Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Sunshine Disaster


He was driving a Bendigo engine
The train was running all right.
It was going along as usual
Till Sunshine came in sight
He put on his brakes and he whistled
For the signal was against the train
He applied his brakes for emergency
But alas 'twas all in vain.

If those trains had only run
As they should, their proper time
There wouldn't have been a disaster
At a place they call Sunshine
If those brakes had only held
As they did a few hours before
There wouldn't have been a disaster
And a death toll of forty-four

The doctors and nurses arrived there
And the sight it caused them pain
To see all the wounded and dying
In the wreck of that fateful train,
The people of Sunshine ne'er faltered
But assisted with all their power
To help the doctors and nurses
In that awful and painful hour.

From Ron Edwards, published with the following note:

The Sunshine Disaster was collected at Lappa Junction, 21 August 1966 from the singing of Bill Leonard, who had learnt it in the area over thirty years before.  

It is in the broadside tradition of songs such as Les Darcy and Phar Lap and uses the tune "If Those Lips Could Only Speak" (A choice I must say I find a little bizarre - JT)

The following is an extract form the official book, "Victorian Railways to '62".

"On Easter Monday, 20 April 1908 one of the most deplorable catastrophes in Australian railway history occurred at Sunshine, 7 miles from Melbourne.  The 6.50pm "up" Bendigo crashed into the rear o the 7.15pm "up" Ballarat which was standing at Sunshine station platform.  Both trains, crowded with holiday-makers returning to Melbourne, were running late.  Forty-four passengers in the Ballarat train were killed and over 400 on both trains were injured."

Follow this link to the contemporary coverage of the disaster in the Melbourne Argus.

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