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Back in Time: Recalling the “crazed” train gunman of ‘35

It was on a cold January day in 1935 when Duncan McGregor, described as a crazed trapper from Island Falls, decided to take on a locomotive.
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A photo taken from the side of a moving train around the Flin Flon area - similar to the train that trapper Duncan McGregor shot at several times in an infamous 1935 incident. - PHOTO COURTESY FLIN FLON HERITAGE PROJECT

It was on a cold January day in 1935 when Duncan McGregor, described as a crazed trapper from Island Falls, decided to take on a locomotive.

It was about three-and-a-half miles north of Flin Flon where McGregor sealed his place in the community’s history. McGregor was standing on the track as a mine train, carrying about 12 workers, came down the track toward him. The engineer slowed down and began to blast the horn to get him off the track, but he did not move. As the locomotive came closer, McGregor began to shoot at the train with his .32 calibre Winchester rifle.

The engineer slowly moved the train up again and he shot his rifle again, then a third time. The train would finally stop and the RCMP detachment in Flin Flon was notified.

Constables Anderson and Schweitzer responded by taking a train, owned by the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting (HBM&S) company, from the other direction to block the man on the track, putting a train behind him and a train in front of him.

McGregor, seeing the train in front of him now, stopped walking. Constable Anderson attempted to arrest the man but a shot was fired that thankfully missed him. It was then that police decided to bide their time until they could arrest the man safely.

McGregor then walked off the track and began walking through deep snow to get around the second train. As he neared the track, the train began to back up and the man found himself along the locomotive as he approached the railway grade.

Constable Anderson, who was standing on the running board under the headlights of the second train, waited until the man was 10 feet away, then took the opportunity to jump at McGregor and catch him.

“At the opportune moment, Anderson sprang from his position onto the back of the madman, throwing him to the ground and disarming him,” reads a front-page story in the Jan. 31, 1935 issue of the Flin Flon Miner.

Upon his capture, McGregor was immediately arrested and taken to Flin Flon, then to Winnipeg, where a medical examination was scheduled.

When questioned by police, McGregor stated, quote: “I am D.L. McGregor and I have a message from the Lord.”

He would say no more, but in his possession was found a large sum of money, ammunition and a jackknife.

“Duncan L. McGregor, aged about 50 years, trapper of the north country, ran amuck here on Monday evening of this week, and for a short time created considerable excitement but was landed safely behind the bars by officers of the local detachment of the RCMP without any casualties,” reads the Flin Flon Miner story.

 

I put out a history magazine that highlights many aspects of Canadian history. It is free and is delivered to your inbox. E-mail me to subscribe at craig@canadaehx.com

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  • with files from Eric Westhaver