On November 10, 1979, a train was making its weekly scheduled run from Sarnia to Toronto. As CP train 54 passed through Mississauga, at the Mavis Road crossing, rail cars began to derail. The train was transporting various products, some included hazardous chemicals. Due to the rail cars derailment and weather conditions, subsequent explosions began. This event is known as the Mississauga Train Derailment.
The derailment was dangerous and resulted in emergency evacuations to the citizens of Mississauga. Following the explosions, more than 240,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Mississauga, Oakville, and Etobicoke.
Although the event caused a crisis to the city, it is also known as the “Mississauga Miracle” as no lives were lost, and no permanent damage transpired onto the city’s land.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Mississauga Trail Derailment. To commemorate this incident, Heritage Mississauga collaborated with the Museums of Mississauga to produce an exhibition of artwork, archives, and artifacts for the city. The exhibition runs at Bradley Museum and Heritage Mississauga “The Grange.” Each exhibit displays different pieces about the derailment.
At the Bradley Museum, the exhibit showcased a video of residents speaking about their experience of the incident, paintings, newspaper articles, a pressure relief valve from one derailed train car, musical products inspired from the incident, and a scrapbook of stories and photographs featuring Mississauga residents recalling their perspective of the derailment.
Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga at the time of the derailment, said in the video, “it was quite a challenge, but we put together a team of the Fire Department, Police Department, the province came out to help us, the department heads, the OPP. So, people really rallied to help us, realizing how serious it was.”
Gord Bentley, the Fire Chief at the time of the derailment, said in the video, that the Fire Department “were on the scene for 250 hours and 33 minutes,” working on the incident.
The Bradley Museum showcased artwork by Pat Bond. One painting, titled B.L.E.V.E (Boiling-Liquid-Expanding-Vapour Explosion) uses warm toned colours to illustrate a large fire. At the bottom left of the painting stands a few light poles, growing smaller in the distance, and covered by the fire. Orange, red, dark yellow, and white acrylic paint encompass the entire canvas. The entire painting showcases the fires movement by depicting a wave-like motion. This painting is used as the background logo for the exhibition.
Another acrylic painting on display was titled X (November 10, 1979) created by Sonja Hidas. The painting illustrated a bloodshed vision of the event, by using red and black colours. Liquid, appearing like blood, drips from the top of the painting and smears itself across the canvas. Silhouettes of a group of people stand on the sidelines as majority of the painting depicts a broken railway.
A pressure relief (safety) valve was on display at the Bradley Museum. This is an artifact from the derailment and a piece of evidence, investigated by Forensic Scientists, following the incident.
The exhibition also showcased musical tracks created from inspiration of the derailment. John Beckwith, a Canadian composer, created “Derailed,” The Train Gang created “Mississauga Mishap,” and The Gas featuring Greg Warren created “Evacuate Mississauga.” The records, art covers, and musical sheets of the songs on display at the exhibition.
To demonstrate the communal aspect of the historic event, Bradley Museum included a retro style scrapbook of several stories of Mississauga residents, and their experiences at the time of the derailment. The scrapbook included pages of photographs, stories, and quotes.
Stories varied from the incident occurring on peoples wedding days, going on dates, to driving and feeling the heat of the explosion. The scrapbook was a wonderful way to share different stories of Mississauga citizens explaining the same event. The Bradley Museum included writing utensils for visitors to write their experiences, if they have, in the book too.
If you’re interested in learning about Mississauga’s history, visit the free exhibitions, running until November 17 at the Bradley Museum and November 15 at Heritage Mississauga “The Grange.”