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The Third Coach from the Rear

After a somewhat nerve-wracking weekend, Doug Snair and his girlfriend, Thyra Shore, were returning to Ottawa for work. Doug was an assistant paymaster with the Navy and Thyra was a secretary with the Royal Canadian Air Force. They had been visiting her parents in Renfrew. He found himself humming as he entered the third-last coach and spotted an empty two-seat bench near the front, only to be told by a woman she had been saving it for her friend. They had no luck in either of the last two cars, so they returned to the third last coach only to find the seat still empty! Doug decided to ask the woman again and, having finally given up on her friend making the train, she surrendered. Victory! Relieved to not be standing for the entire journey, Doug and Thyra sat down to enjoy the trip.

Black and white photographic postcard of the train station in Arnprior, 1950s

Postcard of Arnprior Station – 1950s

Next stop: Arnprior.

Finding a Seat in the Third Coach

Fifteen year-old Ed Muldoon and his cousin, Eileen McMahon, were excited for the night ahead. Not only was it their first train ride, they were headed to the Lakeside Gardens Dance Hall in Ottawa – it was sure to be a fabulous night! When the train arrived at Arnprior Station, Ed and Eileen quickly tried to make their way to the back of the train. Ed had a plan of action and was hoping to sit in the rear of the train. He didn’t have any experience with trains, but he did with streetcars, and just like the streetcars in Ottawa, he thought the train would sway if they sat right at the very back. Unfortunately, the coaches were jam-packed and Ed soon had to give up on that idea. The Conductor was standing on the third coach from the rear, and seeing them, yelled out “Get in here! There’s still seats!” Eileen snagged the last available seat, while Ed stood nearby in the aisle. It was a lively coach, at least. Most of the passengers were standing up, and many were chatting and singing, enjoying the night. The cousins’ good spirits seemed to grow at every stop they reached.



When the troop train struck, Ed thought it was a bomb. Everything was gone in an instant. In seconds, Ed had gone from standing and chatting excitedly in the aisle, to total darkness, as he and his cousin found themselves buried under tons of debris.

Photograph of the wrecked third coach of the Ottawa Valley Local in Almonte with people walking through town, 1942

The Remains of the Third Coach – December 28, 1942


They were trapped for almost five hours before they were rescued. Miraculously, they both sustained only minor injuries.

Crossing Paths

At the front of the coach, Doug and Thyra were dazed and shaken. They had both hit the floor, hard, and something had fallen on top of them – the seat from behind. But both were unhurt, and Doug managed to help Thyra up and off the train. Doug’s only casualty: the broken crystal in his watch.

Ed Muldoon and Doug Snair met to discuss the Accident in 2014 and discovered they had vastly different experiences. . .

View this video with a transcript: An Interview with Douglas Snair