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The Granville Disaster
18th January 1977

By Stephen Halgren

On the morning of Tuesday 18 January 1977, train No.108, an electric locomotive-hauled 8-car train departed the upper Blue Mountains township of Mt. Victoria at 6.09am. The train comprised 1957 vintage Co+Co "46" class electric locomotive 4620 and 8 timber bodied/steel underframed cars, worked by a senior driver and observer from Eveleigh Depot in Sydney. The cars had been completely rebuilt into open saloon style cars only months before from surplus sitting and sleeping stock to provide greater comfort for interurban passengers on Blue Mountains and Gosford services.

Train No.108 proceeded normally to Parramatta, 23km west of Sydney, its second last scheduled stop before reaching Sydney Terminal. One minute after departing Parramatta, the train approached the suburban station of Granville on the Up Main Line, 2km toward Sydney at 8.12am. The driver was reducing speed from the authorised 80kph to negotiate a sweeping left hand curve and also to be prepared for a temporary speed restriction beyond Granville Station, when the leading right-hand wheel of locomotive 4620 derailed. Although the driver immediately applied the train brake in an emergency application, the locomotive travelled in a derailed state until reaching a set of facing points. This caused 4620 to derail completely and topple onto its right-hand side. Some 100 metres before Granville Station, the Bold Street Bridge spanned four tracks, with the centre of this structure being supported by steel piers located between two sets of tracks. In its derailed state, 4620 demolished these piers and slid to a stop some 50 metres beyond the bridge. The leading car of the train, MFH2701 had its roof torn off by a damaged overhead catenary stanchion but remained upright, car 2, MFA2702 remained upright and undamaged while cars 3 and 4, MBA2700 and MFH2703 also remained upright but came to rest with half of each car positioned under the bridge.

After some ten seconds, the 200 tonne concrete deck of the bridge collapsed onto these two cars, crushing them. . Altogether, 83 passengers were killed and a similar number injured. Several were killed in car one but the majority succumbed to injuries sustained in cars 3 and 4 after the deck collapsed. The driver was pinned in his seat for some time and released by passengers off the train. The second person escaped injury, although both suffered. It took almost 48 hours before emergency personnel released the last person from the wreckage. Tragically, this man later died.

A Royal Commission later exonerated the driver from blame, as evidenced by the Hasler Tape recording instrument in the locomotive which showed the speed of the train to be below the mandatory speed for that section of track. For some time after the accident, the driver and his wife were subjected to abusive phone calls blaming him for the disaster.

The inquiry placed the blame for the accident on the condition of timber sleepers and rail ties in the vicinity which allowed too much lateral movement of the rail. Also to blame was the condition of the flange on the wheel of 4620 which first derailed.

Locomotive 4620 was immediately withdrawn from service and stored at Chullora Locomotive Workshops in western Sydney. It was scrapped in 1979. This locomotive had previously been involved in a spectacular runaway accident in August 1965. On that occasion, it was hauling a Lithgow to Enfield (Sydney) goods train comprising 45 vehicles when the brakes on the train failed soon after leaving Katoomba Station in the Blue Mountains. As the train left Katoomba, it commenced a 1 in 33 descent toward Leura and Wentworth Falls and travelled uncontrolled for some 10km attaining a speed of 160kph before derailing.

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