WEDNESDAY marked 40 years since the Granville rail disaster, which claimed the lives
of 83 and injured 213 others.
On January 18, 1977, a crowded Blue Mountains eight-carriage service was heading to the city around 8.10am when the train derailed at Granville and struck the steel and concrete supports of the overhead Bold Street bridge.
About 30 seconds after the derailment, the bridge collapsed onto the already torn up carriages, trapping at least two carriages underneath.
Chief Inspector Gary Raymond APM, OAM, now retired from the force, was a young member of the Police Rescue Squad which responded to the train derailment and bridge collapse in 1977.
Mr Raymond was one of several rescuers and first responders sent into the rubble to assess the situation, and he has opened up about his experience of the tragic day.
“The Police Sergeant told me to get underneath the bridge and crushed carriages and ‘tell me what I’ve got,’” he reflected.
“Ten people were alive but trapped.
“We had to get in there and triage the injured people, work out what equipment we would need.
“One of the hazards we had was leaking liquid petroleum gas under there...train carriage cylinders which had been crushed by the bridge were leaking gas,” he said.
Back in 1977 trains from the mountains would carry gas bottles, all year round, for heating in the winter.
Mr Raymond reflected on the tragedy of the event and said, in the moment, he couldn’t focus on the destruction of the disaster.
“We didn’t have time to look at the enormity of it, you looked at it as a rescue rather than a sad, tragic event.
“But later on...when the job finished you’d reflect on the enormous sadness,” he added.
“Like some of the people who died in there still had playing cards in their hands...some were reading, still had papers in their hands...some were playing board games when the bridge came down, so you reflect on, I guess, the sadness of those who were on their way to work...it was school holidays,” he said.
In memorial to those who died during the disaster, a special remembrance ceremony was held at the Memorial Wall on Bold street, Granville.
The traditional ‘day of the roses’ commemoration followed the ceremony, in which 83 roses were thrown onto the tracks in honour of the victims.
Among the many attending the anniversary event was acting NSW Police Commissioner, David Hudson APM.
“Granville remains Australia’s worst rail disaster and the nation will never forget that day,” Acting Commissioner Hudson said,
“But I also think this occasion allows us the opportunity to honour the bravery of the emergency services crews who ventured into the wreckage to rescue those trapped and the medical staff who then kept those victims alive.
“As much as it is about a tragedy, this anniversary is also about recognising Australian heroism and determination.”