St Catharines , Ontario
The Tunnel that was dicovered by Russ and his group was one of Niagara's old transportation tunnels used by the Great Western Railway Company .
Back in 1867, the Welland Canal became a federal matter. John A. Macdonald's goverment made plans to construct a 3rd canal to accommodate the vessels using the other two canals that were already in use. The construction of the 3rd canal started in the year 1870 and was to take 17 years to complete, although the third canal was offically opened in April of 1882....
A provision had to be made after the new canal opened for vehicle traffic that crossed the 3rd canal. Wooden swing bridges were in place, but concerns came in by the Great Western Railway Company for they required a more durable and less interrupted way to cross the new canal. So a tunnel was decided upon.....
Its location was decided to be between locks 18 and 19 and was to pass under the third canal itself. This was a huge excavation project, not only for the tunnel itself but also for the long graded railway approaches to and from the tunnel. Work began in early 1875. Hundreds of men with picks and shovels and horses were used to have the excavation done..... After the tunnel was excavated the stone masonaries moved in and within a year the tunnel was complete.
The tunnel itself ended up to be 665 feet long and with the winged stone work at both ends giving the tunnel a total length of 713 feet... The entire tunnel was built with Queenston Limestone that was hauled by wagon and rail from the Queenston Quarry.
When the third canal was opened in 1882 the Great Western Railway Company was in the process of being incorpated into the Grand Trunk Railway system. It was the latter railway company that used the tunnel first.
The tunnel was destined to a short period of usage for it had a single track that ran through the tunnel. By the late 1880's the Grand Trunk Rail Line was double tracked throughout its length. So a new double tracked swing bridge was constructed a little north of the tunnel near lock 17. This swing bridge was made of steel and is still being used today.......
The tunnel however, was used off and on as late as 1915 before being abandoned. An engineer named Harry Eastwood was the last one to pilot a train through the tunnel. In the years that followed the once vibrant tunnel was forgotten and abandoned. Sometimes the only persons that used the tunnel would be the occasional farmer that lived in the vicinity who used it as a means of getting his cattle from one field to the other. The tunnel also made for a weather proof passage way once the rails and ties had been removed.....
In the year 1913 plans were in process to construct the present day Wellands 4th canal... The abandoned tunnel still stands today as a reminder of times gone by. The tunnel would be 122 years old this year of 2004.
The tunnel had its share of death over the years. One being that of the Great Rail Disaster near the western end of the tunnel.
As reported by the Daily Standard dated January 3rd 1903........
The headlines flashed across the front cover "BAD TRAIN WRECK, No.4 Express Collides with a light Mogul Near Merritton Tunnel." (Known today as the "Blue Ghost Tunnel")
"On the Grandtrunk rail line near Merritton a serious and fatal accident occurred near the Merritton Tunnel today. The accident occurred around 7:03am at a point about 100 yards from the tunnels western entrance. Engine Number 975 was an 80 ton mogul train to leave from Niagara falls at 6:00am each morning and run through to Hamilton .
Engine Number 4 express train was one of the best and fastest trains on the G.T. R. and was scheduled to arrive in Merritton at 6:28am. The Engineer's name was Duke and the fireman that manned the boiler was Abraham Desult both from Sarnia. As nearly as can be learned it was 7:03 am when the ill-fated express train passed a small telegraph station near the tunnel,
A few moments later and almost one third of a mile down the track the engine of the express train and the light mogul train met with a terrible crash. Both engines at the time of the collision were in full steam when they met head on. The accident happened on a sharp curve where both engineers could not see each other for a distance of 200ft. The estimated speed of both trains were about 22MPH at the time of the collision.
Both engineers escaped with only broken limbs and minor cuts to face and arms while Mr. Charles Horning (firemen) for the express train was killed instantly. The reporter described the condition of the body as being jammed between the boiler and tentler, his body was horribly mangled. When rescuers went to pull on the limbs of the man to try to free him they broke off. When some of the remains were taken away, his mid section was so tightly wedged between the tentler and boiler that his remaining body could not be pulled free. It was even noted that his watch on one of his arms was still working......
The other firemen (Abraham Desult) from the mogal train was smashed into the boiler of the train, and received burns to 90% of his body. He was rushed to the St.Catharines General Hospital were he died 5 hours after the accident."
The entrance to the tunnel that one can explore today was the side where the accident had happened. The trains did not collide in the tunnel as most folks had thought. It happened about 100 yards from the entrance of the tunnel just beyond the path we walk down to get to the BGT.....
The spirit of the two firemen could be part of the paranormal activity that is found at the BGT today .......
Lock 6 Disaster
Then there was the lock six disaster that happened on August 6th/1928 where 8 men had been killed and two others near death that later died of the injuries sustained..... The lock itself over time was said to be cursed, for two years later from the day of the last disaster of August 6th/1928 another fatal accident occured killing 8 men.... There were other accidents along the canal. During the time it took to construct the canal 107 lives were lost....
Does the Blue Ghost Tunnel act as a magnet for all that died around the area ? We can not answer that question with any certainty, but we do know that the tunnel holds paranormal activity and hosts many spirits within the depths of the tunnel itself.......
Before Lakeview Cemetery;
As documented at the Library in St. Cathrines Ontario, the cemetery was not located beside the tunnel itself, as some folks thought. It was, and still is, in the poundage area by the pump house. Here are the facts that were found.....
There once was a time when the township of Thorold had many small churchyards that once existed. For almost a century Thorold's main cemetery was the one established early in the 1800's near Thorold's first church building, commonly known as the Old German Church. The Old German Church was located at the intersection of the former Ten Mile Creek Road and ST. David's Road, in what is today a sort of wasteland near the south edge of the poundage area below the escarpment and east of the pump house.
In the year 1773 The Old German Church was a log building and it was built by the Lutherans. They were the first United Empire Loyalists that occupied the area. In 1802 one Jacob Ball gave a deed for a piece of land containing 5 acres, to be used forever as a burial ground to the Old German Church.
The picture below is an artist's conception of what the old church and cemetery looked like. By the early 1830's the OLD German Church was pretty much abandoned and was replaced by a new church building, erected on the opposite side (west) side from where the Old German Church had long stood.
St. Peters Anglican Church was the church that replaced the Old German Church in the year 1832 as pictured below....
By the year 1836 George Keefer, grandfather of Frank keefer (M.P.P.) was the first churchwarden and trustee of the burial grounds. As Thorold grew in the middle years of the 19th century it did so above the Escarpment, in a southerly and westerly direction, toward where the center of town is today.
As this happened, St. Peter's Church gradually fell into disuse, being replaced by the Church of St. John the Evangelist in and around the mid 1860's. When this happened the former St. Peter's Church had become nothing more than a funeral chapel.
As the town's attention shifted elsewhere, the old cemetery that was adjacent to St. Peter's Church likewise was more and more ignored.
In 1875 and 1876 by the Thorold Post were some articles about the Old Cemetery.....
One read the "Old German Cemetery"
This article was printed in the year 1875 by the Thorold Post describing the poor conditions of the burial grounds by where the old German Church once stood.The article was placed by a Pro Bono ....
He wanted to direct the attention of the city fathers to the poor state of the cemetery by saying it was like "a crying evil that was in the midst" as to the state of the cemetery. He further claimed it was "a disgrace to humanity." He also said "if a stranger came to see the new canal, what would they think by coming across such a site. I am sure they would have a low opinion of the region."
The second article that appeared in the Thorold Post was made in the year 1876....
The article read "Why Is It So"
It was submitted by "Fair Canada"
They wrote asking why the town's church yard was in such bad condition and unattended too....... They were talking about the Old German Church Cemetery, describing that near the old stone church (St. Peters) had it's gate open, the fences broken in many places and cattle of various kinds roaming at will amidst the graves, injuring the monuments sometimes over throwing them...
In conclusion asking "Why Oh Why is it so"........
Shortly after the articles were written it was proposed to the towns council in August 1876 that Thorold find space for a new cemetery. The town council recorded the minutes of this proposal and did nothing about this immediately, but the seed was planted..... A decade later Lakeview Cemetery was opened on top of the escarpment and a safe distance east of the new third canal. But Old St. Peters Cemetery still remained "populated" with the graves of Thorolds oldest, most distinguished citizens.....Below is a picture of the old cemetery..
By the early twentieth century the cemetery's condition had gotten so bad that in the following article from the Thorold Post (July 3.1908) you would think the reporter was describing an archaeologist's trek through the Mexican jungle rather than simply a walk through Tholord's old cemetery......
The reporter had printed in his own words that it was like "walking through a jungle, with overgrown brush , and neglected grave markers that popped up through the brush. Some of the stones were broken and the fence that surround the grave yard was broken in many areas."
At this time the cemetery was called the "Old Cemetery" formerly "The Grave Yard" formerly "St. Peters Burial Grounds" formerly " The Lutheran Burial Place" then formerly "The Old German Church Cemetery"
By the early 1920's came the final blow to the cemetery when it was decided upon to build a new canal that would be later called the Fourth Welland Canal. This would require that the area occupied by the Old Cemetery and once the site of St. Peters Church be covered by a canal pondage area.
The call went out for any persons having relatives in the Old Cemetery to arrange to have their remains moved to the new Lakeview Cemetery. Those that made claims to have their loved ones moved got underway by July 1923. This would make the cemetery 150 years old by this date. Total graves that were in the cemetery was numbered at 913 graves, the oldest one being that of a Hannah Lampton, Buried in 1793. Many of these graves were that of the United Loyalists and their entire families. The government at the time that was to perform the removal of the graves stated "Graves that were not claimed or those without markers would remain in the grave yard."
By the time all was said and done a total of 250 graves had been removed out of 913 graves, leaving a total of 663 graves that are still in the area that is now under water in the pondage area by the Blue Ghost Tunnel.
It is unbelievable to think that anyone could just flood over a grave site with bodies still buried in the ground. The old graveyard is nothing more than a watery grave site for all those who were once prominent citizens of the township of Thorold, Ontario. To us this is a great injustice that should have never happened.
So with all the history that surrounds the BGT today it is no wonder and without doubt, in our opinion, the tunnel holds many lost souls that have made this tunnel their home........
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