Violet Town rail accident
|Date||7 February 1969|
|Location||Violet Town, Victoria
173 km (107 mi) N from Melbourne
|Rail line||North East railway line|
|Type of incident||Collision|
|Cause||Driver heart attack|
The Violet Town rail accident, also known as the Southern Aurora disaster, was a railway accident that occurred on 7 February 1969 near the McDiarmids Road crossing, approximately 1 km south of Violet Town, Victoria, Australia.
The accident involved the head-on collision of a passenger train, the southbound Southern Aurora, and a northbound freight train on the new single-line standard gauge Sydney to Melbourne main line, opened seven years earlier. Nine people died, including Lawrence Rosevear, the driver of the northbound freight train.
The trains were supposed to cross at the Violet Town crossing loop (where there are two tracks), but because the driver of the passenger train had died of an apparent heart attack approximately 5 to 6 kilometres north of the crossing loop, the train did not stop at the red signals. It continued until it collided head-on with the freight train. At the time of the accident, neither ATC nor AWS nor ATP were fitted, although a vigilance control system had been fitted to both locomotives. This required a member of the train crew to press a button every sixty to ninety seconds; either the driver or fireman/second person could press the buttons.
According to an inquest into the accident, the fireman of the Southern Aurora, M. Coulthard, had been recorded on the Hasler speed recorder as pressing the vigilance control button when the train passed through the danger signals at the crossing loop.
The crew of the northbound train saw the oncoming passenger train and slowed their train, flicking their headlights to warn the crew of the approaching Southern Aurora. The fireman (Arnfreid Brendecke) jumped clear of the cab moments before impact; a burning car missed him by approximately one metre. The driver of the northbound train sought safety in the engine room. However, he died in the fire and explosion.
As a result of this accident, improved vigilance controls were fitted to ensure that firemen as well as drivers remained alert, although, as the later Beresfield rail disaster in 1996 showed, these were not foolproof.
At the site of the crash, shards of the iconic green windows of the Aurora can still be found in the embankments, 40 years after the collision.
A stone cairn has been erected at the site of the accident.
- John Hamilton (6 June 2007). "Memories of an awful day". Herald Sun. www.news.com.au. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
- "Violet Town, Victoria: Rail Collision". www.ema.gov.au. Archived from the original on 19 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
- Victorian Railways. "Railway accident : report on the collision that occurred between the Sydney to Melbourne express passenger train, the "Southern Aurora" and a Melbourne to Albury goods train, near Violet Town on 7th February, 1969". Retrieved 2008-12-24.
- Public Record Office of Victoria - Southern Aurora disaster aerial view
- State Library of Victoria - images of the aftermath of the crash