The Traveston Railway
Camp Mou ntain
The 1947 Camp Mountain Rail Smash
The South Brisbane Rail Smash
At the time that it occurred, the tragedy which befell the
Rockhampton Mail train in the early hours of 9 June, 1925, was
the worst railway disaster in Queensland’s history.
The accident occurred shortly before 2am when an
obstruction under one of the trailing wheels of the leading
bogie of the luggage van in the Mail’s consist caused the van
to derail. The vehicle careered along in that perilous state
for about 2.4km before it plunged over the side of the 96 Mile
Bridge on the northern side of Traveston, taking with it two
The guard had a lucky escape from also ending up in the
creek bed when the couplings between his van and the derailed
luggage van snapped shortly before the latter van went into
The Brisbane Courier newspaper of 10 June 1925,
described how the view from the accident bridge “presents a
mangled mass of debris, quantities of which are in splinters
“It can be likened to heaps of the waste of carpenters
or joiners. How any of the passengers escaped is little short
of a miracle,” the Courier observed.
Most deaths and injuries occurred in a composite van
that went over the side of the bridge. Passengers from the
front section of the train which stayed on the rails quickly
tried to help those injured, however, it would take the
arrival of doctors and ambulance from Gympie for any
substantial treatment to take place.
Among the fatalities was a boy, 4, who died in his
mother’s arms, and a Bundaberg woman who had only been married
in Brisbane the day before the accident. Her husband of 24
hours sustained head injuries. There were fortunate escapes
too, as outlined by Queensland Parliamentarian, Mr. George
Carter, M.L.A., who had been travelling on the southbound
Rockhampton Mail that came upon the disaster scene shortly
“I saw a little baby boy of about 18 months, crawl
unconcernedly from underneath the debris, sucking at its
dummy, apparently none the worse for his terrible experience,”
Mr. Carter recounted.
The bridge where the disaster occurred was a small
wooden one spanning a gully about 10.5 metres deep.
News of the disaster was first received at Gympie at
2.30am. The station master there, Mr. Moynihan, quickly
organised a breakdown gang, doctors and ambulance staff and a
relief train was able to leave at 3.15pm.
At the scene of the tragedy, it was soon learnt that
nine people were dead and 48 were injured. Rescuers literally
had to break open some of the damaged carriages and jack up
some to extract the survivors. By 6.30am, however, the two
locomotives and the front portion of the train were able to
continue on to Gympie, taking with it the injured passengers.
The bodies of those who had died in the derailment were
brought in about 5.30am and taken to the Gympie Hospital
Soon after the accident it became apparent that some
passengers had been aware of the impending danger, however,
had been persuaded not to take preventive action.
John Stevens, 33, of Sydney, for example, told the Brisbane
Courier of how he had looked out of the window of his
carriage shortly before the accident and had seen “fire and
sparks” issuing from the wheels of the derailed luggage van
and had experienced a jolting and rumbling sensation.
Stevens had gone to pull the emergency communication
cord but was told by a fellow traveller not to do so as the
sensation was only caused by the train rounding a sharp curve.
Shortly after the luggage van went over the side of the
The train of 13 vehicles was headed by a B17 4-6-0, No
683, and PB15, 4-6-0 No 388. The consist was made up of a
travelling post office, a mail wagon, four sleeping cars, five
sitting cars, a baggage wagon and a brake van.
A Court of Inquiry was set up after the tragedy with
Mr. Justice Webb presiding.
The guard of the Rockhampton mail on the night of the
disaster, Mr. Peter Starkie, told the inquiry he had heard a
noise as if something was moving in the van at the spot where
the derailment occurred.
Later, Starkie had heard another sound in the down-pipe
of the lavatory in the guard’s van. On each occasion he had
looked out but did not see or hear anything unusual.
Starkie said, however, that a passenger had mentioned
to him at Caboolture that he could smell a hot box. Starkie
had looked at the train and saw no evidence of a hot box. At
Palmwoods, Inspector Miles had told Starkie there was a hot
box on the second-class coach. Starkie had again checked but
found no signs of the hot box.
Starkie told the inquiry that immediately before the
disaster, he had heard a tremendous crash and made a grab for
the Westinghouse brake. He got out of his van and discovered
that a terrible accident had occurred. Starkie said the train
was travelling about 32 kph at the time of the accident.
Ganger, Michael Lourigan, said he had reached the scene
of the accident at 4.10am on the morning of the disaster. He
had inspected the line from the point of the accident to where
derailment had originally occurred but saw nothing present to
indicate that the track was out of order.
Lourigan said there was nothing to indicate that the
derailment was due to excessive speed. He told the enquiry
that due to increased traffic on the North Coast line, it had
been more difficult to keep the line up to first class
Lourigan also said that the B17 class locomotives were
very hard on the track which was built for far lighter traffic
that it was now receiving.
John William Thornton, a Queensland Railways flying
ganger, told the inquiry that he had gone to the scene of the
accident on 9 June and found 133 broken sleepers and 250 dog
spikes. He believed that something must have struck one of the
wheels to cause the derailment. Thornton said that the line
from Gympie to Caboolture was in “fair condition,” however
heavy rains in recent months had resulted in the line having
some soft spots in its formation.
Ernest Edward Porter, a railway fettler, said that he
had been over the line on the day before the accident and had
reported a “nip in the joint” about 7.3 metres, or a rail’s
length, back from the location of the derailment. Porter said
he did not think it significant and believed that it had not
contributed to the accident.
The inquiry found that the fateful train had been
thoroughly examined and no blame was attached to examiners or
engineers. It found that the derailment that led to the
disaster was caused by an obstruction under one of the
trailing wheels of the leading bogie of the luggage van in the
Evidence suggested that it was the bottom part of the
brake-shoe holding the block over the leading wheel. The
inquiry exonerated the engine crews; however, in the case of
the guard, Peter Starkie, who had had a “splendid record” of
more than 40 years service, it was forced to conclude that had
he been as alert as he claimed to have been, his attention
would have been drawn to the plight of the luggage van before
the disaster occurred.
The inquiry stated its regret that passengers had not
pulled the emergency stop cord earlier.
Two of the suggestions to come out of the inquiry, however, were instrumental in effecting changes to the operation of the Queensland Government Railways. The use of goods wagons on mail trains was restricted to specially approved vehicles and baggage cars were built specially for use on passenger trains.
At the same time, Mr. R. A. Neild’s patented train
stop- which had been on some of the carriages of the
Rockhampton Mail, but unfortunately not on the wagons that
left the line- was fitted to most carriages.
Courier Mail: The Traveston Railway Disaster
Camp Mountain, Queensland, 5 May 1947.
Australia’s worst railway accident in almost 21 years- and the
worst railway accident in Queensland to date- occurred when a
crowded picnic excursion train left the rails on a bend near
Camp Mountain in the Samford Ranges, approximately 20 km from
Sixteen people were killed and 38 were injured as
wooden carriages shattered after leaving the rails on a
downhill stretch of the line.
The train was specially chartered by the Commonwealth
Department of Customs Recreation and Social Club for a picnic
at Closeburn on the Dayboro branch and had left Central
Station at 8.59am, two minutes late. Its total load was
estimated at around 230 passengers on departure, many of them
Shortly before 9.50am, after slowing at Ferny Grove to
accept a single-line tablet, the train crept over camp
Mountain Knob and began a two mile descent towards Samford
Station. It was during this steep descent of gradients ranging
from 1 in 50 to 1 in 66 that, according to passengers who
survived the crash, the train began to reach an alarming speed
accompanied by a terrifying swaying and rocking.
At approximately 18.3km, more than halfway down the
grade, the train approached a sharp 120 metre radius bend and
derailed with tragic consequences. The train’s locomotive, a
C17 No 824, overturned on its right-hand side, firmly becoming
embedded in the embankment.
The engine’s tender swung up high to the right and
overturned about 135 degrees. The right-hand leading edge of
the tender ploughed along the cutting driving clay and stones
into the engine’s cab. The engine driver, Clyde Hinds, was
pinned in the right side of the cab, between the reversing
sector and the cab panel. It would be several hours before he
could be cut from the wreckage.
Hinds’ fireman, Augustus Knight, was jammed between the
left hand front corner of the tender and the boiler near the
firebox hole door and was killed instantly.
A six metre long water gin immediately behind the
engine’s tender was wrenched free of the locomotive and was
struck by the leading carriage of the train. The water tank of
the unit telescoped back through the left hand side of the
carriage sweeping all before it. It was found about midway and
traversely to the left of the leading coach of the six
The underframe of the gin, however, ran forward on to
both pairs of tender bogies, smashing the frame in two. The
broken underframe, with bogies attached, and the leading and
trailing bogies from the tender, travelled to the left of
overturned engine No 824, coming to rest about three metres
ahead of the engine.
The leading carriage of the consist (No 740) was
wrecked by the impact of the intruding water gin. Six
fatalities probably came from this carriage although evidence
was inconclusive. Part of the roof ended up on the engine cab.
The remainder of the superstructure was “smashed to matchwood”
to borrow the terms of the official Court of Inquiry into the
Two leading compartments of the following carriage (No.
739) telescoped and were driven in under the tender. The
leading end of this carriage was lifted completely off its
bogie and was titled at an angle high up on the cutting on the
right hand side. Five passengers in this carriage were killed
instantly. Three others were trapped for up to six hours.
The leading end of the third carriage (No. 742) was
damaged and interlocked with the trailing end of the second
coach. Its leading bogie was derailed but the trailing bogie
stayed on the rails.
Some indication of the telescoping effect of the front
part of the train was revealed in the Court of Inquiry when it
was stated that the locomotive, tender, water gin, and three
leading carriages, had a combined length of just over 73
metres before the accident, but had been compressed into a
space of 41 metres after it.
Passengers in the trailing carriages continued
undisturbed for a few seconds as the telescoping of the
rolling stock was cushioned by the distance from the front of
the train. In fact damage to the rear three carriages was so
minimal that they were in a fit condition to be towed away
from the accident scene immediately after the crash.
First news of the disaster reached nearby Samford
station by way of a passenger, Mr. Edward Hart, who clambered
from carriage three to raise the alarm. The train’s guard, Mr.
George Evans, was forcibly thrown across his van by the sudden
halt of the train. He rushed to the Westinghouse brake air
cock in his van, only to find that there was no air.
Evans got out of his van, surveyed the scene from the
left-hand side cutting and returned to the van to screw on the
hand-brake. He rushed to the front of the train with the first
aid box, left it with someone, then ran back to his van for
the breakdown kit which he also took to the front of the
The guard then returned to his van to obtain red flags
and detonators, and ran back from the train 500 metres to stop
the following special train. After speaking briefly to its
crew, he also took steps to protect the front of the train.
An emergency rescue team was quickly assembled at
Samford and despatched to the accident scene in cars and
trucks, the first call to ambulance headquarters being made at
10.08am, with one car being sent immediately. Within 70
minutes, 18 cars and 26 men were at the crash scene.
Ambulances began to bring in some of the injured
passengers at noon-two hours after the accident occurred.
Driver Hind, who was in distress and remained virtually
inaccessible for several hours, was instructed on how to
self-administer a pain killing drug. Before then, however, a
couple of witnesses were able to speak to him uninfluenced by
medication and they recounted their conversations later to the
Court of Inquiry.
One of them, Patrick Frederick Campbell, knew both the
driver and fireman of the train. Campbell pulled away some of
the loose timber on the cab roof, recognised Hind, and asked
him whether his pump had stopped, thus causing the accident.
Hind had told him:
“No. Nothing like that. I did not know the road.
Neither did my mate.”
Another witness, Ernest William Wood, told the inquiry
Hind had told him: “My mate did not know the road.”
These comments contrasted with a comment made by Hind
in hospital to police in which he said: “I know I am in the
clear alright (sic).”
They also contrasted with the running arrangement for
the day in which Hind-who was unfamiliar with the line- was
being taught the road by Knight, who did.
By 3.30pm, rescuers had cut a hole in the locomotive’s
roof, freeing Hind who was rushed to hospital. Ten minutes
later the bodies of three children were removed. Shortly after
rescuers were able to access some badly injured adults and
further adult bodies.
Mrs. Emily McLean, who had been a passenger in the
second carriage of the train and was trapped for seven hours,
described to a Courier Mail newspaper reporter her
recollection of events:
“I thought we seemed to be going rather fast, and I had
just turned towards my husband when there was a terrible
crash,” she said.
“I seemed to be flying through the air and then
everything went black. When I woke up there was a terrible
pain in my legs and people around me were screaming. After a
while, I heard people chopping at the wood above me.”
Another passenger, Mr. J. O’Mara of Bulimba, confirmed
many passengers’ recollections of excessive, frightening speed
immediately before the derailment and he had warned other
passengers to “hold on, here it comes,” seconds before the
Rescuers and breakdown gangs toiled throughout the
afternoon and through the night to extract the injured and
dead and repair the damaged trackwork, but it was not until
5pm the day after the tragedy that the line was cleared of all
debris. Thirty minutes before, Clyde Hind had unexpectedly
died in hospital from injuries he sustained in the accident.
Hind’s death, took the final toll in the disaster to 16 dead
and 38 injured.
The Queensland Premier, Mr. Hanlon, announced a full
and open inquiry into the tragedy. He also offered a State
funeral for the 16 victims; however, the government settled
for meeting all funeral expenses
when various relatives of the deceased declined the
offer of a State funeral.
A Court of Inquiry was established and was presided
over by the Honourable A. J. Mansfield, Senior Puisne Judge of
the Supreme Court of Queensland, to determine the cause of the
disaster which had claimed 16 lives. The inquiry sat for 14
days and examined 50 witnesses. On 1 July, Mr. Hanlon released
the inquiry’s findings.
It found that the overturning of the tender, due to
excessive speed of the train, was the primary cause of the
accident. It found that driver Hind, fireman Knight, and the
train’s guard, George Essex Evans, were all guilty of breach
The maximum speed on the Dayboro branch at the time of
the accident was 40 km/h on straight stretches and 32 km/h on
curves. The driver was estimated to have exceeded the speed
limit by at least 24km(h) and was guilty of lack of care and
breach of duty.
The inquiry found that while Hind was unfamiliar with
the Dayboro branch, that was not a contributing cause as he
must have known he was exceeding the maximum speed limits.
The inquiry said: “The only reason which could be
discovered for excessive speed was that the train was late and
the driver was endeavouring to make up time. He must have
known that the permissible maximum speed was being exceeded,
but he could not have realised that the excess of speed was in
any way likely to endanger the train.”
The inquiry found that Evans was also guilty of a
breach of duty in failing to ensure that the train did not
exceed the maximum permissible speed, in failing to apply the
Westinghouse brake that would have drawn the driver’s
attention to the excessive speed of the train and in failing
to apply the brake in an emergency.
Courier Mail: The 1947 Camp Mountain Rail Smash
Humphrey. 1 June 1918.
One man was killed and two women were seriously injured
following this collision between a cattle train and a mixed
goods on 1 June 1981 at Humphrey station, 20.2km from
The mixed train, No. 11B, had left Mundubbera for
Gayndah and Maryborough at 6.38am, eight minutes late. The
driver of the mixed had been given instructions by the
Mundubbera stationmaster, George Messer, to shunt at all
stations to Gayndah.
Behind the mixed, stationmaster George Messer had
despatched a special train at 7.08am, also eight minutes
The mixed arrived at Humphrey at 7.30am, picked up and
deposited some goods and began some shunting. At about 7.40am,
while stopped at Humphrey siding, the mixed train was hit from
behind by the cattle train which suddenly emerged from the
thick fog with only a whistle to herald its approach. The
cattle train was estimated to be travelling at about 20 km/h.
The collision crushed the guard’s van and telescoped a
passenger carriage, fatally injuring one of its occupants,
James J. Trigger, 66. Trigger had both legs and his arm
practically severed in the crash. He was taken to Gayndah
Hospital, but died soon after admission. Two women were also
“seriously injured,” one of them, a Mrs. Sallisch, received a
broken leg while another passenger, a Mrs. Howarth, suffered
unspecified “internal injuries.”
A breakdown train was despatched from Maryborough at
10.00am, but despite two carriages of the mixed train being
extensively damaged, the cattle train was little affected,
with the only reported damage being “a smashing of the
cowcatcher and the head light.” The line between Gayndah and
Humphrey was surprisingly clear for stock traffic by 11am.
A magisterial inquiry into the incident was held later
in the month at Gayndah and Maryborough before Police
Magistrate James Bracewell. On 21 June, Messer told the
inquiry that he calculated it would take the guard of the
mixed train 50 minutes to do the work to Gayndah. He had
despatched the cattle train with only a 30 minute gap between
it and the preceding Mixed train, when the usual clearance
between trains was one hour. Since the accident, the railways
department had reverted to a one hour gap between trains.
James Read, a lengthsman based in Humphrey, told the
inquiry that the mixed train had reached Humphrey about
7.30am. The morning was very foggy with visibility down to
between 50 and 75 metres. Read said that the mixed train was
stopped at the station for about 10 to 15 minutes before the
Read went on to say that he had heard the special train
whistle and had grabbed a red flag and gone 75 metres when he
met the train coming out of the fog. Although the driver of
the special had immediately applied the brakes, Read said that
the special did not appear to slow quickly, and the rails were
very wet. Read said that to his knowledge, no fog signals were
placed behind train 11B to provide protection.
Alfred Spencer Howarth told the inquiry that he was a
passenger on the mixed goods. He said that Trigger, a father
of 11, had gone to the lavatory in the carriage shortly before
the smash. Howarth said that on impact, the whole lavatory
seemed to be driven on top of the next compartment. The
deceased man’s son, James Edward Trigger, had been in the same
carriage at the time of the smash. He said that the
compartment. appeared to buckle up on impact.
Arthur Thompson, the guard in charge of train 11B, told
the inquiry that the rules regarding protecting his train in
fog did not affect him as his train was running on time. He
said, however, that it was the first time he had known of only
a 30 minute interval between following trains.
Thompson offered the opinion that the smash was due to
the timetable of the special train being too close behind the
mixed and the heavy fog. He said that there were 17 fog signal
rules which applied to the department but the department had
observed none of the rules on the day of the smash. Since the
crash the department had moved to observe some of the rules by
appointing for signalmen and increasing the interval between
trains to one hour.
Robert Stewart Murdoch, who was the driver of the No 1
Special cattle train on 1 June, said the first that he knew of
reaching Humphrey was when he saw the goods shed and a truck,
about 125 metres from the station.
Murdoch had seen a lengthsman running towards his train
in the fog with a red flag in his hand, and Murdoch had
immediately slammed on his brakes. He said the train appeared
to skid on the wet rails, so he had released the engine brake
had had reversed the reversing lever. Murdoch also told the
inquiry he was not scheduled to stop at Humphrey but had
intended to do so anyway to check a big end bearing that had
been hot earlier in the trip.
John Edward Baker, guard on the special train, also
voiced concern to the inquiry that the 30 minute separation
between his train and the mixed seemed insufficient.
At 6.15pm on 28 June, the inquiry was completed at
Maryborough and Mr. Bracewell stated that the evidence would
be forwarded to the Justice Department for its consideration.
An engine driver died from a heart attack shortly after
jumping for his life from the cab of his locomotive when two
trains collided at Marrawing, 29km south of Gladstone, in this
accident during the Second World War.
The head-on collision, involving a goods train and a
ballast train, occurred at 6.20am on the crest of a hill, 8km
on the Gladstone side of Marrawing.
The ballast train being hauled by a B18¼ class engine
was travelling south with 19 wagons while the Beyer Garrett
hauled goods, with a load of 527 tonnes gross, was travelling
The two trains met with a combined impact velocity of
between 80km/h and 100 km/h resulting in the Beyer Garrett
being driven halfway into the boiler of the B18¼, which was
lifted several feet off the rails. Moments before the impact,
the crews of both locomotives had leapt from their cabs.
Both engines were written off and the total cost of the
damage was estimated at £100,000.
The tender of the B18¼ telescoped into the engine’s cab
with the following ballast trucks piling into one another. The
first wagon on the goods train- which wagon contained
furniture- was rammed halfway along the Beyer Garrett, the
roof of the van ending up on top of the locomotive’s tender.
Other wagons at the front end of the goods train were
piled up against the weight of the ballast train, with several
wagons in the middle of the train derailing and rolling down
The crew of the ballast train was Driver Daly, Fireman
King, and their guard Mr. A. Coulsen. The crew of the goods
train were Driver Stonely, Fireman Gibbs, and their guard, Mr.
J. Tracey. All the men were from Gladstone.
When guard Tracey reached the scene of the collision,
he saw Stonely “staggering about,” and went to his aid;
however, he then noticed Daly on the other side of the railway
line clearly having difficulty breathing. Daly was given a
drink of water, and Tracey turned his attention to assisting
Gibbs out of some debris from the crash.
Guard Coulson walked the 2.4km to Bernaby for help,
while Tracey went to Marrawing. A Gladstone doctor, ambulance
and police officer arrived shortly afterwards, but Daly was
dead when they reached the accident scene.
Breakdown gangs from Gladstone and Rockhampton were
sent to the crash site with their first task being to
construct a loop line around the accident by 10.00am on 16
The smash held up two divisions of the Townsville Mail
and the Rockhampton Mail passenger trains, which left Brisbane
on December 14, with all three trains being held at Bundaberg.
Both Townsville divisions had reached Rosedale when news of
the collision was heard. The Townsville trains were returned
to Bundaberg due to lack of accommodation for passengers at
The collision prevented the normal Rockhampton Mail
leaving form Brisbane on the night of December 15, but a
special train for Bundaberg left from Roma Street at 9.20pm.
The Queensland Railway Commissioner, Mr. Wills,
announced on 18 December that a departmental inquiry into the
collision would be held. Expectant media representatives who
turned up for the inquiry the next day were disappointed when
the chief railways engineer, Mr. N. J. Amos, who was
conducting the inquiry, announced that the Press would not be
admitted, nor would any statement be made until the matter had
been placed before Mr. Wills.
Wallumbilla, Queensland. 1 December 1956.
Five passengers aboard a Mail train were killed and 10 others
admitted to hospital when the Westlander crashed into the
Western Mail which was stationary at
Wallumbilla, 467 km west of Brisbane.
The accident occurred at 6.14am on Sat 1 December 1956
at the station where the two trains were intended to cross.
Tragically, among those killed was 12 year old Roma High
School student, Mary Sewell, and her grandmother, Rebecca
Smith, aged 72. Mary’s mother, Mrs. Olive Sewell told the Courier
standing by the window of the Western Mail looking out. I
heard the Westlander whistle, then there was a terrific crash.
I can’t seem to remember anything else until I woke up on
Another passenger injured in the collision, Lyal Grant,
22, recounted from hospital the events as he remembered them:
“There was a smash and I felt myself crashing through a wall.
A water tank feel on me and burst. Seats were flying
everywhere. I tried to get clear of the wreckage and there was
a burning sensation in my left leg. I knew it was broken.
Somehow or other I finished up on a pile of wreckage with the
other injured people trapped under me.”
One of those seriously injured in the smash, Reginald
Oehlmann, was rushed 306 km by ambulance to Toowoomba after
being crushed from the waist down.
A railway engineer would later give evidence before a
board of inquiry that the 200 tonnes Western Mail had been
rammed back 46 metres from the point of impact by the force of
the 345 tonne Westlander. A five member departmental board of
inquiry, open to the public and media, began hearing evidence
at Roma on 4 December into the cause of the crash. The board
was headed by the railway general manager, Mr. G. T. Foord.
Separate from that inquiry, police conducted their own
investigations into the smash, questioning “dozens of
eyewitnesses.” The two crashed locomotives were still blocking
the main line late on 2 December with breakdown gangs working
all day to cut the two engines apart. Railway officials had
hoped to clear the main line by noon on 3 December; however,
heavy thunderstorms hampered their work and the main line was
not reinstated until 4 December. A loop line around the crash
site was used in the interim.
The all-steel construction of the Westlander train was
given as one of the reasons there had not been more fatalities
in the accident. There were 150 passengers aboard the
Westlander, and only slight injuries were received by a few of
the passengers. At the departmental inquiry, the Wallumbilla
Hospital matron, Alma May Reiken, told of meeting a man who
introduced himself as “McDougall, the driver of the
Reiken told the inquiry that [William George] McDougall
had told her: “It’s all my fault. I was not well when I was at
Yuleba [24km east of Wallumbilla] and should have got off the
Also the inquiry heard evidence from the Roma district
superintendent, Alfred Buchanan, who said that he had been
told by the Wallumbilla stationmaster that both signals were
at “danger,” when the Westlander passed through them. Buchanan
also told the inquiry that he was aware that it was difficult
for guards to observe signals from lookouts in vans of the
type used on the Westlander on the day of the tragedy.
Following the luncheon adjournment on 4 December, the
board of inquiry travelled to Wallumbilla by special train to
make a one hour inspection of the crash scene. It later took
evidence in the town’s public hall from local witnesses. Local
grazier and stock agent, David Bassingthwaighte, said he saw
the Westlander approach the station faster than he had ever
seen it do so before. There were no warning blasts on the
whistle, and a signal was “straight out” against the
Westlander, Bassingthwaighte said.
On 5 December, the guard of the Western Mail, Aubrey
Vincent Albert Connor, told the inquiry that following the
crash, he had asked the driver of the Westlander, McDougall,
whether the signal was off. McDougall had replied: “I don’t
know.” Connor said that the guard of the Westlander, James
Phillips, had told him that the signal was at danger when he
saw it- and that he had pulled on the brakes when he realised
that the train was not going to take the loop.
Connor estimated that the Westlander’s speed was
between 32 and 40 km/h.
Bevin Ronald Scott, assistant maintenance engineer at
Roma (40km east of Wallumbilla), told the inquiry that the
signal levers at Wallumbilla were in the open and it would be
possible for any person to pull them without the
stationmaster’s knowledge. Wallumbilla’s stationmaster, Walter
May, told the inquiry he had run to the engine hauling the
Westlander immediately after the smash. May had said to its
“Bill, what are you doing here? You have passed signals at the
May said that McDougall had replied: “Wal, I must have dozed
off.” May had been amazed by that statement. [Later in the
inquiry, English Electric Company engineer, William Young
Wood, gave evidence that the cab of his company’s locomotives
were “very comfortable” and that the occupants might have a
tendency to “drop their heads.”]
Queensland Railways’ South West Division general
manager, William James McCormack said that when he had earlier
been stationed at Roma, in a superintendent’s position, he had
held McDougall in “very high esteem,” and he placed the guard,
Phillips, in the same category.
The board of inquiry subsequently found, by a majority
decision, that the primary cause of the disaster was that
Driver McDougall, while working the Up “Westlander,” on 1
December 1956, had passed the Up home signal at Wallumbilla in
the “stop” position while the No. 19 Down mail train existed
on the main line, and before McDougall had received the
necessary caution hand signal at the loop points for his train
to be admitted to the loop.
The inquiry found that McDougall had failed to observe
the obstruction ahead in sufficient time to avoid a collision.
It also gave as contributing causes:
the failure of guard “Phillips,” when working
the Up “Westlander” on 1 December 1956, to take prompt action
to have his train brought to a stand after the engine had
passed the Up home signal in the “stop” position when it could
be seen that his train was not being admitted to the loop by
caution hand signal;
the failure of Fireman Andrews, when working
the “Up” Westlander on 1 December 1956, to pay immediate
attention to and obey all signals at Wallumbilla and advise
the driver of an obstruction (the No 19 Down mail) on the main
line at the station. In a dissenting opinion, the two employee
representatives on the board of inquiry, found that:
“…it is our
considered opinion that this Railway Inquiry Board, as
constituted under Section 127 of the Railways Acts, and
functioning under the provisions of Section 143 of such Acts,
has no power to find any person or persons guilty of any
offence which has been either directly, or indirectly, the
cause of, or has contributed to, the death of any person or
persons, and any finding which in any manner convicts any
person or persons of any offence, which may become the subject
matter of a subsequent criminal charge is contrary to law, and
a complete violation of the principals of justice.”
to the aforementioned, we therefore find the Cause of Accident
was due to train No 8S Up passing the Up home signal in the
“Stop” position, although there is no evidence to suggest any
hand signal was exhibited to admit 8S Up into Wallumbilla
either to the platform or the loop.”
circumstances surrounding the accident, we are satisfied that
something abnormal occurred in the cab of diesel electric
locomotive No 1200 just prior to 8S arriving at Wallumbilla.”
Courier Mail : Wallumbilla
At about 8.06pm on 28 July 1994, Queensland Rail electrically
hauled freight trains C531 (northbound from Moolabin to
Townsville) and C740 (southbound from Townsville to Acacia
Ridge) collided head on at the 63km point on the North Coast
line on the single section between Beerburrum and Elimbah,
about 1km south of Beerburrum.
The two drivers, who were the only crew, were injured
as a result of the collision and were hospitalized for a
period. Extensive damage was caused to the locomotives, other
rolling stock and other infrastructure. The train locomotive
of C740, 3902, was scrapped. The locomotive on C351, 3901, was
less badly damaged and was returned to service.
The North Coast line was blocked for 22 hours. After
the line was opened, signaling rectification works continued
for a further 6 hours.
The inquiry into the accident established that all
technical equipment including the Automatic Train Control
(ATC) system operated substantially as designed and that the
incident was caused by the driver of train C740 passing signal
BM18 which was displaying a stop aspect.
About 3am on 17 November 1994, a 1.5km long electrically
hauled freight train, No EV 72, carrying 7600 tonnes of coal
from the Blair Athol mine, derailed 92 of its 108 carriages
(each valued at $100,000), as it descended Black Mountain
about 40km from Mackay. Three of the four electric
locomotives, valued at $3 million, also left the tracks and
two of these were compressed. However, the lead locomotive
stayed on the tracks and thus the driver and his assistant
The locomotives involved were 3164 (lead), 3279, 3267,
3282, and ELRC 103, the locotrol unit. 3164 suffered damage to
the rear coupler, pantograph and other high voltage equipment
but was returned to service. However, 3279 had extensive cab
and body damage and was not returned to service, while 3267,
3282, and the locotrol unit were all beyond repair. It took 6
days to clear and restore the track.
Australian Railway Disasters"