#OnThisDay ( #OTD ) – 88 years ago, Good Friday, March 25th, 1932, a terrible and frightening railway accident occurred for a family on holidays from Cobram whilst passing through Wattle Glen.
As reported on page 1 of the Advertiser, Friday 1 April 1932 and many other newspapers throughout Melbourne and the country.
Railway Accident at Wattle Glen
TRAIN DERAILED IN LEVEL CROSSING ACCIDENT
MOTOR CAR TORN TO PIECES
OCCUPANTS HAVE MARVELLOUS ESCAPES
A sensation went through the district when it became known that there had been a railway accident at Wattle Glen on Good Friday morning. All sorts of alarming rumors were current, and it was a relieved community which learned that, although the train had been derailed and a motor car almost torn to pieces, all the persons who were in the train and car escaped with comparatively minor injuries.
Traffic on the line was completely disorganised for some time as a section of the line had been torn up by the train when it left the rails, and until the line was repaired and the necessary repairs made, a fleet of taxis and a railway bus were used to carry on.
The accident occurred about 11.40 a.m. when the 11.10 a.m. “up’ train was travelling from Hurstbridge to Melbourne. The train was almost entering the Wattle Glen station when the mishap occurred.
Mr. Donald F. Paterson, manager of the Bank of Australasia at Cob-ram, with his wife and two children, had arrived from Cobram on the day before, and had spent the night with Mrs. Paterson’s mother (Mrs. Herbert), whose home is near the station.
Set Out for the Beach
They had decided to visit the beach, and were on their way to reach the Hurstbridge-Melbourne road.
Waited for Another Car
At the railway crossing Mr. Paterson, waited a while to allow another car travelling in the opposite direct-ion, to negotiate the crossing first, and then proceeded. When his car was on the crossing it was struck broadside on by the train.
Hurled Over Culvert
The car was dragged broadside on for some distance, and was then hurled over into a culvert on the west side of the line.
The train, the two leading carriages of which had left the line, continued on, lurching sickeningly as the derailed wheels ploughed up the permanent way.
Post Snapped Like a Reed
The head of the train wobbled from side to side, carrying before it an 18-inch post used to support the over-head electrical equipment. This pole was, snapped like a reed, and did not decrease the speed of the runaway train to any appreciable extent.
All this time the air brakes had been applied, and when the train eventually came to a standstill the leading carriages were canted over at a dangerous angle.
The injured were:
Donald Fary Paterson, aged 36 years, manager of the Bank of Australasia, Cobram. Bruises and shock.
Mary Winifred Paterson, his wife, aged 32 years. Broken bone in right foot and shock.
Richard Paterson, aged 6 years, and Betty Paterson, aged 2 years, their children. Slight abrasions and shock.
J. Howse, driver of train. Shock.
Mrs M. Barnes, Hurstbridge, passenger on the train. Shock.
After the Accident
An inspection of the site revealed a mass of torn up line, whilst the car was literally a mass of twisted scrap iron: -The culvert over which the car had been hurled, and where there is a drop of about 12 feet, was badly splintered, and it is a wonder that the train did not follow the car when it went over the culvert.
To the Rescue
Mr. James McCannon, who was working In his garden, nearby, heard the crash and rushed over to give what assistance he could. There were others also in the neighborhood who hurried to the scene.
Mrs .Paterson was limping about, searching frantically for her two children, completely ignoring the terrible pain from her injured foot. Searchers found Mr. Paterson pinned beneath the wreckage of the car, and across his knees was his son, Richard. The daughter Beatrice was found on the road at the crossing, she apparently having been thrown clear of the car at the time of the impact.
In the train were only the driver (Motorman Howse), the guard, and one passenger (Mrs. Barnes, of Hurstbridge).
The driver had a marvelous escape, his cabin being splintered when It struck the pole carrying the overhead gear, but he escaped with bruises and a few lacerations caused by glass from the broken windscreen of his cabin. The roof of the driver’s compartment had been splintered, and the front crushed.
Mrs. Barnes had a nerve-wracking experience. She was tossed from side to side as the train lurched on its way after leaving the track, sustaining shock and considerable bruising. She was taken to a nearby residence, and after resting awhile recovered sufficiently to return home.
Motorists took Mr. and Mrs. Paterson to the Eltham Hospital, where they were admitted for treatment, and their two children were taken to the home of Mr. Paterson’s mother at Greensborough.
Passengers to Eltham, Diamond Creek on the trains following hear all sorts of sensational rumors of what had happened. At Heidelberg passengers were told that the train was not going any further, but after some time all got aboard again, and the train proceeded to Eltham, where all passengers were again told to get out. They finally re-embarked and were taken to Diamond Creek, from which station they continued their interrupted journeys by taxis and a railways motor bus, which continued the interrupted service. Passengers, who left Melbourne for Hurstbridge at about 11 a.m. finally reached their destination at about 3 p.m.
Restoring the Damage
The railways officials were soon on the spot, and immediately work was started to rebuild the tracks and re store the overhead gear. Work continued throughout the day and all Friday night, normal running being resumed about midday on Saturday.
The derailed carriages were not re placed on the rails until a quarter to 6 o’clock on Friday evening. During this operation one of the large hooks of the steam crane pierced the wood work of a carriage, causing consider able damage.
Mr. Paterson said he did not see the train until it was almost on his car, his attention having been occupied in seeing that another car got clear of the crossing before he negotiated it. Had he not waited for that car he would have cleared the crossing in ample time.
Motorman House said that at this spot the line curved. He was emphatic that he sounded his siren as he approached the spot. His view of the crossing was obscured by sap lings at the curve and he saw the first car get clear, but did not see Paterson’s car as it was on the “blind” side of his cabin.
Mrs. Barnes; who is staying at Cr. J. Ryan’s house, is still suffering very much from shock. Mr. and Mrs. Ryan were in Sale at the time of the accident, but returned as soon as they heard of it.
Mr. J. Howse has been off duty since the accident.
The sub-station at Greensborough was also damaged on account of the heavy surge of current which blew the fuses and damaged the switches. It is expected that the damage to the railways will amount to over £1,000.
It is understood that the insurance on the motor car that was smashed expired the previous week.
1932 ‘Railway Accident at Wattle Glen’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 1 April, p. 1. , viewed 15 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56737542