TUESDAY MAY 6, 1947
PICNIC TRAIN 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’s worst rail smash.
The smash, 13½ miles from Central Station, killed 15 and injured 30. When
searchers thought all the victims had been 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
Police had difficulty in controlling the crowds, who at times hindered
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
VIGIL BY RELATIVES AT HOSPITAL WARD
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
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
24, single, Gloucester Street, South Brisbane.
of Junction Road, Morningside.
31, married, Eva Street, Coorparoo.
CHRISTIANSEN, 24, married, Peach Street,
20, single, of Evelyn Street, Kedron.
19, single, of Lamington Avenue, Doomben.
married, Mellor Street, Morningside.
12, corner of Wynnum Road, and Moore Street, Morningside.
53, married, of Moore Street, Morningside.
Day’s Road, Grange, train fireman.
52, married, of Wynnum Road, Norman Park.
married, Bowen Street, New Farm.
INJURED – 30
ADMITTED TO HOSPITAL:-
Bank Street, West End, severed left leg, severe shock, seriously ill.
18, single, Abbotsford Road, Mayne, fractured right collarbone, shock.
CHRISTIANSEN, 36, married, Peach Street,
Greenslopes; probable fractured skull, lacerations to forehead, probable
fracture left collarbone, shock, seriously ill.
43, married, Fernberg Road, Rosalie, fractured right leg, injury right arm,
EDITH FORD, 47, married, Peach Street,
Greenslopes: probable fracture left leg, forehead lacerations, sever shock.
married, Peach Street, Greenslopes, injuries to head and chest, shock.
LINDA GLENNY, 24, single, Masters
Street, Teneriffe, injury right leg, sever shock.
married, driver of the train, of Lotus Street, Woolloongabba; severe burns to
trunk and limbs, lacerated right elbow, abrasion right hip, shock; dangerously
married, Edith Street, Newstead; contused legs, shock.
EMILY McLEAN, 31, married, Edith Street,
Newstead, contused legs, shock.
Bank Street, West End; severely lacerated left leg; shock.
married, Bank Street, West End, abrasions to face, sever shock.
MAY BEAMISH, 34, married, Gray’s Road,
Gaythorne, dislocated left shoulder, shock.
New Cleveland Road, Morningside, abrasions to right knee and face, shock.
8, Fernberg Road, Rosalie, abrasions to face and both legs, contusion to
Brisbane Street, Ipswich, shock.
married, Mellor Street, Kedron, abrasions and contusions to face and left thigh,
22, single, Ipswich Road, South Brisbane, shock.
Road, Norman Park, injury to left hip, severe shock.
19, single, Moore Street, Morningside, shock.
ETHEL LANGE, 22, single, Omar Street,
52, married, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, lacerated right hand, shock.
49, married, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, contused right leg, shock.
19, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, shock.
married, Wellington Street, Wooloowin, shock.
Wellington Street, Wooloowin, shock.
56, married, Wynnum Road, Norman Park, severe injuries to back, severe
51, married, James Street, New farm, lacerations to head, shock.
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.
THE WRECKED CARRIAGES
HOW THE ENGINE AND FIRST THREE CARRIAGES ENDED UP
THREE DEAD AND THREE LIVING
WERE TRAPPED TOGETHER IN THIS SECTION OF THE WRECKED COACH
THE AMBULANCE MAN ON THE RIGHT IS GIVING WATER TO MR. T. McLEAN.
THE OTHER AMBULANCE BEARER IS SUPPORTING MRS. McLEAN
WHO IS TRAPPED BENEATH MISS LINDA GLENNY (left)
MISS GLENNY'S LEGS WERE TRAPPED IN THE WRECKAGE
THE DEAD BOY AT LEFT WAS ALSO PINNED AGAINST MISS GLENNY'S LEGS
TWO OTHER VICTIMS, MR. F. P. DELANEY AND DOROTHY COCHRANE
ARE BENEATH MR. AND MRS. McLEAN.
THE WRECKED ENGINE UP RIGHTED
LINE BEING CLEARED
TRACK BEING CHECKED NEXT DAY