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Sunshine Train CrashPrint Page Print this page

A plaque commemorates the victims of the Sunshine Train crash of 1908. The plaque was unveiled at the 100th anniversary of the crash. 

The Sunshine train disaster occurred at the Sunshine railway station which is the junction for the Ballarat and Bendigo railway lines.

On the night of April 20, 1908, 44 people were killed and over 400 injured when a Melbourne-bound train from Bendigo collided with the rear of a mail train from Ballarat, which was just leaving the station. Around 1,100 people were aboard the two trains.

Almost all of the casualties were from the Ballarat train, as the Bendigo train was cushioned by its two AA class locomotives. A temporary mortuary was set up at Spencer Street Station (Melbourne`s regional terminus, now Southern Cross Station), and flags at the station flew at half-mast.

The disaster was the worst train crash in Victorian railway history. It is possible that the accident was caused by the driver of the Bendigo train reading the green signals for the Ballarat train in front as his own.

Tomorrow is the centenary of Victoria's worst train disaster. On April 20, 1908, a collision between two trains at Sunshine station killed 44 men, women and children.  In the mayhem, 500 more were injured, more than 100 seriously. The disaster happened just before 11pm when a heavily packed Ballarat train stopped at Sunshine station to let off passengers returning home from their Easter holidays.  As passengers disembarked, a Bendigo train, running late, sped toward the station.  A station master raised his kerosene lantern to warn the oncoming driver but it raced on and crashed into the passenger train, killing many in their packed wooden carriages. 

The coroner said it was a "matter of concern, not only to this particular state, but to the whole world, especially to the whole railway world . . . the whole world has been looking on." 

Rail historian Tom Rigg's grandfather was a repairman who helped in the grisly aftermath of the collision.  He remembers his grandfather telling him stories of the aftermath of the tragedy.  "It was terrible. People were decapitated with flying glass," Mr Rigg said. "There were no axes to cut people free who were trapped in the carriages.  "So many people suffered." 

Former Sunshine stationmaster Mr Rigg has written a book on the crash - Sunshine Railway Disaster: A Railwayman's Perspective.  "Sunshine was then a little country station with not many people there," Mr Rigg said.  "They had no electricity, no doctors, no water, they used kerosene lamps, they had a very difficult time."  He said the Sunshine tragedy should be a reminder to learn from mistakes of the past. 

Connex CEO Bruce Hughes said a similar disaster was no longer possible. "There have been so many advances in rail safety systems and processes in the last century," he said.  The Sunshine and District Historical Society will hold a memorial service at Sunshine station tomorrow commemorating those who died.  Mr Hughes will unveil a bronze plaque listing those who were killed.  Relatives will hang 44 red roses on the plaque.  "By commemorating the tragic events that occurred 100 years ago, we pay tribute to the memory of those lost, but also remind ourselves how much progress we've made," Mr Hughes said.
Herald Sun (Melbourne) 19 April 2008. 

Location

Address:Hampshire Road & Station Place, Sunshine Railway Station, Sunshine, 3020
State:VIC
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.787929
Long: 144.833164
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Details

Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Disaster
Sub-Theme:Land Transport
Actual Event STart Date:20-April-1908
Actual Event End Date:20-April-1908

Dedication

Actual Monument Dedication Date:Sunday 20th April, 2008
Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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