The Traveston Railway
The 1947 Camp Mountain Rail Smash
The South Brisbane Rail Smash
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
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 carriages.
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 ravine.
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 and matchwood.”
“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
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
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 after 2am.
“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 morgue.
Soon after the accident it became apparent that some passengers had been
aware of the impending danger, however, had been persuaded not to take
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
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
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
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 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 consist.
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
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 Brisbane.
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 being
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
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
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 carriage train.
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
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 disaster.
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
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
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
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
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 of duty.
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
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 Mundubbera.
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 behind schedule.
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 collision
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
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
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 north.
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 an embankment.
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 December.
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
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 Mail
“I was 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:
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
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 Westlander.”
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 train there.”
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
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 driver, McDougall:
“Bill, what are you doing
here? You have passed signals at the stop position.”
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
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
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.”
“Having regard 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.”
“Regarding the 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
Courier Mail : Wallumbilla
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
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.
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 were
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.
From "Great Australian Railway