Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kapunda's Railway - Part 1:" Washed Away At Fords"

Kapunda's Railway 

Part 1
"Washed Away At Fords"
Allen Tiller
Kapunda Railway Station circa 1900

Some things get forgotten with the passing of time and the introduction of new technologies. It has been a long time since Kapunda last saw a train stop at it's station, and many more years have passed since a steam train has entered this town!

Photo by Allen Tiller
 The once bustling train station is now a Bed and Breakfast, and the old Goods shed is a crumbling piece of Kapunda's heritage going to waste. The Old Railway Hotel is now a private home, the old water filler a long forgotten rusty relic, and the train line through the town, a piece of unused land that could be better suited to something more modern like a bike track, but I digress, this blog isn't about the now, it is about the history that surrounds one of the most important train lines and destinations in South Australia's railways history - The Kapunda Railway.

 We are going to start this series with the story of an accident out near Fords, a long forgotten story, but an important part of this towns history. Also, I see this as a way to honour the Men and Women who spent their working lives, and some, their deaths, building this great town through their hard work on our railways. - Allen Tiller

In 1914 on Thursday the 13th of February, after a huge storm blew through the Light region, a goods train coming from Gawler to Kapunda came off the tracks near Fords. (just south of Kapunda)
The storm had brought with it a downpour that had washed away the lines near the 42J miles marker.

The accident had been witnessed by Mr Clancy and Mr Moore of Fords. The two men were out testing the line after the torrential downpour, and had reached the eastern side of where the water had been pouring over the line.
The two men, standing on the line, were pitched into knee deep water when the railway line gave way under the pressure of the torrent. As the two men recovered their footings and scrambled back onto the tracks, the goods train rounded the corner on the otherside of the broken line from where the men were standing, and before either could raise a warning signal, the train plummeted of the line into the nearby creek, landing on its side.
Clancy and Moore watched as the driver Mr W. Critchley and the Fireman Mr. A.H. Whaites climbed out of the engine and onto the side of the tipped over train.
 As the two men made their way over the locomotive, the water gushed and sent Mr Critchley into the seething torrent, where he was washed away with the current.

A message was telegraphed to the Kapunda Station and a party, including Dr Glynn, Station Master Mr A.S. Leach and Inspectors Gordon and Johnson was dispatched to head out to the train wreck.
The site was inspected by the light of the setting moon, but the reality of the disaster could not be fully comprehended until the light of the next day.
The engine was laying on its side in the now naturally flowing creek bed, awash with slime and mud, behind it lay carriages piled up on top of each other, all fully loaded with cargo, axles twisted and the wheels at right angles.
One wagon measuring at 22 feet long was standing straight in the air, supported by another 16 foot long carriage laying in a similar position, both being supported by the wagon with the trains water tanks. Only the last 5 wagons and the guards carriage remained intact upon the line.

 What caused such a massive pile up? The spot where this accident happened was not considered at the time to be one of danger. The sudden and extremely hard downpour of rain overfilled the small creek culvert on which the train tracks lay.
 The culvert could not take the extreme amounts of water being forced into it and caused a back wash of water to be accumulated, the water level rose until it washed over the lines.
 The track was built on a bank that sat between 6 feet and 8 feet high, with the culvert running underneath, with the water pressure cascading across the line, much of the supporting ballast had been washed away. And as the train hit the weakened structure, it gave away, plunging the train into the cold currents of the creek.

 The guard who was in the last carriage of the train suffered no injuries, and began walking back to Freeling to alert them of the accident before the passenger train made its way down the line, this was unneeded though as the storm had caused problems with lines in Smithfield and Gawler as well causing the passenger train to be delayed significantly

Fireman Whaites was interviewed by officials and his story is as follows;
“ The train left Freeling soon after 6 o'clock, not far from the station we ran through a body of water safely, when we soon passed a second body of water, we kept a lookout, but did not think it necessary to stop altogether.
Suddenly we felt the engine going and with only the width of the embankment we knew there was little hope, and in seconds we were in the water.
When she rested on her side I climbed out, and my mate followed me. The water was to my waste and when I got my footing I looked around for the driver to see if he was right.
As he got out he seemed to sink on his knees, and before it was possible to do anything the water carried him away.
One good Samaritan gave me a pair of dungarees and another coat, and I feel pretty right now, although it was a bad experience”

As for the driver, Mr Critchley, a search was carried out to find him, his water bag and tool box were found a quarter of a mile down the creek. Mr Critchley's body was found about seven miles further down the stream, hanging to a tree in the middle of the creek, his body was badly bruised and it was most probable that he died of what we now call hypothermia.  

Some images on this blog are borrowed from the State Library Of South Australia:
 There is currently no copyright laws attributed to these images
Researched and Written by Allen Tiller © 2012 

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