The 1947 Camp Mountain Rail Smash










          At 7.15 last night, the last body was removed from the wreckage of the special picnic train which crashed on the Samford Range at 9.55am, yesterday, in Queensland’ worst rail smash.

          The smash, 13½ miles from Central Station, killed 15 and injured 30. When searchers thought all the victims had bee found, an elbow was seen jammed between the tender and the broken edge of the second carriage.

          Working feverishly with the aid of portable generating sets, rescuers cut away a big section of the carriage and extricated the body of a young girl.

          The picnic train, organised by the Customs and Excise social club, left Brisbane with nearly 500 women and children at 8.55am.

          At 9.55am, the leading carriage jumped the rails in a cutting a few miles on the Brisbane side of Closeburn, where the picnic was to have been held.

          Within seconds the engine overturned, and the first two carriages telescoped into the tender.

          Immediately the news of the crash was broadcast, cars carrying relatives of those on the train, headed for the cutting, followed by hundreds of morbid sightseers.

          Police had difficulty in controlling the crowds, who at times hindered rescue work.

          The Railways Commissioner, Mr. Wills, said last night that a full inquiry would be held into the cause of the accident.

          The cause of yesterday’s train accident was not known, he said. The line was of heavy rail, and in good order, and capable of carrying any train run in Queensland.

          The carriages were “not very old,” said Mr. Wills. The engine was of the C17 type, and the gradient of the accident section was one in 50.

          The line was used frequently in holiday periods to carry heavy passenger trains, and at normal times, carried usual branch line traffic.

This is what happened

          This is the full story compiled by Courier-Mail staff reporters, who went to the scene of the accident and interviewed survivors.

          The Customs Department social club, organised two years ago, had train trouble for its first picnic last year.

          The train could not climb Samford Range, and had to be split in two sections.

          Since February 14, every Customs officer in Brisbane had put in 6d a week towards expenses for a picnic at Closeburn, 18 miles from Brisbane, the same site as last year. There were to be a cricket match, afternoon dancing with a specially engaged orchestra, and sports.

          The picnic train left Central Railway Station at 8.57am. Besides the engine, coal tender, and a water gin, it consisted of seven wooden carriages and the guard’s van.

          The Class C17 engine weighed 76 tons. The carriages, the normal suburban type, each weighed 28 tons.

          Engine driver, Charles Hinds, 50, married, of Louten Street, Woolloongabba, was at the controls. With him was fireman Augustus Charles Knight, of Days Road, the Grange.

          It was estimated that there were 500 passengers, including 150 children.

          The train was to stop only at Brunswick Street, and Mitchelton, but it pulled in at Ferny Grove-last stop before the crash- at 9.40am, eight minutes behind time.

          More than 100 detrained, most of them from the front two carriages, which bore the brunt of the crash.

          Topping the Samford Range at 9.53am, the train began to run down the two-mile gradient.


          Within a minute, it was running fast. It swayed and rocked. Women and children began to scream in several carriages. It approached the sharp six-chain radius left bend leading into an S-curve slightly more than half-way down the range.

          Half-way round the bend the leading carriage jumped the rails. In the space of a measured 169 feet between this point and the end of the cutting, this is what happened.

          Leaving the rails, the engine rolled over on its right side, ploughed into the embankment, and stopped within a few feet. The coal tender went off the line, dug in nose first, and tilted upwards and sideway, with the rear end more than fifteen feet from the lines.

          Wrenched free from the tender, the 20ft water tank, remaining in the general direction of the line, was struck squarely by the leading carriage. The impact telescoped to carriage directly through the centre of the water tank, ripping the bogeys and wheels and massing them on the front undercarriages.

          Fittings, compartments, and mangled bodies, were swept aside as the carriage telescoped. Ten or twelve feet from the end, the tank slewed to the right, and brought up against the opposite embankment. Its twist lifted the entire carriage body clear of its undercarriage, which remained off the rails, but flat along the direction of the line.

          In the last one-third of the carriage, now lifted crazily more than 12 feet from the lines, almost the entire fittings of the carriage, and at least five mutilated bodies were jammed. Pressing in against them were the rear wheels of the engine, which had completely ripped through the near side of the carriage as it drove past.

          Torn clear from the first car, the second carriage drove off the lines, and embedded itself under the upturned tender, crushing the first two compartments as though a giant sledgehammer had hit them.

          The carriage itself, twisted and overturned to the right, the rear end again being flung high into the air, resting against the embankment. In the front of this carriage were nine people, six of whom were killed instantaneously, and the remaining three trapped for nearly six hours. The third carriage shifted off the rails, practically escaped damage. Its front buffers snapped like matchwood, and one was buried 20 yards along the line, but not one window was broken.

          In the end carriages, people kept on reading for a few seconds after the crash. They were not even thrown from their seats as the telescoping effect of the front carriages seemed to have acted as a gigantic shock absorber.


          Mr. J. O’Mara, of Parry Street, Bulimba, who was riding in the second carriage, said last night: “The train was rocking dangerously as it approached the bend. It appeared to be gathering speed. I realised that something was wrong and yelled ‘Hold on, here it comes,’ Then there was a terrible crash, and we were showered with flying glass, and flung all over the compartment. In the rear of the carriage, we picked ourselves up and clambered out through side windows. Women and children were screaming, and we could hear the groans of the wounded. One girl near us had been flung against a compartment and fractured her shoulder. We ran to the front of the train and helped people from the wreckage. Some of them had been flung halfway through twisted windows.”


          First man to leave for help at about 10.5am was Edward Hart, 41, of Albion Street, Albion. With blood streaming from a gash over his right eye, he clambered from the front compartment of the third carriage, and ran on down the line towards Samford.

          “I knew things were bad,” he said. “The station was not far, and it was the first place I thought of.”


          News of the tragedy, told to the station master 30 minutes later by Mr. Hart, galvanized Samford. An emergency rescue gang was formed within a few minutes from local farmers and shopkeepers. They climbed into trucks and cars and headed for the scene of the tragedy. With them went axes, saws, crowbars, picks and shovels.

          Back at the crash, uninjured passengers were assisting the less seriously injured out of the train. First outsiders to reach the crash were Sergeant J. F. Kunkel and Constable L. R. Fitch, of Mitchelton, who received a phone message a quarter of an hour after the tragedy from a nearby homestead.

          They arrived at 10.30am. Within the next 40 minutes, 14 ambulances, including six called in from the Labour Day procession, and all available cars from city headquarters, as well as others from Sandgate, arrived.

          First doctor on the scene was a Wickham terrace eye specialist, Dr. E. O. Marks, who was spending the day in his country home about two miles from the crash.


          “I came just as I was,” he said. “The ambulance were already there, but an ambulance man is not allowed to prepare a morphia injection.”

          “I prepared a hypodermic syringe and gave it to an ambulance man who crawled through the wreckage to within reaching distance of engine driver Hind. Unable to administer it from that distance, he gave the syringe to Hind, who, though pinned by a mass of twisted steel in the cabin, severely scaled by escaping steam, and suffering from shock, was still conscious. Hind took the syringe and gave himself the injection.”

          Dr. Marks then moved to the second carriage. Visible from the waist up in the crushed first two compartments were Miss Linda Glenny and Mr. and Mrs. T. McLean. Mr. McLean was wedged up against the right side of the carriage. His wife was lying half across him, with Miss Glenny wedged tightly against her. Forced across Miss Glenny’s lap was the body of a small boy.

          Between Mr. and Mrs. McLean’s tightly jammed bodies could be seen the head of a dead man. Protruding from the wreckage was the arm of a woman with a heavy gold bracelet round her wrist.

          Dr. Marks gave injections to these trapped passengers, who were conscious although suffering considerable pain and severe shock.


          With the morphia injections over, passengers, ambulancemen, and the emergency breakdown gang, made their first determined onslaught on the wreckage. Beneath the overturned engine’s wheels, they found the crushed body of the fireman, A. C. Knight. He had apparently jumped or been thrown from the cabin and killed instantly.

          Inside the cabin, bent almost double, engine driver Hind was jammed almost inextricably across the thighs and knees by the twisted metal of the control lever, steam pipe, and two Westinghouse air pipes.


          The time now was 12.30pm and the gangs set to work to extricate the injured from the wreckage. With axes and saws, they cut away the top of the first carriage which was barring their way in the fight to reach the driver. At the same time, more men started to cut away the side of the second carriage so that they could reach the people trapped there. Other men attempted to cut through the twisted metal from underneath.

          Constant morphia injections were given to the trapped survivors, who bore their ordeal with amazing fortitude.

          On his own in the shattered cabin, engine driver Hind actually assisted with a hacksaw and urged on his rescuers, two of whom were overcome with the heat and had to be assisted into the open.

          In the carriage, both women and Mr. McLean smoked cigarettes and joked with ambulance men who had clambered inside and were supporting their heads.

          As work progressed and the strain of the wreckage shifted, more weight fell on the lower limbs of these three. Several times Miss Glenny screamed with pain.

          At 3.00pm the body of a woman was found in the wreckage.




          At 3.30pm engine driver hind was lifted through a hole cut in the roof. Then unconscious, he was rushed to hospital where his condition last night was reported to be serious. At 3.40pm, the bodies of three children, including the boy who had been jammed against Miss Glenny’s legs, were removed. Five minutes later, rescue gangs simultaneously lifted Miss Glenny and a dead man, believed to be Frank Delaney, from the compartment.

          Redoubling their efforts, they had both Mr. and Mrs. McLean clear within the next 10 minutes. They had been trapped for more than six hours, but all three had a smile for their rescuers.

          Mrs. McLean’s first request was to ask the ambulance to get in touch with her mother, Mrs. J. B. List, of Torbanlea, near Maryborough, who was looking after her two children, Dorothy 14, and Thomas, 12.

Last Rites

          When the McLeans had been released, work was continued to free bodies still buried in the wreckage. Ashgrove parish priest, Father D. Cremin, administered last rites to the dead during the progress of the rescue work. On one occasion, crawling through the debris, he could reach only a woman’s hand. On another, only a head was visible.

          The Rev. H. R. Heaton, who was with a Methodist Church picnic party at Samford, heard of the tragedy, and came to join the rescue workers. He brought with him tea, water, and sandwiches for the rescue workers.

          Information on the rescue work was wirelessed directly back to the police wireless  station VKR in the police depot during the afternoon. With the arrival of the Railway Commissioner (Mr. Wills), who drove direct from Tamborine during the afternoon, a special telephone was connected to the trains room at Roma Street.

          First news of the tragedy was given to Queensland by special flash to the 14 stations linked in the Queensland Radio News Service.

          Throughout the afternoon, crowds estimated at between 400 and 600 lined the railway fences near the cutting to watch the rescue work. A Red Cross Blood Transfusion unit under Dr. Shaw went to the smash, but it was not needed.

          Hundreds of people called the Blood Transfusion Unit, and offered their blood for the injured. Shortly after 4.30pm, more than 20 onlookers were enlisted to aid the breakdown gang, who worked non-stop late into the night to recover the bodies.


          The last body was removed from the wreckage at 7.15pm, and work was begun clearing the line at 8.00pm. The Chief Locomotive Engineer of the Railway Department, Mr. Norman Kenny, who is in charge of the workers, estimates that the line will not be cleared until Wednesday.

          The last body was discovered when searchers saw an elbow jammed between the tender and the broken edge of the second carriage. Workmen had to cut away a big section of the carriage to extricate the body- that of a young girl.

          Police officials and Mr. Kenny then conducted a thorough search of the train to ensure that no bodies had been missed. Work of clearing the wreckage could not be undertaken until it was certain that everybody had been found.

          All night lighting was provided from portable generating sets sent out by the Brisbane City council and the City Electric Light Co., following a request from railway authorities.

          Mr. Kenny said that no heavy equipment would be necessary to clear the wreckage of the engine, tender, water tank, and three coaches.

          The wrecked coaches are being broken up with axes and other implements and dragged clear by a “forest devil”- a geared winch.


          By 10.00pm, most of the first carriage structure had been cleared from around the water tank. Three Red Cross workers remained on the spot all night. In eight hours up to 9.00pm, they prepared 30 gallons of tea for survivors, police and workers. During the day, the three Red Cross men were assisted by six girl drivers.

Deathroll nearest to yesterday’s smash occurred near Traveston, near Gympie, on June 9, 1925, when nine were killed and 55 were injured. Two coaches of the Rockhampton mail fell from a bridge into a ravine


Daphne Cochrane, 20 of Evelyn Street, Newstead, was on the Customs House switch before she was knocked down in the city by an American truck on V.P. night. Her skull and leg were then fractured.

Francis Delaney- 19, of Lamington Avenue, Doomben, went to the picnic yesterday with Miss Cochrane. He was a rubber worker and boxer, and was to have fought at the Brisbane Stadium on Friday. Five years ago, his father was knocked down by an American truck and killed.

William Kitchen, 53 of Moore Street, Morningside, was a searcher in the Brisbane Customs’ House shipping branch. He was with the R.A.A.F. security staff during the war. His wife, Mrs. Olive Kitchen, and their son Trevor, also was killed.

Francis Aubrey Pitman, 57, was senior inspector and second in charge of the Queensland Customs. He entered the service in 1905, and came to Queensland from Tasmania a few months ago.


          For hours, relatives of people who had set out on the trip pressed forward trying to identify the injured as they arrived at the General Hospital.

          The casualty ward had been cleared, and extra medical and nursing staff were standing by.

          Nurses on leave who were attending the sports at the Exhibition, telephoned to the hospital when they heard of the disaster, offering to return and help.

          Soon after midday, the first ambulance brought the survivors. Emergency operations were performed, and the patients wheeled to wards.

          Ambulances continued to arrive at intervals until the last of the injured were brought in at 5.30pm- 7½ hours after the smash.

Was not afraid

          “I feel all right, thank you,” were Mrs. Emily McLean’s first words as she was lifted from the ambulance after her seven hour ordeal pinned in the wreckage of the second carriage.

          “I knew they would get me out in the end, and my husband, Tom, was lying there beside me smoking cigarettes, so I wasn’t afraid.”

          Mr. McLean, who, with his wife, was the last to arrive at the hospital, grimaced with pain as he was lifted from the stretcher.

          “I thought we seemed to be going rather fast, and I had just turned towards my husband when there was a terrible crash,” said Mrs. McLean.

          “I seemed to be flying through the air, then everything went black. When I woke up, there was a terrible pain in my legs and people were screaming.”

          “After a while I heard people chopping at the wood above me.”

          Several times, while ambulance men and railway workers were trying to release Mrs. McLean, she screamed with pain, and they had to stop work.

          Graham McNamara, young son of Mr. and Mrs. A. M. McNamara, of Wynnum Road, Norman Park, who rushed straight from the University to the hospital when he heard of the tragedy, broke down when told that his father was dead and his mother was severely injured.

          High tribute was paid by the injured to the sister in charge of the casualty ward.


KEVIN FRANCIS ARMSTRONG- 24, single, Gloucester Street, South Brisbane.

GREGORY BROWN, 9, of Junction Road, Morningside.

REGINALD BYRNES, 31, married, Eva Street, Coorparoo.

JOYCE BYRNES, 30, his wife.

MOYA EDITH CHRISTIANSEN, 24, married, Peach Street, Greenslopes.

DAPHNE COCHRANE, 20, single, of Evelyn Street, Kedron.

FRANCIS DELANEY, 19, single, of Lamington Avenue, Doomben.

IDA BEATRICE DOWD, 36, married, Mellor Street, Morningside.

MICHAEL KEARNEY, 12, corner of Wynnum Road, and Moore Street, Morningside.

WILLIAM KITCHEN, 53, married, of Moore Street, Morningside.

OLIVE KITCHEN, his wife.

TREVOR KITCHEN, 9, their son.

AUGUSTUS CHARLES KNIGHT, of Day’s Road, Grange, train fireman.

ROBERT HAROLD McNAMARA, 52, married, of Wynnum Road, Norman Park.

FRANK AUBREY PITMAN, 57, married, Bowen Street, New Farm.



MELVA BALKIN, 24, Bank Street, West End, severed left leg, severe shock, seriously ill.

FLORENCE BARTELS, 18, single, Abbotsford Road, Mayne, fractured right collarbone, shock.

COLIN CHRISTIANSEN, 36, married, Peach Street, Greenslopes; probable fractured skull, lacerations to forehead, probable fracture left collarbone, shock, seriously ill.

JEAN CUSKELLY, 43, married, Fernberg Road, Rosalie, fractured right leg, injury right arm, shock.

EDITH FORD, 47, married, Peach Street, Greenslopes: probable fracture left leg, forehead lacerations, sever shock.

DONALD FORD, 54, married, Peach Street, Greenslopes, injuries to head and chest, shock.

LINDA GLENNY, 24, single, Masters Street, Teneriffe, injury right leg, sever shock.

CHARLES HINDS, 50, married, driver of the train, of Lotus Street, Woolloongabba; severe burns to trunk and limbs, lacerated right elbow, abrasion right hip, shock; dangerously ill.

THOMAS McLEAN, 34, married, Edith Street, Newstead; contused legs, shock.


EMILY McLEAN, 31, married, Edith Street, Newstead, contused legs, shock.


DESMOND BALKIN, 25, single, Bank Street, West End; severely lacerated left leg; shock.

PHYLLIS BALKIN, 56, married, Bank Street, West End, abrasions to face, sever shock.

MAY BEAMISH, 34, married, Gray’s Road, Gaythorne, dislocated left shoulder, shock.

DARRELL CARNEY, 9, New Cleveland Road, Morningside, abrasions to right knee and face, shock.

KEVIN CUSKELLY, 8, Fernberg Road, Rosalie, abrasions to face and both legs, contusion to forehead, shock.

ALFRED CUDS, married, Brisbane Street, Ipswich, shock.

MAURICE DOWD, 40, married, Mellor Street, Kedron, abrasions and contusions to face and left thigh, lacerated legs.

ARTHUR FRANCIS, 22, single, Ipswich Road, South Brisbane, shock.

JOSEPHINE HENRY, 52, Wynnum Road, Norman Park, injury to left hip, severe shock.

NEVILLE KITCHEN, 19, single, Moore Street, Morningside, shock.

ETHEL LANGE, 22, single, Omar Street, West Ipswich.

REGINALD MACKLIN, 52, married, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, lacerated right hand, shock.

ELIZABETH MACKLIN, 49, married, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, contused right leg, shock.

BETTY MACKLIN, 19, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, shock.

WINIFRED MANN, 32, married, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, shock.

PATRICIA MANN, 2, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, shock.

DOROTHY McNAMARA, 56, married, Wynnum Road, Norman Park, severe injuries to back, severe shock.

FLORENCE McCORMACK, 51, married, James Street, New farm, lacerations to head, shock.

MAUREEN McCARTHY, 23, single, Brisbane Road, East Ipswich, injury left forearm, severe shock.

IVY PITMAN, 56, married, Bowen Street, City, abrasions and contusions to legs and face, shock.


Courier Mail Wednesday May 7, 1947

The unexpected death at 4.30pm yesterday of the driver of the picnic train which crashed on the Samford Range on Monday morning removed the last technical witness of the cause of the disaster.

He was Charles Hinds, 50, married, of Louten Street, Woolloongabba. An hour before he died, he appeared to be making satisfactory progress. The foreman, Augustus Charles Knight, of Days Road, Grange, was killed instantly in the crash. Hind’s death brought the total number killed in the smash to 16 and the injured roll to 29.

          Yesterday’s developments in the disaster were:-

·                   The Premier Mr. Hanlon ordered an open enquiry under a judge into the cause of the smash;

·                   His offer of a State funeral today for the 16 victims was rejected for family reasons, by the various relatives, but the Government will pay all expenses of the funerals;

·                   Continued work by more than 30 railway breakdown and flying gang employees has left the way clear for a tentative service over the damaged line this afternoon;

·                   Railway Department officials personally visited the relatives of the dead, and the Commissioner, Mr. Wills, visited all the injured in the afternoon;

The condition of the nine smash victims who were admitted to hospital on Monday was reported last night as “satisfactory and improving.”

They were three men and six women, including Miss Melva Balkin, of West End, who suffered a severed left foot and later had an amputation below the knee.

Miss Florence Bartels, of Mayne, who suffered a fractured right collarbone, had improved sufficiently yesterday to be moved to St. Margaret’s Hospital.

Seventy eight year old Mr. Alfred Joseph Curtis of Brisbane Street, Ipswich, who was allowed to go home after treatment on Monday, reported to the hospital yesterday, and was admitted for observation. His condition was satisfactory last night.

A motor train and a goods train will make trial runs this afternoon over the Dayboro rail track on which the train was derailed. Debris from the wrecked train was finally cleared from the track at 5pm yesterday. Bogey wheels, steel plating, and carriage fittings were spreadeagled over more than 30 square yards. Fifteen men including 10 local volunteers worked all Monday night to clear the line.

The derailed engine and second carriage are now in an upright position ready to be towed away this morning.

Gruesome discoveries in the wreckage yesterday were mangled human remains and a woman’s leg.

Despite a police warning, the Camp Mountain Road was closed, scores of sightseers drove cars or hiked there yesterday to the scene of the tragedy.

Coal was still burning in the engine’s furnace last night and smoke was billowing from its funnel.

The coal tender and the twisted shattered and barely recognizable remains of the first carriage have been hauled to the top of the embankment into which the train crashed.

Most poignant feature of the scene 24 hours after the disaster, were the strewn picnic lunches, unclaimed personal goods in off shoes and a woman’s coat, and the blood covered handkerchiefs and petticoats.

Police and railway officials highly praised local volunteers who helped bring the injured out of the wreckage and then later cleared the line of the debris.

It is expected that, if available, the Senior Puisne judge, Mr. Justice Mansfield, or Mr. Justice Matthews, will preside over the open inquiry, which was ordered yesterday by the Premier.

The inquiry will be very wide and cover all aspects of the disaster.

Mr. Hanlon said that the judge would have the assistance of assessors, one of whom would be an engineer.

He expected to be able to announce the names of the judge and assessors tomorrow, when the appointments would be made by Cabinet. By tomorrow all Ministers would have returned to Brisbane. There would be no delay in beginning the inquiry once appointments were made.

Following the Traveston railway smash on June 9, 1925, a public enquiry was held, and if that is taken as a precedent, there will be two assessors.

Railwaymen appreciated Mr. Hanlon’s action in ordering an open inquiry, said the Combined Railways Union President, Mr. M. O’Brien, yesterday. An open inquiry was much more satisfactory to railwaymen than the usual form of departmental inquiry, which was held in camera, and which was designed to exonerate the administration rather than ascertain the real cause of the accident.

The Railway Commissioner Mr. Wills, visited the General Hospital yesterday afternoon, and spoke to all patients involved in the smash. He intends visiting a patient in a private hospital this morning.

Only four staff members other than the 3 killed at Camp Mountain were absent from duty at the Customs House yesterday. They were Mr. P Dowd (landing branch) whose wife was killed, Mr. P. E. Swan (excise) Misses D. Tate (import licensing), and L. N. Currey (rationing).

Empty desks in the Invoice room, the main public business place, bore grim recollection of the death of Messrs. Pitman, Kitchen and McNamara. The Customs Collector, Mr. Wild, said yesterday that his staff were deeply shocked by the accident but had borne it with courage.



Fourteen people travelled by rail from Brisbane to Dayboro yesterday.

It was the first rail connection since Monday’s disaster, near Camp Mountain, involving a picnic train containing 400 people.

          Yesterday’s service was a rail motor which normally leaves Central Station at 4.34pm daily.

          It was made possible by the clearing of the line of the wrecked locomotive and carriages of the picnic train as the pictures above show. For the first half hour after yesterday’s rail motor left Central, there was no suggestion of anything unusual about the trip. But when the motor got near the scene of the accident, passengers began to show interest in their surroundings. When the motor passed the wrecked engine of the picnic train, on a siding two miles south of the scene of the wreck, normal train silence broke. Passengers began animated conversation.

Piloted Through

          About 500 yards before the scene of the crash, the motor set off a detonator- a regulation warning to slow down to walking pace. A ganger jumped on the motor and directed the driver Mr. T. Webber, until it had passed through the wreckage, which was piled high on both sides of the track. All the woodwork of the smashed carriages had been burnt, leaving only the bogies and iron framework on the left side of the track, and the water tender on the right.

          The two most excited passengers were Margaret Mitchell, 11, and Barbara Mitchell, 8, of Samford, who were returning home from school in Brisbane. Clutching each other’s hands, they laughed and joked until the detonator went off under their feet. Then they jumped with fright.

          As the railmotor passed the wreckage, they were deadly serious gazing out of the windows with awe. After they passed the scene safely, they relaxed and began to laugh. But Barbara, still clutching Margaret’s hand, admitted that she had been frightened.

Early On Scene

          Among the passengers was Mr. Roy Mason, Samford farmer, who was one of the first on the scene of the crash on Monday. He had worked clearing wreckage until late on Tuesday. Mr. Mason said: “I heard the crash at Samford, and rushed out to help when I found out what had happened. I stayed there clearing up until late afternoon. It’s a queer feeling going over the rails after seeing the mess left by the crashed train, even though you know nothing will happen.”

          Mr. Webber, the driver of the rail motor, had been waiting in Brisbane for the line to be cleared since Monday morning when he had driven the motor down. He said yesterday: “I’ve got no idea what caused the crash. I’ve been over this line twice a day for the last five years and have always found it all right.”

          Mrs. Webber, who lives at Dayboro, did not know her husband would be returning last night until half an hour before the motor arrived.

          Although there were no trains to or from Dayboro from Monday morning until last night, Mr. W. Shale, the station master has been kept busy. He has had to organise emergency bus transport from Dayboro to Brisbane.

Thursday 8th May 1947

Crowds watched the caskets being carried on the hearse at the funeral yesterday of Mr. and Mrs. Kitchen and their son, Trevor, of Morningside, who were killed in Monday’s train smash. Traffic was brought to a standstill outside the funeral chapel which was crowded. More than 50 private cars and taxis followed the hearse to the crematorium.

          Thousands of people paid silent tribute yesterday as the funerals of 12 victims of Monday’s picnic train tragedy at Camp Mountain passed the city and suburban streets, preceded by police motor cycles.

          It is estimated that more than 3,000, including relatives and friends, attended 10 funerals, one of three members of a family, and another of a husband and wife.


map of where crash happened













rescuers had grim job in splintered carriage

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smash2.jpg (36011 bytes)


smash3.jpg (35211 bytes)








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 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 children.

          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 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 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 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 train.

          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 impact.

          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 endeavoring 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.