The Jitney

In 1914, Frank Eager, the Levack Mine manager, determined that a convenient method of transportation between the town and the main railway line was needed for the workers and their families. He cleverly devised a way to satisfy this need by purchasing a motor car and switching the regular wheels for steel railway wheels. This way, the car could travel along the railway tracks and meet up with the main line. A flatbed car was added to the vehicle to accommodate additional passengers. It was fitted with wooden benches and a roof. The car was called the jitney (meaning taxi).

The jitney.  Photo courtesy of "The Story of Onaping Falls".There was little risk of running into trains because in those days, there were only two trains a day that used the track: the morning train traveling to Sudbury and the evening train coming back from Sudbury. Therefore, by avoiding these times of the day, the jitney could safely traverse the track. This ingenious solution ensured that residents of Levack could conveniently reach the Levack Railway Station (built in 1917) and from there, board a train along the main line. Over the years, the jitney and the mine train developed a strict schedule of use for the single spur line. This solution worked well until in 1927, a terrible chain of events resulted in the unthinkable.

The tale began with the payroll money being transported to the Levack mine (in those days, the men were paid in cash). Frank Eager, as mine manager, would take the track repairmen's motor scooter to meet the train and transport the payroll and the paymaster, Harry Stevens, back to the mine.  On that particular day, two robbers plotted to steal the money and they laid two railway ties across the track to force the scooter to stop. When Frank slowed the scooter down to keep from hitting the barrier, the two men suddenly appeared and relieved the paymaster of the money, then disappeared into the woods. Wanting to catch the two criminals, Frank and Harry removed the obstacles and hurried back to the mine to gather a search party. The search party boarded the steam locomotive and were proceeding to the location where the robbery had taken place.

During this time, the jitney had arrived at the Levack Railway Station, had loaded its passengers and was getting ready for the short trip back to Levack. Little did they know that they were on a collision course with the locomotive. Because of the way the track had been laid (it was curved and did not provide the ability to see very far ahead), neither the locomotive engineer nor the driver of the jitney could have avoided the inevitable collision. The accident resulted in the complete destruction of the jitney and the death of its two male passengers. The driver of the jitney suffered severe injuries and two young girls who were in the passenger trailer had severe cuts and bruises.  The jitney was never replaced.

Although the payroll bandits were later caught by police just north of the community of Larchwood, the tragedy of the day far outweighed any joy felt over the money's recovery.


Material compiled from The Story of Onaping Falls.

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