FALLEN WORKERS: Man crushed in railway accident
This aerial view shows the tricky navigation past the syphon construction site (middle left), on the Welland Ship Canal, circa 1927-28. (Major P.J. Cowan photo)
The Welland Ship Canal would wind through the city of Welland along the same course as the third Welland Canal.
The great challenge in this section was crossing Chippawa Creek. The previous three canals had all done this by means of an aqueduct, a ‘bridge’ for ships, under which the water of the creek could freely flow.
The new canal was being designed for ships that would have a 10-metre draft. This meant that the bottom of the canal would be below the top of Chippawa Creek and therefore a solution other than an aqueduct was called for.
The first suggestion had been to build a dam across the creek at Port Robinson and create a lake upon which the ships would travel. This method of creating a navigable waterway is called a slackwater navigation. However, further study of this proposal revealed that the flooded area would be larger than originally thought, and that expropriation and litigation would be costly.
The plan adopted called for a reverse (inverted) syphon. Normally a syphon takes a liquid and raises it and then discharges it on the other side. As this type of syphon would obstruct the canal channel, the syphon had to be done in reverse, that is, taking the creek down and under the canal channel. (Another reverse syphon would later be built for the Welland canal bypass which was constructed 1967 to 1973.)
‘Business as usual’ might well have been the watchwords for this section. The construction of the Welland Ship Canal could not hinder the operation of the third canal. The construction of the syphon would create a tricky dogleg over the existing aqueduct until construction was finished. Additional work would then be required to remove the third canal aqueduct and dredge the channel to the necessary depth.
Elmer Wylde was employed as a brakeman on one of the trains working at the reverse syphon construction site in Welland. Wylde was riding on the back of the engine at 5:30 a.m. on July 28,1927, when it suddenly derailed. This caused the following rail car to run into the back of the engine and crushed Wylde in the process. He was instantly killed. It would take rescuers more than a half-hour to release his body.
Coroner Dr. Allison called an inquest and the jury ruled that the event was an accident.
Single, Elmer had been predeceased by his father Thomas and left behind his mother Rhoda and brother Harley Wylde and half-brother Elgin Stephenson. He is buried in Fonthill Cemetery.
— This article is part of a series remembering the men whose lives were lost in the construction of the Welland Ship Canal. The Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force is a volunteer group established to design, finance, and build a memorial to recognize workers who were killed during construction of the Welland Ship Canal. For more information about the memorial, or to contribute to the project visit www.stcatharines.ca/CanalWorkersMemorial.
Profile No. 77
Elmer Robert Wylde (a.k.a. Wilde), 20
Born: Dec. 4, 1906 (Thorold Township)
Died: July 28, 1927 (Section 6, Welland)
Cause of death: crushed in train derailment
Occupation: brakeman, Atlas Construction Co.