Lakeview Disaster

“The accident was one of the most disastrous that has ever occurred on the coast and has caused much distress in the city, where almost all the victims were know." -The Daily News (New Westminster), November 11, 1909.

Plaque

On November 10, 1909, near this site, BC Electric Interurban car “Sumas” was destroyed by a runaway flat car loaded with timbers destined for the iron foundry at Nanaimo and 24th Avenue. The impact with “Sumas” released the timbers which shot off the flat car instantly killing 14 passengers and seriously injuring 9 others. It remains the worst transit accident in Vancouver. “Sumas” was rebuilt and re-entered service as car number 1216 in 1910.

History

Lakeview and Cedar Cottage
In 1891, an interurban line was built to link Vancouver with New Westminster. The line opened up the Kensington-Cedar Cottage area, drawing merchants who opened shops around the Lakeview tram stop at 18th and Commercial as well as farmers. “By comparison with the horse-drawn stages and muddy, rutted roads, the interurban hourly service was a miracle,” writes Michael Kluckner. The Lakeview station was named for the small area around Trout Lake. Prior to 1930, East 19th Avenue was known as Lakeview Drive. 

The Accident
On November 9, 1909, BC Electric’s Interurban passenger car Sumas was travelling east to New Westminster, when it was struck by runaway flatcar heavily loaded with timbers. The car was destined for the iron foundry at Nanaimo and 24th Avenue when it uncoupled from its train and began rolling back down the hill towards the lake, gaining strong momentum. The impact released the timbers which shot off the flat car and demolished the Sumas. Of the 24 passengers on board, only one escaped injury; 14 were killed instantly, nine were seriously injured and an additional man later died from injuries. “The accident was one of the most disastrous that has ever occurred on the coast and has caused much distress in the city, where almost all the victims were known,” The Daily News reported. The majority of the victims were employees of the B.C.E.R. catching the first car of the day (which departed at 5:50am) to reach New Westminster in time for work at 7 o’clock.  “The residents of Lakeview and Cedar Cottage worked heroically to remove the dead and injured from the debris and alleviate their sufferings,” reported The Delta Times. Twelve of the victims were buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

The Aftermath
The accident was the worst transit accident in Vancouver’s history and BC Electric Railway took serious steps to prevent further incidents. The gully immediately east of Hull Street was filled in, the entire line was double-tracked, and the Gladstone Trestle was constructed, making the grade between Lakeview and Nanaimo less severe. In addition, all existing passenger cars were rebuilt and upgraded with the latest safety equipment. Lawsuits over the accident carried on for more than a year, resulting in the BC Electric Railway paying out substantial damages to the families of those killed and injured.

Cedar Cottage Community Garden
Today the accident site is a community garden under the SkyTrain guideway at Victoria and Vanness. The garden was started in May 2008 with 22 raised plots and a small orchard. The garden shed (which displays the Places That Matter plaque) was built within 20 feet of the original Lakeview station. It is a three-quarter scale replica of the building that stood there from approximately 1900-1935.

Sources

  • “Fourteen Perish, Nine are Injured, When Interurban Cars Collide,” The Daily News. Nov 11, 1909.
  • “Fourteen Killed in Accident.” The Delta Times. November 13, 1909, p. 4.
  • City of Vancouver. “Kensington-Cedar Cottage History.”
  • Peter Finch. “Full Circle.” The Kensington-Cedar Cottage Neighbour.
  • Michael Kluckner. Vancouver The Way It Was. North Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 1984.
  • Elizabeth Walker. Street Names of Vancouver. Vancouver Historical Society. 1999.

Nearby Places That Matter

Media & Photos

Address

Victoria Dr. at Hull, on garden shed along Vanness Avenue
Kensington Cedar-Cottage

Coordinates

49.25167491008941, -123.06401921824647

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