An Incident at the Bell Crossing

Adapted from a Memoir by Bill McFadden

 The “Bell Crossing”, a few kilometres southeast of town used to be on the main road from Rivers to Brandon.

It was a dangerous crossing where the railway line curves and enters Grant’s Cut. Because of the curve and the cut, road traffic didn’t have a good view of oncoming east-bound trains. To solve that problem, just to the east side of the crossing there was a post about twelve feet high which consisted of a steel pipe about six inches in diameter. Near the top were cross arms similar to the cross arms seen at rail crossings today. But above the arms on the top of the post there was a large steel bell. This very loud bell was activated by oncoming trains just as signal lights are activated today.

The McFadden farmstead was just north east of the Bell Crossing. In winter of 1935 Chester McFadden sent the hired man, Tom Ivory, to the Alexander area to bring home an Aberdeen Angus bull he had recently purchased. It was a large animal – about 800 kilograms. Tom set out on a cold winter day with a team of horses and a sleigh box to bring the animal to its new home. In those days, people traveling by horse drawn cutter or sleigh often did not stick to the road allowances but traveled across farmers’ fields. That afternoon Tom was nearing home with his load. He had come cross-country to a point near the farm, but the field he had crossed was fenced and he had to stop and open a gate to get back on to the road just south of the crossing. And after driving his team through the gate he had to stop and walk back to shut the gate. While doing that something startled the unattended team and they ran away, bull in tow. As horses will do- they headed for home. As they came to the crossing, they didn’t quite hit the centre. One horse went on each side of the bell post, and with the momentum of the sleigh and bull they sheared the steel post off at ground level. The team and bull survived, but for a period of time the Bell Crossing had no bell. Chester’s son Bill recalled years later that. “… they didn’t sue my father for damages. If an accident happened today causing that much damage to their property they likely would.”


The modern crossing.

In the summer of 1938 an overhead bridge was built just a few yards to the west of the crossing so the crossing was no longer needed and the bell was removed. In the 1954 Highway 25 was completed and it became the main road from Rivers to Brandon and points to the south and east.