//
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 14,809 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

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

More Than 90 Countries Relied on Chinese Vaccines. Now They’re Battling Major Outbreaks.

More Than 90 Countries Relied on Chinese Vaccines. Now They’re Battling Major Outbreaks.

More than 90 countries are using Covid shots from China. Experts say recent infections in those places should serve as a cautionary tale in the global effort to fight the disease. Mongolia promised its people a “Covid-free summer.” Bahrain said there would be a “return to normal life.” The tiny island nation of the Seychelles […]

US sanctions Chinese solar firms for Uighur human rights abuses

US sanctions Chinese solar firms for Uighur human rights abuses

The United States on Wednesday restricted exports to five Chinese companies that it said were implicated in Chinese human rights violations, including large producers of polysilicon for the solar panel industry. The companies were listed over human rights violations and abuses of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, according to a US government filing on Wednesday. […]

China is the real winner of Western climate politics

China is the real winner of Western climate politics

Most of the Western media so desperately wants the dominant climate narrative – especially the bit where the West is the villain – to be true that they simply do not interrogate the facts. The G7 meeting was a genuine success for Scott Morrison and for the West generally. As Boris Johnson says, “the West […]

Australia: Overnight News Headlines – June 24, 2021

Australia: Overnight News Headlines – June 24, 2021

Originally posted on Craig Hill:
Australian News Overnight news headlines you may have missed Australia news LIVE: NSW COVID-19 cases surge; restrictions reimposed on Greater Sydney – Australia news LIVE: NSW COVID-19 cases surge; restrictions reimposed on Greater Sydney. For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here. By … Australian Cup Moth Caterpillars Produce…

China in the News: June 24, 2021

China in the News: June 24, 2021

What the world is saying about China (past 24 hours) “Ridiculous Case”: Juror Criticizes DOJ for Charging Scientist With Hiding Ties to China – After an FBI agent led the university to believe that Hu had ties to the Chinese military, … She considered herself patriotic and had thought very little about China. US says […]

China Puts Economy First, Climate Last

China Puts Economy First, Climate Last

China’s top economic planners have put the brakes on attempts by environmental officials to reduce carbon emissions as driving growth takes priority over meeting climate targets for now, according to people familiar with the matter. Officials at China’s main economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, have limited the initial scope of a […]

Australia: Overnight News Headlines – June 23, 2021

Australia: Overnight News Headlines – June 23, 2021

Originally posted on Craig Hill:
Australian News Overnight news headlines you may have missed Big spending in SA budget, but can the government survive an election fought on health? – Mr Lucas stressed South Australia was “not going to go down the Labor option” like the Victorian Government did in its most recent state budget.…

China in the News: June 23, 2021

China in the News: June 23, 2021

What the world is saying about China (past 24 hours) China’s version of the Asian model, Opinion News & Top Stories – China’s version of the Asian model. Beijing has altered the geopolitical context that led to the rise of East Asia. Gideon Rachman. Bitcoin sinks below US$30000 for 1st time since January amid China […]

Shanghai Extravagance, Silicon Valley Stoics, and US-China Agony

Shanghai Extravagance, Silicon Valley Stoics, and US-China Agony

Shanghai has just replaced Hong Kong as the ‘most expensive city’, according to Swiss private bank JuliusBär Group’s Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2021 (Juliusbaer.com 2021 Apr 8). By comparing Shanghai on the socialist mainland and HK as a champion of capitalism for decades, the high-net-worth-individuals in Shanghai seem to be much more willing and […]

Cadence Column: Asia, June 21, 2021

Cadence Column: Asia, June 21, 2021

China is facing massive resentment against its own Communist Party from inside its own borders. Members of ordinary society stab Communist Party members and are regarded heroes. The party of self-importance on the world stage isn’t only hated by the rest of the world, but also by the people it oppresses at home. CCP does […]

%d bloggers like this: