Tragic rail crash commemorated 50 years on

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THOUSANDS GATHER TO REMEMBER… On February 7, 1969 the Southern Aurora overnight express service collided head-on with a freight train near Violet Town injuring 120 and killing nine people. Pictured in this photo is Paul Longhurst being carried out of the wreckage whose son and daughter attended the commemorations. Photo: State Library of Victoria.
THOUSANDS GATHER TO REMEMBER… On February 7, 1969 the Southern Aurora overnight express service collided head-on with a freight train near Violet Town injuring 120 and killing nine people. Pictured in this photo is Paul Longhurst being carried out of the wreckage whose son and daughter attended the commemorations. Photo: State Library of Victoria.

 

THOUSANDS GATHER TO REMEMBER… On February 7, 1969 the Southern Aurora overnight express service collided head-on with a freight train near Violet Town injuring 120 and killing nine people. Pictured in this photo is Paul Longhurst being carried out of the wreckage whose son and daughter attended the commemorations. Photo: State Library of Victoria.
THOUSANDS GATHER TO REMEMBER… On February 7, 1969 the Southern Aurora overnight express service collided head-on with a freight train near Violet Town injuring 120 and killing nine people. Pictured in this photo is Paul Longhurst being carried out of the wreckage whose son and daughter attended the commemorations. Photo: State Library of Victoria.

LAST week was filled with nostalgia at Violet Town with commemorative events taking place to mark the 50th anniversary of the Southern Aurora Rail Crash.

 

On February 7, 1969 approximately 1km south of Violet Town, the Southern Aurora overnight express service from Sydney to Melbourne collided head-on with a freight train travelling in the opposite direction shortly after 7am. Nine people died, and 120 were injured in the burning entanglement of the high-speed crash.

It was the townspeople of Violet Town, the district and the local emergency services who were pivotal in helping those still living to escape the train wreckage. They held the fire at bay, smashed windows and pulled passengers to safety. The clean up took over a month.

As part of last week’s commemorations, the carriage was brought back to Violet Town and installed centre stage in the Southern Aurora Memorial Garden, which was officially launched.

Southern Aurora Memorial Committee member and local historian, Bruce Cumming said, “We were inundated with people from al over Australia. We had about 300 at the vigil service, which was terrific. The museum and art exhibition was completely full.

“For our formal launch of the gardens we had over 1,000 people.

“We had people there who were working on the railways at the time and some who were on the train and some are still struggling hard, many physically and psychologically injured as well.”