Memorial to the Southern Aurora collison at Violet Town

 
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Previous thread https://www.railpage.com.au/f-t11300555.htm.

Violet Town for sometime has been setting up a proper memorial of the Southern Aurora collision as th existing plaque makes insufficent mention of those that died and of all those, both local farmers and fire fighters that went to the aid of the train.


Last monday a sleeping car from the Southern Aurora was delivered to Violet Town for use in a memorial garden that is being setup opposite the platform at the station. The car is currently just a shell but there is plans to restore it.

A memorial will be held at Violet Town on Febuary the 10th, I believe at 1000.



woodford

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  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Mike some further information on the day.

https://www.railpage.com.au/events/violet-town-has-big-plans-for-50

Is the sleeping car on rails?
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Mike some further information on the day.

https://www.railpage.com.au/events/violet-town-has-big-plans-for-50

Is the sleeping car on rails?
bevans
Yes, ARTC built around 35 metres of ballasted track to put the car on.

woodford
  woodford Chief Commissioner

This is an accident that simply NEVER should have happened, On monday I was listening to a couple of local farmers, that heard head the crash and went down to assist and they were talking about having to get bags from the ambulance people to put body parts in, must have been terrible.

Simple and reliable technology the could be fitted to signals and Locomtives to stop a train that was doing a SPAD (Signal Past at Danger) had been known since the late 1800's, but it was not made manditory even in England till just after the terrible crash of three passenger trains at Harrow and Wealdston that killed 112 people and injured another 300 in 1952.

woodford
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
An in depth article on the accident was a feature in either rail digest or vic rail news (either one) some years ago which covered the circumstances which lead to the accident happening and the changes which were implemented post the findings.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

I was working that day as a tecnician at the Benalla Exchange and of course heard about the accident soon after it happened. Around 1000 hours we at the exchange started to get an influx of photographers from news papers wishing to have an audio line setup down to there papers in order to "wire" photos of the accident.

The photograph "Wire" units were not that big around 12ins wide, 4 high and 8in deep. An 8x10 black and white was fitted around a drum, the machine connected to the audio line and when the destination end said they were ready, one simply pushed abutton on the front of the machine and thedrum started to revolve and scan the photo. It took around 3 minutes or so per photo and scanned them at around 100 lines per inch. The destination end processed the photo so created immediately and within 60 seconds could tell you the transfer had been sucessfull.

woodford
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Recall the driver or engineer suffered a heart attack and the fireman jumped from the freight lead locomotive cab to save himself. A very sad event.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Mike some further information on the day.

https://www.railpage.com.au/events/violet-town-has-big-plans-for-50

Is the sleeping car on rails?
Yes, ARTC built around 35 metres of ballasted track to put the car on.

woodford
woodford

Any mudholes built into the 35 meters of track...Question

...sorry...it had to be said...Cool


What's amazing is this sleeping car, apparently soon to become a memorial to the lost souls and the people of the Violet Town district who assisted in the tragedy...offered FAR more comfortable and salubrious accommodations for ones journey to Sydney than anything on offer on board the XPT today or its ultimate replacement.

(another)Mike.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Recall the driver or engineer suffered a heart attack
"freightgate"
Let's stop right there. The man was a driver. Please leave the pernicious US influence out of Australin railway discussion.
  Lad_Porter Chief Commissioner

Location: Yarra Glen
An "engineer" is, literally, one who drives or operates an engine, so the US usage is understandable.  But it is not part of our vocabulary here in Oz.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
I know that I have mentioned this on a previous occasion - I have a copy of the Board of Enquiry's Report into the Violet Town crash. ( To this day, I cannot call it an accident; an accident is something that cannot be foreseen or prevented, and this incident fails on both counts. It certainly could have been foreseen, and it most definitely should have been prevented.)

The report is in pdf format, and if anybody would like a copy, drop me a PM with your email address, and I'll shoot it off to you.
  historian Deputy Commissioner

Simple and reliable technology the could be fitted to signals and Locomtives to stop a train that was doing a SPAD (Signal Past at Danger) had been known since the late 1800's, but it was not made manditory even in England till just after the terrible crash of three passenger trains at Harrow and Wealdston that killed 112 people and injured another 300 in 1952.
woodford

Ahhh, no.

There were lots of inventors patenting things in the late 19th century, but almost none were successful.

The first successful warning system was the French 'crocodile' which dated from around 1883. However, at this time, it was not failsafe, only provided a warning at the distant, and did not apply the brakes.

The trainstop was the first actual mechanism that would stop a train SPADing. The first successful example was on the Boston Elevated and dated from just after 1900. Mechanical train stops were never popular outside metro systems. Big railways always rejected them - typically this was due to the fear of damage to the train stop at high speeds.

The GWR was the first to deploy a failsafe mainline system on a wide scale - starting around 1908. But this was still only applied at distant signals. It would apply the brakes if the train passed a distant signal that was on, but not if it passed a stop signal. The NER had another system - the Reliostop - which would apply the brakes on passing a signal, but this project was closed down on Grouping.

After WWI the US ICC mandated that major railways each had to fit a division with an automatic control system. All did so, and a number of different systems were installed. With falling passenger numbers in the '30s, almost all of these systems were either ripped out, or converted to cab signal systems (i.e. no control over the brakes). The PRR was the only system that really adopted and extended its system.

Little else was done until post WWII. You are correct, that Harrow was the immediate impetus for the adoption of the UK AWS system. But, like the GWR system, this provided a warning when passing a signal at caution (and applied the brakes if the warning was not acknowledged). It did not apply the brakes if passing a signal at danger. Even after 'adopting' the technology, the British weren't particularly interested in deploying the system. It was only slowly extended, and only as part of a package of resignalling with automatic signals. There was certainly no general installation program.

Post WWII, European railways did introduce automatic control systems - Indusi is the obvious example. These were not failsafe and regarded askance by the British.

Considering the state of the art in the late 50s when the signalling for the standard gauge was developed, I would say:
1) the technology certainly existed, but it was clearly not thought to be worthwhile to install (certainly not the UK or US)
2) it wasn't particularly cheap (this was why the various railways always hastened slowly)
3) there was no obvious need to install it - there were few high speed accidents caused by SPADing.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
I never cease to be amazed at the information posted by "historian", and he's just done it again. A very interesting bit of reading on safety systems and/or lack thereof.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

A question, How competent were the train crews of this period?. On the accident train.the driver was driving KNOWING he could die at any time and told no one, not even the fireman. Both the fireman and the guard appear to have completely disregarded operation procedure and allowed the accident to occur.

Was this train just unlucky in its crew or was this the general level of competency amongst train crew of this period. I get the strong impression the rail powers to be let train crew competency slip VERY badly and a major accident was sure to occur some where on the network.

woodford
  potatoinmymouth Chief Commissioner

A question, How competent were the train crews of this period?. On the accident train.the driver was driving KNOWING he could die at any time and told no one, not even the fireman. Both the fireman and the guard appear to have completely disregarded operation procedure and allowed the accident to occur. Was this train just unlucky in its crew or was this the general level of competency amongst train crew of this period. I get the strong impression the rail powers to be let train crew competency slip VERY badly and a major accident was sure to occur some where on the network.
woodford

I've wondered this too woodford but haven't wanted to ask for fear of offending someone. The fact that all three Aurora train crew demonstrated such complacency in carrying out their duties is quite striking and certainly does not seem to suggest that "safety culture" had developed very far in the VR of this era.
  hbedriver Chief Train Controller

I suspect that train crew competency was less the issue than the overall organizational culture. The SA driver was known to be competent.  He knew he was a health risk, but in those days if that had got out he would have been forced into poverty as a health failure, his wife/widow would have been left worse again. Probably felt he had no choice but to keep working. Subsequent to the crash, improvements to superannuation entitlements overcame that personal risk. Medical exams were vastly improved, and a useful vigilance control feature introduced. Some of these things came out in the Investigation. Guards, of course, took another 20 years to eliminate
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Unfortunately the Guard was possibly being a paid passenger during all this. The van has a periscope and a clear view of signals ahead...that's why he had a tap to stop the train in an emergency.

Mike.
  mikesyd Chief Commissioner

Location: Lurking
Unfortunately the Guard was possibly being a paid passenger during all this. The van has a periscope and a clear view of signals ahead...that's why he had a tap to stop the train in an emergency.

Mike.
The Vinelander
I think the report suggested that the Guard might have even been asleep.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
I think the report suggested that the Guard might have even been asleep.
"mikesyd"
It certainly did. The guard's journal was subsequently described as "a work of fiction."

Regarding the lack of action by both the fireman and the guard, you can see the same thing on the roads every day of the week. People drive as though nothing can possibly go wrong. When it does go wrong, they are completely unprepared and, "Crash!".
The fireman and guard were of the same complacency - the train left Albury and arrived in Melbourne. It happened every day and the trip was a doddle. When the unexpected occurred, the fireman went to water, and nobody knows whether the guard was even watching.
  trainbrain Deputy Commissioner

Recall the driver or engineer suffered a heart attack and the fireman jumped from the freight lead locomotive cab to save himself. A very sad event.
freightgate
mmmm. I recall driver on Southern Aurora had heat attack, and had gone thru several red lights. I was in Grade 6 at that time, and this is what came over the news.
  kuldalai Chief Commissioner

This official report from the State Library sets out what happened and the cause of the collision , and lays the Coroners findings too .

https://blogs.slv.vic.gov.au/such-was-life/violet-town-railway-disaster/

As a result the VR introduced a dual acknowledgement Vigilance Control whereby both persons on the locomotive had to acknowledge in order the Vigilance Control system in sequence .

Sadly this was still not enough and a few years later also on the North East standard gauge in  heavy fog the Up Spirit of Progress ran through a stop signal and ran into the rear of an Up sg Freight .  Finally as a result of that accident Train to base Radio was introduced across the system .  Also as a result of that collision two VHN  (former CS)  brakevans were reduced to one !!!!
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
This official report from the State Library sets out what happened and the cause of the collision , and lays the Coroners findings too .

https://blogs.slv.vic.gov.au/such-was-life/violet-town-railway-disaster/
kuldalai


Thanks kuldalai.  The link you posted is not, strictly speaking, an "official report." It is a synopsis of the two official reports; one by the Victorian Railways Board of Enquiry, and the other by the Coroner, Mr H W Pascoe SM. Copies of both reports are held by the State Library of Victoria.

As a result the VR introduced a dual acknowledgement Vigilance Control whereby both persons on the locomotive had to acknowledge in order the Vigilance Control system in sequence .
Sadly this was still not enough and a few years later also on the North East standard gauge in  heavy fog the Up Spirit of Progress ran through a stop signal and ran into the rear of an Up sg Freight .  Finally as a result of that accident Train to base Radio was introduced across the system .
kuldalai

To clarify, the VCS cannot be blamed for this collision. It was lack of visibility, and, as you point out, heralded a much overdue introduction of radio communication.

With the Aurora crash, one can just imagine the scene in Train Control where Messrs Humphrey and McDonnell, the Controllers on duty, could see that a collision was inevitable at Violet Town in a matter of couple of minutes. They had correctly made the roads, set the signals, and could only watch, unable to do anything more. It was a completely routine procedure which they had put in motion, and it should have run like clockwork. The drama evolved with such speed, that even radio may not have saved the day.
The SOP crash was a different kettle of fish. It was a stationary train in the section, and, with more time available, radio would probably have averted the crash.

(Again, if anyone wants a pdf copy of the VR Board's Report of the Aurora crash, drop me a PM with your e mail address. Since I last posted this, six of our posters have requested and received.)
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
This is an accident that simply NEVER should have happened,

Simple and reliable technology the could be fitted to signals and Locomotives to stop a train that was doing a SPAD (Signal Passed at Danger) had been known since the late 1800's, but it was not made mandatory even in England till just after the terrible crash of three passenger trains at Harrow and Wealdston in 1952.
"woodford"


Presumably Woodford is talking about the BR AWS system, an updated electric version of the c1900 GWR mechanical system, updated in about 1950. It could have been easily fitted to the signals and locos between Melbourne and Albury, only opened in about 1961. It would have almost certainly reacted to stop the train doing a SPAD to prevent the collision with the other train. It would have acted on the signals showing yellow where a SPAC (signal passed at Caution) was involved.

BR AWS would not have prevented the Waterfall (overspeed round sharp curves) and Glenbrook (too fast after tripping past red signal). You need a decent ATC system to prevent these, as is now being fitted in NSW,

Another example of NIH (not invented here).
  historian Deputy Commissioner

Presumably Woodford is talking about the BR AWS system, an updated electric version of the c1900 GWR mechanical system, updated in about 1950. It could have been easily fitted to the signals and locos between Melbourne and Albury, only opened in about 1961. It would have almost certainly reacted to stop the train doing a SPAD to prevent the collision with the other train. It would have acted on the signals showing yellow where a SPAC (signal passed at Caution) was involved.

Another example of NIH (not invented here).
awsgc24

Yes, AWS would almost certainly have prevented the collision at Violet Town.

However, the development timing was wrong for it to be installed on the NE standard gauge - it was not a matter of NIH.

The development of AWS commenced in 1951. Trials commenced in late 1952 - just after the Harrow accident. Provisional approval of the first production installation did not occur until April 1956.

Legislation to build the NE standard gauge was passed in 1957, and construction commenced late in that year. The signalling on the new line was designed in 1958, with tenders for its provision being called in November 1958.

So at the time the NE standard gauge signalling was designed, AWS was pretty much unproven technology.

Beyond this, there was no money in the kitty for the installation of AWS - the budget for the NE standard gauge was the cause of considerable dispute between the Victorian (building the line) and the Commonwealth (paying for it) governments as it was.

(Incidentally, some idea of the view in the UK as to the value of AWS can be obtained by considering the speed of deployment. Between 1955 and 1979, the rate of installation was an average of only 142 route miles per year. In 1979 there was still 2000 route miles to equip.)
  mikesyd Chief Commissioner

Location: Lurking
So, at around this time 50 years ago it happened.

RIP to those who died.

The ABC have remembered today https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-07/southern-aurora-crash-50th-anniversary/10786082

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