I have been reminded by Robin Tuckfield of the near tragedy for OTC and its staff that occurred in the early hours of 18 January 1977 when a commuter train derailed at Granville NSW. It seems to me to be a timely reminder of what could have been and how lucky we are that no OTC staff member lost his or her life however I am sure that those who were directly involved will never forget that day.
Let us take some time to reflect on the 83 poor souls that did lose their lives in that disaster.
Details of today’s commemoration ceremony are available at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-18/granville-train-disaster-40-year-anniversary-memorial/8190150
From Robin Tuckfield in memory of the event and the impact that it had, and still has, upon him.
Several people from OTC Operations and Engineering were on the train that day. Most were in the three carriages that were destroyed by the bridge.
I was one of the “lucky” ones. I nearly missed the train, and so I was several carriages back from the bridge. I usually travelled in carriage 2 or 3 with other OTC Head Office employees.
It was a hot day in Sydney, maybe not quite as hot as today, but close to it. After running to catch the train, I just jumped on, through the first door I came to, and stood in the doorway to cool down in the breeze.
No air conditioning in those days. I think I was in carriage 5 or 6, but I didn’t know at the time, and keep forgetting since.
When the train came to a stop. We had definitely derailed. I stuck my head out the door, and saw the bridge fall, the power wires arching and sparking as they came down all around.
After finding I could do nothing more to help, I walked back along the train line to Parramatta, and then back home.
Day 1 after, I became very sick next morning when I was getting ready for work. I did not understand why, but took the day off and was OK by lunch.
Day 2 after, I had the same experience, and realised I was experiencing what is now called PTSD. I forced myself to go to work. I took a bus to Clydesdale, then train to work. I do not know how I looked, but I could hardly talk. I was drained. I think I felt worse than the day of the accident.
I still experience the occasional “stress attack” and avoid the first three carriages of a train. If the train jolts or brakes suddenly, it comes back.
And as I said, I was only in the back of the train. Those survivors in those first carriages have had a hard 40 years.
From Feb 1977 Transit:
Granville Victims OK
Five OTC staff were travelling on the 6.09 from Mt. Victoria on the day that it crashed at Granville.
Two were injured, and three escaped virtually unharmed. They were:
Don Cocks – Senior Accountant, who suffered injuries which kept him in hospital until the week end following the crash.
John McDermott – Senior Engineer, who was travelling in the carriage crushed by concrete. His injuries are expected to keep him in hospital for another couple of weeks.
PhiIlip McKenzie (Administration Section Clerk), Bill Linney and Robin Tuckfield), (both Technical Officer Grade 2’s)
GM’s Column read:
Five OTC people in rail crash
I cannot refrain from expressing the distress which I know we all felt at the rail tragedy at Granville and echoing the concern we felt in OTC House when we learned that five members of the organisation were on the wrecked train.
While some were injured it was a great relief to be told that injuries did not appear to be very serious even though some had been very close to the worst damaged carriage.
I found it particularly distressing to read how many young people were among the 83 killed and the aftermath of distress, particularly among families and friends.
From Apr 1977 Transit:
As mentioned in the GM’s column last month, I was one of the few fortunate survivors of the Granville train disaster.
When the train – which I had boarded only two minutes before – finally ground to a halt following the derailment, I was standing in the aisle near the rear of carriage three.
This was directly below the 170·tonne Bold Street Bridge which was soon to collapse.
A few seconds later, a loud rumbling noise was heard above, and, as if in slow motion, the roof of the carriage began to cave in on top of me.
For at least thirty seconds the rumbling continued to flatten the wooden carriage and obliterate all but the dimmest light.
When the devastation ceased I lay on the floor of the aisle in a space 90 cm by 60 cm by 50 cm high.
The roof had crashed to within a mere 10 cm on the left side of the carriage and 90 cm on the right side which was still under the slab.
An hour later my limited air supply was reinforced by an oxygen supply poked through the 10 cm gap to me on a long PVC tube attached to a stick.
Four hours after the accident occurred, I was finally dragged out by my legs from the right side of the train suffering from injuries to my spine, ribs, elbow and hands.
I would like to thank all those who wished me well or visited me during my period in hospital.
In particular I would like to thank those who tried to console my wife during the four and a half hour period I was missing.
J. J. McDermott
I remember this train crash well!
It was to this train, which had done an unscheduled ‘slow-down’ stop at Harris Park Station, that I ran down the slope to board as it pulled out. To my good fortune it had gathered too much speed and I was left watching it depart rounding the bend to Granville.
The next thing I heard was a mighty ‘krumph’ in the direction of Granville followed a few moments later by a series of sirens sounding off
as ambulances raced down the Western Highway.
Perceiving there was a disaster, I ran back to my car which I had parked at my sisters place two minutes from the station, and raced to the Granville site
with the aim to assist, if I might.
There was silence when I got there. A dreadful scene. And a quiet, and efficient operation being conducted by ambulance staff and police.
I asked if could help, and was politely requested to stay back on top of the embankment with the other stunned onlookers.
The Granville Train Crash! I remember it sadly. And gratefully!
I had no idea there so many OTC fellow employees were involved.
Yes, I also remember the day clearly. I was on day shift at Ceduna when we had an alarm on the incoming terrestrial supergroups. This was a quite usual occurrence due to the 2000Km terrestrial link from Sydney to Ceduna.
On checking which supergroup had gone down, we found that we had lost almost everything.
We were able to contact ITMC in Sydney who informed us of the Granville Disaster. In those days news took longer to filter through, though we knew it had to be a serious incident to have taken out 50% of Australia’s international traffic.
Peter W Burgess, Cairns
Sorry, meant to sign off with my name:
Peter W Burgess, Cairns