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Murulla Train Disaster: Inquest Ends

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Monday 11 October 1926, The Sydney Morning Herald

Goods Train Driver and Guard Committed for Trial.

(FROM OUR SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE.)

MURRURUNDI, Saturday.

At the conclusion of the inquest into the deaths of 26 persons in the disaster to the north-west mail train near Murulla on the night of September 13 the District Coroner (Mr. G. B. White) committed for trial Driver Ernest Turner and Guard David Thomas Davies, of the goods train from which trucks broke away and crashed into the mall train.

Turner and Davies were allowed bail, one in £50 or two in £25 in each case.

The Coroner added the following rider:- “I find that there was no automatic coupling pin in the brake van of the goods train. I also find that if such automatic coupling pin had been in the brake van and had been used as officially suggested, such accident and loss of life would have been avoided. I further find that on the evidence of the Chief Mechanical Engineer for Railways and other departmental experts an omission of great importance occurs in the list of the guard’s equipment for goods trains, as no mention is made of the automatic coupling pin as part of such equipment. The grave consequence resulting therefrom is that departmentally no person is regarded as culpably responsible for the absence of such pin, and essential principles of safe working have been overlooked.”

DRIVER’S STORY.

Ernest Turner, residing at Mayfield, driver of the goods train, in reply to Mr. Rogers (Crown Law Office) said that he was hardly responsible for the statement he had given to the police, as he had just made a lengthy statement to his superior officer, and he was much upset.

Mr. Rogers read an addition to the statement made to the police, in which witness said that he had been previously unaware that the guard had not coupled up the air hoses, and that the air was not in the rear of the train.

Mr. Rogers read a long statement from witness to his departmental officer, in which he stated that the guard remarked that they would do better without the air in the rear part of the train, as the rope might stretch and part the air hose. After the breakaway he ran down after the trucks and waved his hand lamp, in an endeavour to attract the attention of the North-west mail, which he knew was in the section. The night officer ran past him after the runaway trucks.

Continuing, witness said that the first indication of a break in the train was shown by his air gauge, which rapidly dropped immediately after the tablets were exchanged, and the train was automatically stopped. After asking the guard to secure the rear portion of his train, witness said to him, “Have you got a pin?”

Mr. Rogers: Yet you made no mention of that in either of your statements.

Witness: No. The guard replied, “We are not issued with a pin.”

Witness said that he did not know it was part of the equipment of a van, nor did he expect to find one in the van.

At the instance of Mr. Rogers, witness demonstrated how he and the guard passed the hook and tall rope three times through the top link of the chain.

Witness said that he did not couple the air hose.

Mr. Rogers: Why didn’t you?

Witness: I didn’t. That is the end of it, Mr. Rogers: Did you forget it?

Witness: Yes, if I had thought of it, I would have coupled it.

Witness said that he was sure he put the tail rope three times round the link and pulled it as tight as he could.

After the luncheon adjournment the Coroner asked Mr. Rogers if, in view of the serious position witness was in, he wished to ask him any more questions.

Mr. Rogers: Only a few, your Worship.

In answer to Mr. Rogers, witness said that it was not his duty to couple up the air hoses. He left it for the guard to do.

Mr. Rogers: Suppose it did break, what harm would it do?

Witness: We could not go on. Continuing, he said that it would be his duty to see that his train had a full pressure of air before the hand brakes and sprags were taken off. If he had told the police that, he did not know the guard had not coupled up the air hose in the train. Witness would admit that his two statements were irreconcilable.

GUARD’S EVIDENCE.

David Thomas Davies, residing at Adamstown, guard of No. 62 goods train on September 13, the last witness to be called, said the break in the coupling was not his fault. He had no automatic pin, and he had to use the tail rope supplied. It was put on securely, and broke through no fault of his. No effort on his part could have prevented the accident. The police interviewed him while he was in bed, and got a statement, which he signed.

In this statement, tendered as an exhibit by Mr. Sproule, witness described the steps taken by himself and the signalman to stop the runaway trucks. He said he did not test his air brake in the van, because he know there was no air.

Mr. Sproule (for the Australian Railways Union) said that in view of the warning given to witness by the coroner, that he need not answer questions which might incriminate him, he would advise Davies not to give any further evidence.

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Written by macalba

August 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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One Response

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  1. Thanks for this series. Much appreciated.

    Jim Belshaw

    August 6, 2010 at 7:25 am


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