WHAT a day it was in Lithgow and Bathurst as the news of a train accident on the famous Zig-Zag Railway arrived by telegram and word of mouth. Our image this week shows a commercial postcard taken by Mr P Hardwicke of Lithgow on April 4, 1901. The photographer also supplied copies of various images to the Australian Town and Country Journal for its publication on April 13, 1901.
Lithgow Studios took numerous photos and produced postcards. Beavis Studios also travelled down from Bathurst to the Zig-Zag to record the scene. The accident attracted attention in many newspapers around Australia, including the Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal.
The Australian Town and Country Journal's story on April 13, 1901 said:
A curious accident happened on the Zig-Zag on the evening of Thursday, April 4 to a goods train from Penrith. It is simply wonderful how the engine escaped being precipitated into the gully hundreds of feet below the 'dead end' at the top points.
From what can be gathered from those associated with the matter, who are very reticent pending the departmental inquiry, it appears that the train was coming down the top line incline, and that when the Westinghouse brakes were applied they refused to act, and as a result the engine was impelled forward at a terrific speed, until it struck the end of the length upon which trains back up to enable them to run on to a different track.
Here five feet of solid cut-out rock was encountered, and having demolished the strong buffer-stops, it bounded up on to the rock ledge, on the other side of which was a deep chasm. In the position in which the engine fell, the bogie-wheels and leading driving-wheels were hanging over the precipice.
A truck next to the engine had mounted the tender by the force of the impact and became a total wreck. The next truck also left the rails, but the remainder of the train kept its position.
A remarkable feature of the mishap is that beyond shock, the driver and fireman received no injuries. The total damage to rolling stock, etc., is estimated at about £200. Some few months ago several trucks of a train laden with wool, chaff, etc., were pushed over the 'dead end' at this spot into the gully below.
The movement for the abolition of the Zig-Zag and the duplication of the railway across the mountains has apparently not been set on foot a day too soon.
Another report on April 6 told that:
At about five o'clock on Thursday afternoon the engine of a goods train, worked by Driver Featherstone, coming from Penrith, left the rails at the top points of the Zig-Zag.
The primary cause of the mishap is not, from information cited, definitely known, but it is surmised that the engine over-ran its distance and left the rails at the extreme end of the road. The engine was not very seriously damaged, but the truck was considerably knocked about.
Without loss of time, men were at work with the object of clearing the Great Western Line.
The Bathurst break-down train, on information being received of the accident in Bathurst, was dispatched to where the mishap had occurred, and, on arriving, rendered excellent assistance.
A truck next to the engine mounted the tender by the force of the impact and became a total wreck. The next truck also left the rails.
The driver and fireman were interviewed as to their version of the mishap. A departmental inquiry showed that the derailment of the engine was due to the injudicious use of the brake, which resulted in the train getting beyond control.
Track repair crews arrived from Bathurst, along with engineers from Bathurst, to repair the line, which took three days to totally complete.
People on foot, horseback and buggies converged on the area to gain a look at the mayhem and police were called to attend to direct spectators.