6.09 am From Mount Victoria Careers Into Bold Street Overpass Stanchions
Victor P Taffa
At 8.12 am on 18 January 1977 the 6.09 am train from Mount Victoria, Sydney jumped the tracks careering into stanchions that supported the Bold Street overhead road bridge.
In Australia’s worst rail disaster 84 people were killed and more than 210 were injured.
According to the NSW Fire Brigade account of events:
“On arrival crews from the NSW Fire Brigades found the bridge had broken into two sections. Two-thirds formed an angle of some 40 degrees. The remaining section had fallen almost flat onto the third and fourth carriages of the Sydney-bound Blue Mountains commuter train. On top of the huge concrete and steel slab (measuring one and a half metres thick) were motor vehicles that had been crossing the bridge at the moment of impact.”
By 9:00 am the rescue operation was being coordinated by NSW Police.
Fifty-three officers and firefighters were carrying out every possible measure to extricate and carry the victims. They, with the many Police officers, railway employees, ambulance personnel, doctors, nurses, Department of Main Roads workers, civilian emergency squads and ministers of religion all worked together and assisted with the rescue.
The rescue operation was hazardous and life threatening for rescue workers. Operations were hampered by the threat of explosion and fire from leaking propane gas cylinders. The lack of air and light caused enormous problems for rescue workers.
The operation lasted from 8:12 am Tuesday 18 January until 6:00 am Thursday 20 January. Ultimately, 83 people were killed in the accident.
As a mark of respect for the victims of the Granville Rail Disaster no trains are timetabled to depart Mount Victoria Railway Station at 6.09 am.
From a personal perspective the Granville rail disaster will forever be seared into my memory and should never be forgotten. In 1977 as a student at St. Patrick’s College Strathfield I would catch a train on the Northern Line from Denistone and commute to Strathfield.
It was a hot summer’s morning during the school holidays on the morning of 18 January, 1977. A ‘news flash’ was broadcast on Radio 2UE while listening to Gary O’Callaghan and I felt shocked and tremendously saddened and quite worried because no one at 8.15 am knew just how bad the tragedy would become.
While I didn’t live on the Western line, the disaster was so shocking that it left an impact on me, although no doubt many other regular rail commuters probably felt the same way.
A cousin of mine who lived at Parramatta was on the train in the 5th carriage and was not injured.
He got off the train and ran all the way home from Granville to Parramatta to tell his mother that he was alive.
The Coroner cited that the cause of the Disaster was because of the poor condition of the Permanent Way (the tracks). The Bold Street Bridge also had more concrete in the deck than was necessary.
For successive Governments to let the Railways run down to the point that had occurred was a scandal and the lessons of the Granville Disaster should never be forgotten.
When Governments are so keen to build Metro Rail at the expense of the existing heavy railways it is obvious that the lessons of Granville have been forgotten.