Turbo Crash at Kingston, December 1968

By Eric Gagnon
Trackside Treasure

On December 10, 1968 the first press run of CN Turbo P-201 eastbound at Kingston struck a transport trailer at a signalled, but not gated, crossing at Division Street. This was two days before the inauguration of regular Turbo service, and the incident garnered front-page publicity for CN across Canada. Reporters + photographers + crash = coverage! Maybe it’s true that there is no such thing as bad publicity. London Free Press photographer Ernie Lee was aboard the train and snapped the photo of the year. Adrian Lunny of the Montreal Star took this photo from westbound P-204:

It’s interesting that Elliott Avenue had crossing gate protection, while Division Street, a main artery to and from Kingston’s north end and Highway 401, did not.

Online views of the two Turbos. From trackside (below) and from onboard (above):

The eastbound Turbo was pulled up to the Elliott Avenue crossing where it met its westbound counterpart on its way to Toronto. The above view shows the two halves of the refrigerated transport trailer, clearly showing Windsor Packing lettering on the truck cab door. The driver’s name was Don McLean and he walked away, shaken but uninjured! Windsor Packing listing in a 1967 Windsor City Directory (below). The name and phone number are those painted on the door of the truck cab.

“Turbo’s 3:59 Montreal-Toronto trip time and higher speeds had reduced the time between tripping crossing circuit and reaching the crossing. At the time of the accident, there was a 25 m.p.h. slow order at Division Street due to an earlier accident – a Rapido had struck a cement truck at the same crossing, just one day earlier.  Overpasses were planned here and just over two miles to the west at Princess Street.”

Photographer George E.O. Lilley photographed the aftermath of the scene, and his photos are preserved in the George Lilley fonds, Queen’s University Archives. Here are photos I took of the negatives, then formatted to a positive, cropped and adjusted slightly. Any imperfections in these images are a result of my efforts, as the negatives are fresh and well-kept in the intervening 50+ years thanks to the efforts of the archives staff. Looking west toward the crossing, we see the rear portion of the destroyed meat trailer:

Stacked boxes of meat on the east side of Division Street. This crossing is signalled, though the CP Kingston Subdivision, which also crossed Division Street just to the north, has only crossbucks (and a wig-wag!). Highway 401, where the truck likely came from, is in the distance.

Front part of the destroyed trailer pending removal:

Views of the Turbo at the Elliott Ave. crossing, signal- and gate-protected, with one side of the nose having been removed (below). This Turbo was back in service within 36 hours!

Opposite side, with CP Kingston Subdivision embankment crossing over the CN in the distance.

On January 13, George Lilley returned to document the site further. Remnants of the trailer at its new resting place:

Recreating the scene – shots of eastbound Rapido and Turbo (below) as the truck driver would have seen the crossing:

The photographer also walked west nearly a mile along the CN Kingston Subdivision, photographing the track view the engineer might have seen. Just to the left is CP’s Kingston Subdivision which approaches, then curves away from the CN as it enters a wide curve and grade to surmount the CN and enter Kingston, between Division and Elliott:

Getting closer…CP in the distance, no traffic on Division Street but nothing to stop someone from just driving across willy-nilly!

In January, 1969, another view of the crossing and CP in the distance. Footings for the re-aligned Division Street are in place, as are gates now protecting the crossing!

The number of level crossings in Kingston continues to shrink – John Counter Boulevard is under construction and will be the next to open. Lots o’ links:

  • Turbo’s Central Station Turbo Maintenance Area and Turbo press clippings also from Rolly Martin Country