It’s hard not to look at the first trains used on the Queensland Railways as being toylike. Locomotives like 1865 built A10 No.6, proudly displayed at The Workshops Rail Museum are small and charming, but of course still heavy and hardly delicate. So it might come as a surprise to learn a train was blown off the tracks as if it were only a toy one stormy night in 1875.
A10 No. 3 stands next to a much younger colleague in 1914, demonstrating just how small early QR locomotives were (Image courtesy of Keith McDonald).
The train had left Toowoomba on January 25th and was due to arrive at Warwick at 7:45pm that night. But halfway through the journey, a storm broke across the railway’s path. Closing windows proved no use, and there were two inches of water inside the carriages before too long. Suddenly, just outside Cambooya, a violent crash hurled passengers from their seats. The wind had scattered the train, tipping the wooden carriages onto their sides and smashing them to pieces. The locomotive was derailed but remained defiantly upright, potentially saving its crew from being badly burned by escaping steam or burning coal. Miraculously only one person was slightly injured. News was sent by horseback to Toowoomba with a rescue train arriving at 1:30am the next morning.
According to the Ipswich Observer, one passenger was heard to ‘damn the narrow gauge most emphatically’ upon returning to safety. Possibly a fair criticism of Queensland’s smaller, lighter trains given the circumstances. The ill-fated train’s guard that night – Charles Evans – later went on to be the Commissioner of the Queensland Railways in 1911. I can’t imagine there are too many railway bosses out there today that can claim that level of hands-on experience!
The Workshops Rail Museum