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#aviation is important, but so is transport safety

Some, almost 50 years ago, there was a collision of the First class rail service – The Southern Aurora and a north bound freight train just south of Violet Town in Victoria.

We know that in the current climate, #aviation is important, but so is transport safety.

On 7th February 221969 at about 0708, the Southern Aurora, traveling south, with a deceased train driver, hit a north bound freight train. The accident killed 9 passengers and crew, just 900 metres south of the Violet Town station on the relatively new standard gauge track.

The Violet Town residents – Firies, Ambo’s, Red Cross, Bush Nursing Hospital, Police, Station staff, passers-by , local Doctor’s and numerous others just went to the scene and helped rescue people, remove bodies, put out the fire and generally work to help all involved.

I know, because I was there.

I had not been to the scene until early February 2017, some 48-years later, when asked by an ABC stringer to describe what confronted me that day, almost 48-years earlier.

A scene where here were stainless steel carriages stacked over 11 metres in the  air. Carriages which were still linked by the carriage links and the wheels shorn off in a huge stack just at the intersection of the standard gauge rail line and the Dookie Road crossing.

We worked through the morning to free injured people [over 110] and remove the bodies of the sadly deceased people.

Lots of stories, but I have never spoken about it, just finishing the job, going home and getting on with life.

The only thing I have spoken about is the 6 1/2 year old girl who tumbled the 11-metres through a window and onto the train engine through a circular window onto the actual engine. We didn’t find her for almost 6-hours.

I am looking forward to meeting this young lady shortly.

2019, 7th February will be the 50th anniversary of this accident, with a memorial weekend in the planning.

The planning team hope to see as many people involved, family members, participants and supporters of what was an important event in Australia.

An event of national significance and one that deserves a lasting memorial.

Plans are afoot to meet this aim.


http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/southern-aurora-train-crash-how-violet-towns-people-shone-when-disaster-struck-in-1969/news-story/3d1cbf7b20d51322e9f877c2fe3d16b5


The ABC on the Back Roads programme ran some footage of the event:

https://www.facebook.com/ABCGoulburnMurray/videos/1625595544142335/?fref=gs&dti=343239146137499&hc_location=group



How do I see this in 2018??

We now have a system where there is micro-management, poor relationships with participants and a lot of difference from 1969.

Is it better?

The PelAir ditching tells us of a similar story.

Lucky individuals, saved by a vigilant group of locals prepared to put to sea in a lifeboat in 3-metre seas.

A recalcitrant regulator – #casa.


The Border Mail

Violet Town has big plans for 50th anniversary of Southern Aurora crash with goods train

Grisly scene: Two of the Southern Aurora carriages that jerked into the air when the inter-capital train collided with a freight locomotive at Violet Town.

Grisly scene: Two of the Southern Aurora carriages that jerked into the air when the inter-capital train collided with a freight locomotive at Violet Town.

AS a teenage boy, 49 years ago, Bruce Cumming’s preparations for school were punctuated by a loud noise.

That bang, 12 kilometres away from his family’s farm, was to put his town on front pages of newspapers across Australia.

“There was a ribbon of smoke going up in the air,” Mr Cumming recalled.

Townsfolk descended on the scene, with the community hall turned into a makeshift hospital with 30 to 40 injured lying on stretchers.

The Southern Aurora’s driver John Bowden, of Wodonga, had died from heart failure before the crash, resulting in his train failing to stop at a loop to allow the wagons to pass.

Front page news: Bruce Cumming with his copy of The Age the day after the Southern Aurora train disaster at Violet Town on February 7, 1969. Picture: MARK JESSER

Front page news: Bruce Cumming with his copy of The Age the day after the Southern Aurora train disaster at Violet Town on February 7, 1969. Picture: MARK JESSER

Another eight people died, including Wodonga’s Lawrence Rosevear, the driver of the goods train, as the locomotives collided at the McDiarmids Road crossing, 900 metres south of the Violet Town station.

As a student at the time, Mr Cumming was fascinated and he has kept newspapers from the day after the crash on February 7, 1969.

But the self-described amateur historian does not believe enough has been done to commemorate the crash and the deeds of rescuers and helpers.

“We did think when the 30th and the 40th anniversaries came about we should do something, but it’s really taken until now for the community to say we really need to do something,” Mr Cumming said.

“There were quite a few people that were heroic on the day and we want to do something while they’re still around.”

Mr Cumming said visitors to Violet Town regularly inquired about the tragedy, but the sole memorial was a plaque on a rock at the crash scene.

“No disrespect, but the only name mentioned on the plaque is a public transport official, there is no names of the people that were killed or the people from the area that received awards for helping,” he said.

To remedy that, there are plans for signage to be erected at the site detailing what occurred and naming the dead and the helpers.

Lone memorial: This plaque on a rock at the site of the crash is the only formal recognition at Violet Town for the collision between trains in 1969.

Lone memorial: This plaque on a rock at the site of the crash is the only formal recognition at Violet Town for the collision between trains in 1969.

A path linking the train station and crash site would also be constructed as well as a memorial garden featuring a sculpture likely to depict helping hands .

Mr Cumming expects the tributes to be in place for the 50th anniversary commemoration next year.

A weekend of events are planned for the occasion with hopes the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove will attend after an invitation to Queen Elizabeth was turned down.

The homage, Mr Cumming said, would reflect how the town rallied when “a disaster appeared on the doorstep”.


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