All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway

Railway / Coastal History

Accidents and the Weather

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S.S. Bruce I

On March 24, 1911, in heavy ice conditions, the S.S. Bruce was wrecked on the rocks near Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island. On board were one hundred and twenty-three passengers, including many women and children, as well as forty Newfoundland fishermen heading for British Columbia to join the Pacific seal hunt. Two lives were lost. The survivors made it to shore in six large lifeboats, where they were met by local people with horses and sleighs. The Sydney and Louisbourg Railway ran a special train to get the people to safety.

S.S. Kyle

From: Evening Telegram, May 8, 1923

S.S. Kyle Refugees

Weary and exhausted, twenty-seven refugees from the ice-bound steamer S.S. Kyle who have been imprisoned within sight of land for ten days, landed at Flat Point [Nova Scotia] this afternoon, after walking eight miles over the treacherous [ice] fields that separated them from the shore. Grim determination and urge of self-preservation was all that kept some of them up as they picked their uncertain way over the ice flows... There were four women, and with one exception, they stood the strain much better than the men. Captain Peters, light keeper at Flat Point welcomed the refugees with hot drinks and in a short time they were ready to walk to Waterford, where they entrained for Sidney. Miss Rolls, one of the ladies, fell between the floating cakes of ice and had a narrow escape but she pluckily climbed out and continued. It was an individual battle, each for himself.

The S.S. Kyle had many more noteworthy events in its storied past. In February 1942, the supply ship S.S. Pollux and the destroyer S.S. Truxton, two American Navy ships, had grounded at Chambers Cove during a vicious storm. The S.S. Kyle was waiting out the storm in St. Lawrence; but upon hearing of the accident it set out into the bad weather to help. Due to the high winds and waves The S.S. Kyle was unable to reach the sailors who clung to their ship and nearby rocks. When nothing could be done, the S.S. Kyle headed back to St. Lawrence. There the crew picked up ropes and other equipment and returned to the site of the accident overland to help in the rescue of the stranded sailors. Later that month, the U.S. Navy responded by letter saying, "This spirit of cooperation and self-sacrifice in the face of danger is in keeping with the highest traditions of seafaring men. Please transmit to the master of the KYLE... the sincere appreciation of the survivors of the grounded ships for his prompt and willing offers of aid."

Photograph of the wrecked  S.S. Bruce. 1911.
S.S. Bruce wrecked ashore at Port Nova, about eight miles east of Louisburg, Nova Scotia. Provincial Archives, The Rooms.
S.S. Kyle in her final resting place on the mud flats of Riverhead in Harbour Grace.
The S.S. Kyle rests on the mud flats of Riverhead, Harbour Grace, in 2006. Highlights of the S.S. Kyle's long career include her location of the wreckage of the American plane Old Glory and her role in the USS Pollux and USS Truxton rescue near St. Lawrence. Sascha Meyer-Diekena, 2006.
The S.S.  Kyle under steam at sea.
The S.S. Kyle at sea. Railway Coastal Museum.