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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 3 (July 1, 1927)

Derailment of Express Train at Timaru. — Due to Outside Interference. — Recognition of Railway's Good Work

page 42

Derailment of Express Train at Timaru.
Due to Outside Interference.
Recognition of Railway's Good Work.

Through the criminal folly of a trespasser, an express train on the South Island Main Trunk line was derailed on 4th June when approaching Timaru.

The evidence showed the derailment to have been caused by stones placed on the rails. Fortunately, although the engine was overturned and the following cars zig-zagged about in an amazing manner, there were no lives lost, and very little personal injury to either passengers or train crew.

The press join in a tribute to the way the difficulty was met by the staff from the moment the big Ab locomotive mounted the rails until everything was cleared up and ordinary working resumed.

The Timaru “Post” comments as follows:—

Although accidents such as that of Saturday are fortunately rare in the South Island, the emergency did not find the railway staff unprepared. As soon as it was seen that a crisis had occurred, the position was taken in hand in a thoroughly practical manner, and but few moments had elapsed till effective steps had been taken for the continuation of all the services. But the first care of the officials was the safety of the passengers. At first it was naturally surmised that such an occurrence could not take place without the usual lamentable list of casualties, and almost before the wrecked train came to a standstill, a thoughtful officer of the Department communicated with the Ambulance Brigade and the doctors, with the result that it was not many minutes till their services were at the disposal of the Department. Fortunately, there was no need for their services; but the fact that such a valuable precaution was taken in case of casualties should be chronicled to show how thoroughly were the provisions made.

That done, the Fire Brigade was summoned in case of fire breaking out, a contingency which is always necessary to guard against in the case of railway accidents, since the history of such tragedies are sometimes greatly accentuated through outbreaks of fire. Here, again, it was fortunate that the services of the Brigade were not needed. Another precaution taken almost at the moment of the derailment was to prevent the possibility of the boiler of the overturned engine bursting, steps being taken with the greatest promptitude to permit of the release of steam.

Restoring the Service.

Few of the general public, perhaps, fully realise what such an occurrence as that of Saturday means to those in control of the service-how many things have to be attended to before the service is again put into running order. Any railway accident has a decidedly unsetting tendency, but it can easily be understood that one which results in blocking the through line has consequences far more serious than the ordinary mishap. It was, of course, necessary to get into touch with headquarters without delay, an S. O. S. was sent out for assistance to clear the line; and north and south responded with alacrity. The accident resulted in hundreds of south-bounds passengers being momentarily marooned in Timaru, and the first care of the stationmaster, Mr. A. E. Firman, as soon as he was satisfied that all were safe, was to make provision for the continuation of their journey. With the greatest promptitude, he summoned all his resources, and a train was got in readiness with such facility that a few minutes after 1 o'clock the passengers were able to continue their journey south-a very fine piece of work indeed.

The Timaru “Herald” sums up the position in the following paragraph:—

Having seen the expeditious way in which the Railway Department handled the big and unusual job of making good the damage caused by Saturday's train disaster here, no one is likely to associate inefficiecy with it. The operations were all well directed and most capably carried out, with the result that the public will suffer the minimum inconvenience, and the train services will be running smoothly again in the shortest possible time.