Murulla Rail Accident

On 13 September at Murulla, near Murrurundi, twenty-seven people were killed and thirty-seven injured in what the Bulletin described as 'the most complete and disastrous railway smash in the history of N.S. Wales'. The disaster, reported the telegraph, occurred half an hour before midnight on the Warland range, on top of which lay Murulla A goods train, running ahead of the north-west mail, had reached the top of the range when a draw-bar between trucks broke. A connection was made with a steel towing rope but, because the goods train had been delayed, it was decided to back it on to a siding to allow the mail train to pass.

The signal box at Murulla controlled a loop line for trains to pass on a single line railway; there were no other connections at the location. Electric Train Staff operated between Wingen and Murulla and Electric Tablet operated between Murulla and Blandford.

Train no.62, southbound goods train comprised a standard goods engine hauling 34 wagons and a brake van were to pass through Murulla on the main line. Another goods train, no 95, working in the opposing direction, had entered the loop line and was waiting for no 62 to pass. No 62 had a length of 951 feet (290 m) and a load of 746 tons (758 t). All vehicles were fitted with Westinghouse air brake.

The train slowed at Murulla signalbox for the exchange of the single line tokens, and as the train staff for the onward section was received, the driver of no.62 put on steam. The shock resulted in the train becoming divided, with the rear twelve vehicles separating from the main train. This was later attributed to the failure of a drawhook. The division of the train was noticed by the driver and both portions of the train were safely brought to a stand.

Both portions of the train were verified to be within the clearance points of the loop line, so train no. 95 was permitted to depart.

The detached portion of no.62 consisted of 12 vehicles, and its length 331 feet with a weight of 264 tons. Handbrakes were applied to these vehicles. It would appear that the train staff in the possession of the engine crew was returned to the instrument in the signal box at this time, and all vehicles were within the confines of the home signals.

After a number of attempts to fit a tailrope, the brakevan had been shunted back, foul of the clearance point for the loop line. The two opposing vehicles at the separation were finally hitched with a single wire rope connection, but the airbrake hoses could not be connected. The signalman then requested that the train be brought forward so that it was clear of the clearance point so as to permit the approaching southbound no.8 Mail train to pass through the loop.

The guard of no.62 released the handbrakes on the rear portion, leaving it unbraked and the driver went forward to his engine. When he started the train the tailrope parted and the rear portion began to run back down the grade towards Blandford, coming into collision with the approaching mail train just beyond the Up Distant signal. The collision resulted in the death of 26 persons.

When five trucks, which bolted downhill near the Murulla crossing, six miles from Murrurundi (N.S.W.), crashed into the north-west mail train to Sydney, late on Monday night, 27 people were killed and more that 40 others injured.

The disaster, which is the most serious in the history of the New South Wales railways, occurred in consequence of a draw hook on a truck of a goods train breaking and freeing the rear of the train, which ran downhill for one mile and a half before the collision.