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NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
RIMUTAKA INCLINE RAIL ACCIDENT
SATURDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 1880

On Saturday 11 September 1880 a small train left Greytown at 8.30am bound for Wellington. At Cross Creek, at the foot of the Rimutaka Ranges, a Fell Engine was added to the train to push it up the 2 ½ mile 1 in 15 ascent to the summit of the Rimutaka Incline.

The Fell system has a centre-rail between the running tracks and the engine grips on to this to enable traction to climb steep gradients. The incline closed in October 1955 and trains from Wellington and the Wairarapa now go by the Rimutaka tunnel. For further information see THE FELL ENGINE AND THE RIMUTAKA INCLINE.

At Cross Creek the two passenger cars and the luggage carriage were put in front of the engine. Then behind this were two wagons of timber and lastly the Fell brake engine.

All went well until the train reached an area of the incline known as Siberia. A strong North West wind was blowing across the track. A terrific gust hit the carriages and they were blown off the railway line. Although the couplings held and the weight of the engine prevented the carriages from rolling into the valley below, the body of the first carriage was torn from its mountings and the passengers were thrown on to the hillside.

Three children were killed instantly and there were many injuries – some horrific. One of the injured, Stanley George Nicholas, aged 5 years, died later from injuries received.

The inquest found that the deaths were accidental, caused by the carriages being blown off the line, and no blame was attached to anyone. In fact the grip of the engine on the centre-rail saved the whole train from total destruction and more loss of life.

At the request of the jury breakwinds were erected at Siberia and at other places on the line which were prone to excess wind. (In October 1936 a railcar travelling between Featherston and Pigeon Bush was blown off the rails just before reaching a large section of breakwind. There were no fatalities).

Thanks to Adele Pentony Graham for her help with this.

THOSE WHO DIED
NICHOLAS Francis John Featherston 6y 7m
NICHOLAS Stanley George Featherston 5y (Died of injuries 19 Oct1880)
PHARAZYN Ida Jessica Featherston 11y 3m
QUIN William Greytown Hotel 3y

The passenger names were taken from various newspaper accounts and may not be 100% accurate.

PASSENGERS - (* - INJURED)
BISHOP Mr - *
BLAKESLEY A Wellington *
CROUCH (GOOCH) James - *
DICK R Featherston *
DONALD William Featherston *
DUNN Edward Tauherenikau *
DUNN Henry Tauherenikau -
DUNN Walter Tauherenikau -
GOSSETT C H Rev Masterton -
HARE Robert Masterton *
HICKSON Peter Herbert Wellington -
HODGE Miss - -
HODGE Mrs - *
JACKSON A B Greytown *
MADDEN M - -
McKENZIE W - *
MONTGOMERY John (James) Matarau *
PHARAZYN Ella (Twin sister of Ida) Featherston *
PHILLIPS Catherine - *
PHILLIPS Mr - -
PHILLIPS Mrs - *
PYE Mrs Hutt *
QUIN John Greytown Hotel -
QUIN Ellen Mrs Greytown Hotel *
QUIN 4 children plus William Greytown Hotel -
RIDDICK R Featherston -
SAVILL Miss - -
SAVILL Mr - -
TURNBULL Mrs - -

ENGINE STAFF
BARTLETT George Engine Driver -
BERRY Michael Incline Guard -
OSBORNE Henry Guard *

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