly speed.

Thirty-five freight cars, out of the 90 in the train, were destroyed or badly damaged – along with eight of the 12 locomotives. The C.P. rail line, between Montreal and Toronto, was closed for six days, with traffic diverted to the C.N. line. The cleanup took three weeks, and required up to 150 workers.

Local contractor Crain Construction was called on, at 5:00am January 1, to help with the cleanup.

In addition to the threat of diesel oil that spilled into the lake, the freight included a variety of produce. Two cars that broke through the ice contained sodium hydrogen sulphate, which will form sulphuric acid when mixed with water. One container is still in the lake. One car contained dry spaghetti – which, according to one local resident, provided dinner through her university years.

The chemical cleanup centred on building a wooden dyke, filled with sand. The diesel was mopped up with sand fill and with rags run through a washer ringer – eventually treating 22,700 litres of liquid. Three bulldozers and two cranes were brought in to do the heavy work.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment concluded that the spill was successfully contained and that little or no damage was done to the lake. There was no indication of any recent environmental assessment.

The following pictures, courtesy of Crain Construction, detail the extent of the damage.

This history and photo collection of the crash has been sumamrised from a presentation by Mitchell Crain - then a Grade Seven student at Glen Tay Public School - to the 2008 Perth Region Historica Fair. Mitchell’s collection and information came from the Crain family, his aunts, uncles and father.

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Perth, the Capital of the District of Dalhousie; from the N-East bank of the River Tay - painting by Thomas Burrowes, 1828, Archives of Ontario, I0002141

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