The Tragic Storm of 1944

Devastation at Port Hood

On December 28, 1944, a severe storm and tidal wave hit the coast of Inverness, causing countless damage to the local fishing industry and a train to derail near Little Judique.

On the night of December 28, 1944, a severe storm and tidal wave swept the coast of Inverness County. The storm had a great impact on the Port Hood area. Much fishing equipment was destroyed including wharves and breakwaters.

H.A. Smith & Sons on Port Hood Island was a fishing business established by Hezekiah Smith. The business included a lobster cannery, cold storage plant, ice house, and various buildings for curing fish. The Storm of ’44 carried away their wharf and most of their buildings. One of the biggest losses was their cannery, which was only about twenty years old and canned upwards of 500 cases of lobster each year.

The Maryville Co-operative Cannery at Maryville, which exported tinned lobster under the United Maritime Fishermen brand label, was also destroyed along with numerous buildings. The storm was a severe setback to the fishing industry in the Port Hood area.

The storm brought a large accumulation of snow. Roads were impassable and telephone lines went down. On the morning of December 29, Angus MacNeil was doing his barn work and listening for the whistle of the Judique Flyer train. It usually blew at the crossing behind Rannie Graham’s property as it travelled from Inverness to Port Hawkesbury. What Angus and the people on the train did not realize was that rising water during the night had eaten away part of the track's foundation. Just prior to this section of track was a turn. As the Judique Flyer rounded the turn, the weight of the train leaned on the side of the railbed that was still solid. But as the train straightened out, its weight transferred to both rails. The compromised rail then gave way, causing some cars – including the engine – to derail and tip over into the snow.

When Angus did not hear the whistle, he thought the train must be off the track. He went to investigate and found the cars on their sides. Joe Connors, the section foreman from Inverness, told Angus that the engineer, Frank Philpot from Port Hawkesbury, was pinned beneath the engine car. He had been killed instantly.

There was no way to send word to Port Hawkesbury as the phone lines were down. So the brakeman and another man walked to Port Hood to send a telegram. The two men also sent word to the coroner and to Port Hood’s policeman, Constable Collins, who was stranded in Port Hawkesbury because of the storm.

The coroner and Constable Collins arrived in Little Judique around three o'clock that afternoon, after the road had been ploughed by Johnny MacKenzie. Once the coroner and constable concluded their investigation, Frank Philpot's body was taken to Angus D. MacDonald’s house, which was then collected by an ambulance and taken to Port Hawkesbury. There was another man – a Mr. MacKinnon – in the engine car with Frank Philpot, but he emerged from the scene unscathed. He was saved because at the time of the accident, he was placing coal on the furnace.



Approximate location of where the train derailed.