Rail accidents near Kempsey remembered

Thought to be the 1935 fruit train accident in the 1930s
Thought to be the 1935 fruit train accident in the 1930s

OVER the past 100 years a number of accidents occurred for various reasons. Invariably breakdown crews were on the scene quickly to avoid disruption to the timetables. Before the line was fenced, animals were a constant worry.

In July 1921 the mail train left Kempsey for Sydney at the normal time. However as the train reached the railway bridge it smashed into a stationary horse, dragging its body to the end of the bridge. The railway authorities decided to take action against the owner if they could find him.

In 1925 the butter van of the mail train left the rails 10 miles north of Kempsey, causing delays. The permanent way staff, however, quickly repaired the damage and the Macksville butter was soon on its way. A second butter van derailed on a bend coming into Kempsey in 1931 and crashed onto its side causing serious damage to the cargo of butter. The passengers received a severe jolting.

Six trucks of a goods train left the rails at Tamban causing a disruption to passenger and goods trains. The breakdown gang arrived from Kempsey and worked throughout the early morning, allowing the Sydney Mail train through.

In 1951 seven trucks were derailed approaching Kundabung. Passengers were taken by bus from Kempsey to Telegraph Point while other trains were held at Kempsey Station.

It was thought that a piece of hardwood about five feet long was responsible for a derailment just north of Kempsey station. The engine ran off the line, delaying the normal timetable.

However, the most serious accident occurred when two two trains hit head-on in the Kempsey yards on March 26,1935. The Brisbane fruit train smashed into a stationary train that was involved with shunting operations.The fruit train came around the bend at 25 miles per hour, too fast for the driver to stop. The driver, Mr F McKenzie and the fireman, Mr Staggs, were taken to Kempsey Hospital with injuries.

The driver and fireman of the stationary train, Messrs Gahan and McKenzie, leapt from their train. The engines of both trains were badly damaged with the line being twisted and torn about while the force of the collision drove the tender of the fruit train into the first fruit truck causing bananas and pineapples to be scattered everywhere.

It was thought that the cause could have been the northern signal being shifted further from the Kempsey Station. Fortunately no lives were lost.

- Macleay River Historical Society

Watch for more railway snippets leading up to the Kempsey Centenary of Rail on November 27. Copies of the photographs are available from the Macleay River Historical Society, phone 6562-7572.