End of the Line


Sixty people died in 1857, leaving behind their stories and the tales of those involved.

In 1857, the Desjardins Canal bridge collapsed under a Toronto-to-Hamilton train, creating one of the worst railway wrecks in North American history. Sixty lives, including that of the main contractor, were lost. The story of how the Great Western Railway was conceived, where it was located, and how it was constructed is replete with high irony covering political intrigue, commercial skullduggery, and bold entrepreneurship. Woven into the tragic events of that cold March evening are a cross-section of pre-Confederation Canadians whose lives contrasted sharply with the dour stereotypical view of pioneering Canada.

End of the Line portrays the personalities of these global travellers, burgeoning industrialists, and simple railway servants – all connected by the common thread of catastrophe. Particular attention is focused on the little-known life of Samuel Zimmerman – the irrepressible contractor who died in the accident. Captured throughout is the spirit of economic venture infecting the mood of the continent.


It's clear that McIver's work is a labour of love, which mitigates the potential of this tragic event and the circumstances that prevailed, from being faded from memory. At approximately 200 pages, the book is well written and educational. McIver's use of the English language is superb. End of the Line is essential reading for anyone who is interested in rail, historical Hamilton or the lessons learned from our past.

The Hamiltonian

With accounts from survivors, quotes from newspapers, and images of the disaster and of those involved, McIver takes readers to the minutes before a wheel axle broke on the Toronto-to-Hamilton train…

Canada’s History (September, 2014)

A very interesting study into one of the early tragedies on Canadian Railways presented in a readable style and packed with information.


About the Author

Don McIver

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
Don McIver photo

Don McIver

Don McIver was chief economist with a major Canadian financial institution in Burlington, Ontario. His research frequently took him to the train-wreck site and various locations significant to the drama. Don has held senior postings at the Conference Board of Canada, Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, and the Canadian Bankers Association. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.