//
you're reading...
Australian History

January 18, 1977 – Australia’s worst rail disaster occurs at Granville, Sydney, killing 83


Granville Train Disaster

Granville Train Disaster

The Granville rail/train disaster occurred on Tuesday 18 January 1977 at Granville, New South Wales, a western suburb of Sydney, when a crowded commuter train derailed, running into the supports of a road bridge that collapsed onto two of the train’s passenger carriages.

The official enquiry found the primary cause of the crash to be poor fastening of the track.

It remains the worst rail disaster in Australian history and the greatest loss of life in a confined area post-war: 83 people died, more than 213 were injured, and 1,300 were affected. 

An 84th victim, an unborn child, was added to the fatality list in 2017.

The train involved in the disaster consisted of eight passenger carriages hauled by 46 class electric locomotive 4620, and had commenced its journey towards Sydney from Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains at 6:09 am. 

At approximately 8:10 am it was approaching Granville railway station when the locomotive derailed and struck one of the steel-and-concrete pillars supporting the bridge carrying Bold Street over the railway cutting.

The derailed engine and first two carriages passed the bridge. The first carriage broke free from the other carriages.

Carriage one was torn open when it collided with a severed mast beside the track, killing eight passengers.

The remaining carriages came to a halt with the second carriage clear of the bridge. The rear half of the third carriage, and forward half of the fourth carriage came to rest under the weakened bridge, whose weight was estimated at 570 tonnes (560 long tons; 630 short tons). 

Within seconds, with all its supports demolished, the bridge and several motor cars on top of it crashed onto the carriages, crushing them and the passengers inside.

Of the total number of passengers travelling in the third and fourth carriages, half were killed instantly when the bridge collapsed on them, crushing them in their seats. 

Several injured passengers were trapped in the train for hours after the accident, with part of the bridge crushing a limb or torso.

Some had been conscious and lucid, talking to rescuers, but died of crush syndrome soon after the weight was removed from their bodies. This resulted in changes to rescue procedures for these kinds of accidents. 

Rescuers also faced greater difficulties as the weight of the bridge was still crushing the affected carriages, reducing the space in which they had to work to get survivors out, until it was declared that no one was allowed to attempt further entry until the bridge had been lifted.

Soon after, the bridge settled a further two inches onto the train, trapping two rescuers and crushing a portable generator “like butter”.

Another danger came from gas; LPG cylinders were kept year-round on board the train to be used in winter for heating. 

Several people were overcome by gas leaking from ruptured cylinders. The leaking gas also prevented the immediate use of powered rescue tools.

The NSW Fire Brigade provided ventilation equipment to dispel the gas and a constant film of water was sprayed over the accident site to prevent the possibility of the gas igniting.

The train driver, the assistant crewman, the “second man”, and the motorists driving on the fallen bridge all survived.

The operation lasted from 8:12 am Tuesday until 6:00 am Thursday. Ultimately, 84 people were killed in the accident, which included an unborn child.

The bridge was rebuilt as a single span without any intermediate support piers. Other bridges similar to the destroyed bridge had their piers reinforced.

The original inquiry into the accident found that the primary cause of the crash was “the very unsatisfactory condition of the permanent way”, being the poor fastening of the track, causing the track to spread and allowing the left front wheel of the locomotive to come off the rail.

Other contributing factors included the structure of the bridge itself. When built, the base of its deck was found to be one metre lower than the road. Concrete was added on top to build the surface up level with the road. This additional weight significantly added to the destruction of the wooden train carriages.

The disaster prompted substantial increases in rail-maintenance expenditure. The train driver, Edward Olencewicz, was exonerated by the inquiry.

For 39 years, the people of the disaster had little to say until the Granville Train Disaster Association Inc. was formed.

This was to represent the emotions of those affected (including relatives and friends) via Barry J Gobbe OAM JP and Meredith Knight JP to the Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance and New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian and requested an apology for the way the real people of the disaster were treated by the then Wran Government of the day. 

On 4 May 2017 Berejiklian gave a formal apology to the victims of the disaster, in New South Wales Parliament House.

Shortly after the disaster, a voluntary group collected unknown donation amounts to allegedly erect the memorial wall for ongoing memorial services. Families and friends of the victims and survivors gather with surviving members of the rescue crews annually.

In 2007, a plaque was placed on the bridge to mark the efforts of railway workers who assisted in rescuing survivors from the train.

The original group, known as ‘the trust’, made submissions on rail safety issues, including recommending that fines for safety breaches be dedicated to rail safety improvements, and campaigning for the establishment of an independent railway safety ombudsman.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 14,946 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

Cadence Column: Asia, September 20, 2021

Cadence Column: Asia, September 20, 2021

China steps up expansion via Hong Kong elections. Seven editors are banned from Wikipedia on concerns of not acting in good faith and with relation to China. The US sails through the Taiwan Straight again, this time a destroyer. Taiwan wants more backup runways for fighter jets. Escalations only continue and no side shows any […]

China adds powerful new ship to maritime patrol fleet

China adds powerful new ship to maritime patrol fleet

China has added a new powerful ship to its fleet of maritime patrol vessels in the South China Sea, state media has reported. The 5,560-ton Hai Xun 03 was launched on Tuesday and will become the largest ocean patrol ship under the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration (MSA), the official China News Service reported, adding that […]

A lesson in political economy on investments in China

A lesson in political economy on investments in China

Paul Krugman, the eminent Nobel laureate in economics, recalls how companies are different from nations and their reasons. Business managers have different perspectives. It is economists – not managers – who place the question of foreign trade, the balance of payments and the exchange rate at the center of their reflections. Since 1989, China and […]

Are China’s climate promises just a load of hot air? (Yes!)

Are China’s climate promises just a load of hot air? (Yes!)

China is prepared to hold its cooperation on climate issues hostage to Western concessions elsewhere. Few cities in China represent the country’s addiction to coal more than Tianjin, where Alok Sharma travelled this week to talk about cooperation on climate issues. It sits on the coast of one of China’s most polluted regions, and its […]

The vanishing allure of doing business in China

The vanishing allure of doing business in China

It is nothing new for foreign firms to endure shakedowns by the Chinese Communist Party. As far back as revolutionary times, Chairman Mao’s victorious troops did not directly confiscate foreign-owned assets as their Bolshevik forerunners had done in Russia. Instead, they wore them down with higher taxes and fines so big that eventually companies gave […]

Wikipedia blames pro-China infiltration for bans

Wikipedia blames pro-China infiltration for bans

Wikipedia has suffered an “infiltration” that sought to advance the aims of China, the US non-profit organisation that owns the volunteer-edited encyclopaedia has said. The Wikimedia Foundation told BBC News the infiltration had threatened the “very foundations of Wikipedia”. The foundation banned seven editors linked to a mainland China group. Wikimedians of Mainland China accused […]

Diaries of former Mao aide spark custody battle over unofficial history of China

Diaries of former Mao aide spark custody battle over unofficial history of China

Today, “Li materials” are the subject of a legal battle between Stanford University and Mr. Li’s widow in Beijing. This is a battle for custody of an unofficial history of China. In millions of handwritten Chinese characters, Mr. Li documents his early days in the party, the revolution that brought him to power and his […]

World’s dirtiest cities list raises issue: Why don’t politicians call out China?

World’s dirtiest cities list raises issue: Why don’t politicians call out China?

Ponder this: A new tally of global cities’ emissions finds that the top 25 are responsible for 52% of the planet’s urban greenhouse gas emissions. Twenty-three of those are in China. New York City is the first American city to appear, at No. 26. Out of the top 75, just four other American cities are listed […]

Cadence Column: Asia, September 13, 2021

Cadence Column: Asia, September 13, 2021

The easiest solution to China’s escalating situation in the South Sea is to enforce China’s own formal statements at face value. China says they respect other countries and do not want to militarize the South Sea. Leave it at that. Any disrespect toward other countries is not at the behest of Xijinping. Any militarization of […]

Why is Iran so keen on joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation?

Why is Iran so keen on joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation?

What Happened: Iran became an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – originally comprised of China, Russia, and 4 Central Asian republics – back in 2005. In the 16 years since, Tehran has consistently pushed for an upgrade to full membership, particularly after the SCO underwent its first expansion, adding India and Pakistan, in 2017. […]

%d bloggers like this: