What you need to know about an exhibit exploring Mississauga’s massive train derailment

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Not too long ago, in 1979, a massive train derailment caused chaos in Mississauga—and everyone lived to tell the tale. 

Nov. 10, 2019, marks the 40th anniversary of the largest peacetime evacuation in Northern America at that time and the event has been dubbed by many as The Mississauga Miracle. 

The city is commemorating the 40th anniversary with Mississauga Miracle: The Story of the 1979 Derailment - two exhibitions created in partnership with Heritage Mississauga and the Museums of Mississauga that will be on display at the Bradley Museum and The Grange this fall.

As for what happened, a Canadian Pacific (CP) train lost one of its wheels, resulting in the derailment of 24 cars carrying six dangerous ingredients - propane, caustic soda, styrene, toluene, fibreglass insulation and chlorine. The flammable liquids and vapours caused a massive explosion with flames more than 1,500 metres high that could be seen over 100 kilometres away.

Evacuations began two hours after the explosion and continued until more than 240,000 Mississauga residents were evacuated. Many residents were unable to return home for one week. 

Although the fallout from the derailment was substantial - displaced people, closed highways, massive traffic jams and abandoned animals - there were no lives lost or serious injuries. Hence, it's often referred to as the Mississauga Miracle.

The exhibition, which kicked off at the Bradley Museum (1620 Orr Rd.) on Sept. 21, features local art, records and artifacts related to the train derailment. Artifacts from the museums’ collections include:

  • The pressure relief valve from the derailed tanker
  • The final investigation report
  • Images of the derailment from a variety of sources
  • Items from the Heritage Mississauga and Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) 
  • Commemorative items given to former Mayor Hazel McCallion or collected by residents

The exhibition will also feature a video compiled from 50 oral histories of the experiences of those involved. The interviews range from front-line firefighters to politicians and residents that were evacuated from their Mississauga homes.

The Bradley House exhibit can be enjoyed from now until Nov. 17, 2019, and is open Thursday to Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m.

If you miss the exhibit at the Bradley House, you can catch it at The Grange (1921 Dundas Street West) from Oct. 29 to Nov. 15, 2019. It will be open from Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Residents can join the city and Heritage Mississauga for an anniversary open house at The Grange. Refreshments will be available. That event will take place on Nov. 10 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Photos courtesy of the Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives (PAMA)

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