On February 2nd 1911, an Inquest was held on the death of a Samuel Edwin Rowe, who was killed in a railway accident at Brachina.
Brachina Gorge is in the Flinders Ranges, and is now a National Park visited by thousands of tourists each year.
Michael James Fitzgerald, a railway porter of Quorn, told the inquest that on January 28th he was an assistant guard on the train from Quorn to Hergott. He stated that everything was going well until within a mile of Brachina Siding. He heard two short whistles for the brakes. He rushed to the brakes and a Guard Taylor applied them. The engine and several of the trains trucks were seen lying off the line and broken up. There was much escaping of steam from the engine, and although Mr Rowe tried to see the driver in the cab, he couldn’t due to the amount of steam. But he did see the driver’s hand and arm hanging over the regulator. The men assumed that the driver was dead. Porter Rowe then rushed to Edeowie Siding and asked the station master there for a bicycle so he could ride to Quorn to report the accident and get help. His message was as follows “No. 5 down train is wrecked at 317 miles. Line washed away. Engine and several trucks derailed. Driver killed and fireman injured. Am awaiting instructions”.
JOSEPH HENEKER was a ganger on the great northern railway line and he was located at Edeowie Siding. At the inquest he stated that on January 28th he was at Edeowie Cottages when the No. 5 arrived. He helped to take out the provisions and other material. Later he saw Assistant Guard Fitzgerald coming along the line. When he asked him “what is the matter” the guard replied “The train is wrecked, and I want a bicycle to Edeowie.” Joseph gave him a bicycle and sent a carpenter with him. Joseph then got “all the gang together and trollied out to the scene of the accident. “I saw the engine in a mudhole under the line. I returned to the Cottages gathered all my tools and went back to he washaway and assisted to move debris from the line.
The Coroner Mr J Heath asked many questions of Jospeh Heneker, and his part in not checking the lines the train was to travel on, due to bad weather and risk of flooding. However Joseph was not convicted of any derelict duty, as he had never been told he needed to check the lines every day. Jospeh also stated that in the fourteen months he had been stationed at Edeowie he had never seen any flooding on the line, even in bad weather. The flooding was what had caused the brakes to fail and the train to derail. Joseph was not considered to be at any fault and the Coroner stated he could find no culpable neglect on the part of any officer of the Railways Department. He stated “I know too well the treacherous nature of that far northern country between Hookina and Blackfellow’s Creek. The line might be traversed in the morning, and a few hours after be washed away by flood waters from the hills, and as Mr Yeomans stated in his evidence, they scarcely ever come in the same place twice.
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