//
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 )

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 15,358 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

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

China’s new aircraft carrier Fujian: Hit or miss 

China’s new aircraft carrier Fujian: Hit or miss 

While the United States was wrapping up its Valiant Shield 2022 exercise on 17 June, China launched its third aircraft carrier with all the fanfare. The launch was postponed twice due to logistical and technical issues. The aircraft carrier has been named Fujian with the hull number 18. It has been under construction at the world’s largest […]

In Beijing’s BRICS summit, Putin is back on the world stage

In Beijing’s BRICS summit, Putin is back on the world stage

When Russian President Vladimir Putin dials into the virtual BRICS summit hosted by Beijing on Thursday, it will be his first time attending a forum with the heads of major economies since launching an invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. For Putin, this could offer a welcome picture: his face beamed onscreen alongside other leaders […]

U.S. not seeking to create “Asian NATO,” defense secretary says

U.S. not seeking to create “Asian NATO,” defense secretary says

The U.S. Defense Secretary emphasized partnership as the main priority for the American security strategy in the Indo-Pacific during a keynote speech on Saturday. However, Lloyd Austin stressed that the U.S. does not seek to create “an Asian NATO.” Austin spoke for half an hour at the First Plenary Session of the Shangri-La Dialogue 2022 […]

Why Chinese warplanes are ‘playing chicken’ with US allies

Why Chinese warplanes are ‘playing chicken’ with US allies

Chinese warplanes are targeting US allies in a high-stakes “game of chicken” over the Asia-Pacific that risks spiraling out of control — raising the risk of an incident that could spark war. That is the view of analysts who warn increasingly aggressive maneuvers by Chinese fighter jets — accused of endangering both Canadian and Australian […]

Has China lost Europe?

Has China lost Europe?

In April and May, as Russia’s war in Ukraine entered its third month, China sent a special envoy to meet with officials in eight central and eastern European countries. The timing was not coincidental: in the two months since Russia had launched its invasion, China’s standing in Europe had sunk to new lows. European governments […]

Xi’s re-election: Opportunity for the world, curse for China

Xi’s re-election: Opportunity for the world, curse for China

China is gearing up for the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party to be held later this year. According to the consensus view, President Xi Jinping’s historic bid for a third term as the party’s General Secretary is assured. The Chinese President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping, doesn’t have much […]

China: A political view

China: A political view

I read Dr Mohamad Zreik[2] interesting and comprehensive article on the growth of China’s economy. It has come a long way since the days of Mao Tse Tung and the days of his communist experiment, the Long March, when millions died. The years that followed Mao set the path from which the economy took off […]

Math books outrage China with ‘ugly, sexually suggestive, pro-American’ images

Math books outrage China with ‘ugly, sexually suggestive, pro-American’ images

China has ordered a nationwide review of school textbooks after illustrations deemed ugly, sexually suggestive and secretly pro-American caused public uproar. The news has alarmed some experts and parents who fear the campaign is turning into a political witch hunt and represents an unnecessary tightening of the country’s already stringent censorship of cultural publications. The […]

Why Biden didn’t mean what he said about Taiwan

Why Biden didn’t mean what he said about Taiwan

The White House has been left scrambling a little after President Joe Biden suggested on May 23, 2022, that the US would intervene militarily should China attempt an invasion of Taiwan. The comment, which Biden made during a trip to Japan, was taken by some observers as a deviation from the official US line on […]

United States outmanoeuvres Russia once again? 

United States outmanoeuvres Russia once again? 

In a recent briefing, the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Avril Haines warned, “I would characterize it as the Russians aren’t winning, and the Ukrainians aren’t winning, and we’re at a bit of a stalemate here.” So, where is the Russia-Ukraine war heading? What is Russian President Putin planning next? Is Europe ready for […]

%d bloggers like this: