Thursday, August 05, 2010

1926 Murulla Train Disaster

In my post on the Formation of the Armidale Newspaper Company, I said in part:

Competition from the Northern Dailies combined with that from the Sydney press to increase the pressure on the other newspapers still being published on a tri-, bi- or weekly basis. This competition was not all one-sided. In September 1926, for example, Sommerlad wrote to Drummond with glee that the Glen Innes Examiner had

.. got a good one on Tamworth yesterday, in connection with the rail smash. Armidale passed the word on that Tamworth were sending a special edition up, to arrive about 7pm. I got busy & made a fine display of stuff in the short time available. Then hired a motor-bike and sent 350 copies to Inverell, having rung Knapton to get a dodger out in the meantime. The street was blocked with people waiting for copies & we made a great sale - & a great scoop.

Now what I didn't know until Gordon Smith's Old news from Armidale and New England provided the newspaper coverage was that the rail smash in question was one of the worst rail smashes in New England and possibly in Australia. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of 15 September 200

The worst railway disaster in the history of New South Wales occurred shortly before midnight last night, when six runaway goods trucks crashed into the north-west mail between the village of Blandford and the Murulla siding.

The goods train had been pulled on to the Murulla siding to allow the north-west mail to pass, when the coupling joining the six rear trucks to the forepart of the train suddenly snapped. It is understood that the guard of the goods train was standing on the side of the line, directing the shunting operations, when the trucks began to move down the line. Although this official made a frantic effort to clamber on to the runaway trucks he was unable to do so, and they disappeared at a terrific speed round a curve in the line.

It was known that the mail train had passed through Blandford station, and those on the siding were sick with fear and apprehension, but powerless to avert the impending catastrophe. A few seconds later there was a deafening crash as the runaway trucks struck, with terrific force, the mail train, and telescoped several carriages. The red-hot coals from the wrecked engine fell on to and ignited several bales of wool with which the trucks were loaded. The flames most fortunately did not reach the smashed carriages, or a much more terrible disaster would have resulted.

The story is quite a graphic one. Today we expect official help to arrive quickly. Not so much then, with the passengers organising the initial rescue efforts.

If you would like to read more, see:

It really is quite a classic story.

No comments: