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Dundas | The Christmas Train Disaster of 1934

Dundas (Hamilton), Ontario, Canada

On Christmas Night in 1934, Engineer Norman Devine served as a train’s Brakeman. Assigned and traveling on the “CNR Holiday Special”. On this night, they pulled the out of the Dundas Station.  365 passengers heading to Toronto for the holidays.

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Christmas Train Disaster of 1934 - Dundas, Ontario, Canada

by Ghost Guide Daniel

Then the crank pin started overheating.  Mr. Devine made the decision to pull the train off the main track so he could assess the situation. 

He pulled the switch to divert the train onto the sidetrack and then switched it back to the main track to divert on-coming trains past the Holiday Special.

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Was strange for the Brakeman to pull this switch. Normally the job of the official switchman, a guy named Edward Lynch. But Lynch wasn’t there, so Devine had no choice.

Mistake of a Switchman

The Holiday Special wasn’t serviceable.  Stuck on the track just beyond the Dundas Station as Switchman Edward Lynch finally returned. 

He saw a light in the distance. Knew this was the “Maple Leaf Flyer” going from Detroit to Montreal.  Thinking the switch was still set to the Sidetrack, he ran, panicking… and flipped it again.  Unaware the brakeman, Devine, had already done this.

Ran and flipped it.  Then relieved to have avoided the disaster.

However, at 9:21pm, the Flyer hit the Special at full speed.  Tearing through four passenger cars.  Knocking one car to the edge of a 150-foot cliff overlooking Dundas Valley.

Bodies littered the tracks around the wreckage.  Rescue workers searched through dark cars, finding the injured by seeking out their screams and groans.

15 bodies littered the train and tracks.  40 others taken to the hospital with injuries.  In the end, 18 people died.


“The starkest tragedy to ever darkened a Hamilton Christmas.”

Hamilton Spectator

All happening in Dundas.

Dundas District Play a Morgue

Dundas never had a morgue with space to handle so many dead bodies.  A quick solution was found just down the road inside the basement auditorium of Dundas District School. 

Built only 5 years prior to the accident in 1929. The ‘modern school’ had the space and all the bodies were moved, lined up on the smooth floor.

This is where the families viewed and claimed their dead. 

Thought to be one reason for extreme ghostly energy inside Dundas District School, and a featured ghost story on the Dundas Ghost Walks.

No Punishment

Edward Lynch and the Holiday Special’s Brakeman were blamed. 

Later brought to trial on a charge of manslaughter. However, in the end, it was deemed an understandable mistake. The jury returning a verdict of “Not Guilty”.

Written by Ghost Guide Daniel

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