From the Quorn Mercury, Friday 3 February, 1911




A fatal railway accident happened on the Hergott line on Saturday afternoon last, as a consequence of the recent heavy rains having washed away [a] portion of the line. The scene of the disaster was about a quarter of a mile south of Brachina and 316 miles from Adelaide, at a point where the water nearly covered the line, making it almost impossible for the driver to see the rails.

The engine of the mixed train from here was derailed at a break in the line and crashed heavily into a culvert, where it stood erect in the mud. The tender tilted forward, and the driver, Mr. S.E. Rowe, was crushed between the tender and engine, sustaining fearful injuries, which must have caused death instantly. The fireman, Mr. J. Coffey, was also badly injured, but fortunately escaped with his life.



The tender doubled right up on the engine and jammed the driver, who was found with one hand on the lever and the other at his side. It appears that Rowe, as soon as he saw there was no chance of avoiding the accident, told the fireman to jump for his life, he himself heroically standing to his post and dying with his hand on the lever. Coffey took the advice to jump, but not in time to avoid getting his right arm crushed between the cab and the tender. The driver's foot had in some way got caught, and there was no escape for him. The whole of his right side was crushed in and his back was broken, besides which he had two or three abrasions on his nose and forehead, and was scalded from the top of his head to his heels. Dr. Gibson states that if he had not been killed instantaneously he would have been scalded to death.

W. Taylor was guard and J. Fitzgerald assistant guard on the ill-fated train. It was a most unfortunate accident, as Rowe and Coffey were only relieving Messrs. Harper and Hill, the regular driver and fireman.

Locomotive Y141 sits amidst the debris of the Brachina derailment. (Photo from the George Williams Collection)


The passengers and the guard and his assistant escaped uninjured owing no doubt to the fact that there was a long string of trucks between the engine and the carriages. If the train had been a short one, the whole of it would most likely have been telescoped.


Although news of the disaster was received here before 4 o'clock, a relief train was not dispatched to the scene of the accident until about 6, the doctor going by it to attend to the injured fireman. Mr. Coffey was brought to Quorn and was sent on to Port Augusta to the hospital on Sunday morning, where his right arm was amputated below the elbow. He is suffering greatly from shock and loss of blood, but is progressing as well as can be expected.

Mr. William Henry Rowe, the driver's father, was a driver on the Glenelg line and retired after 26 years' service with the Glenelg railway line. He was standing alongside of the railway line on Commemoration Day four years ago when he was knocked by some lads who had mounted the steps of the train while it was moving and, tripping over his walking stick, he fell under the engine and was instantly killed. The engine which killed him was the one of which he formerly had charge.

Mr. S.E. Rowe was born in Brown Street, Adelaide, 30 years ago and entered the Glenelg Railway Company's service as a clerk at the age of 13. Not satisfied with clerical work he took up engine cleaning and was subsequently promoted to fireman which position he held when the Government took over the Glenelg line eleven years ago. He kept to his railway work under the department, and two years ago he was given charge of an engine.


Fitzjohn, Huey. Clergyman. Farina -

'I was a passenger on the mixed train from Quorn to Hergott on Saturday 28th inst. About 2 o'clock, as near as I can remember, we pulled up at Edeowie cottages, discharging food for the gangs. Immediately after that we ran into heavy weather, the creeks were running and thunder storms threatening. We had proceeded slowly, cannot say actual speed, to within about a mile of Brachina Siding. I was then startled by hearing three sharp whistles and felt a concussion. On getting out of the carriage, which I did instantly, I saw the engine had come to grief. A number of trucks were derailed, two sheep vans in particular being smashed to pieces.'

From the Quorn Mercury, Friday 10 February, 1911

The inquest on the victim of the Brachina railway disaster was concluded on Thursday February 2nd by Mr Heath (coroner). The following were present:-Messrs P.B. O'Malley (Traffic Superintendent), Yeomans (Resident Engineer), Messenger (Loco Superintendent) and W. Dridan (General Secretary of the S.A. Enginemen, Firemen and Cleaners Association).

William John Taylor, railway porter of Quorn, stated that on January 28 he was acting guard on the down train from Quorn to Hergott. It left Quorn at 8.45 am, left Edeowie at 1.50 pm, and pulled up at the Edeowie cottages. While crossing the creek at the cottages the witness noticed that the water was running in the creek. As the train was entering Brachina Siding he heard two short whistles. He rushed to the brake at once and put it on hard. He was thrown into the north end of the van. He rushed to the door to see the sheep vans coming off the road. After rendering what assistance was possible to the driver and fireman he sent Fitzgerald to Edeowie siding to send word to Quorn of the accident. The witness then went back and put detonators on the line and put up a red flag. With the assistance of the passengers he removed the body of Rowe from the engine. The escaping steam had then all gone. He then shifted the portable telephone to the front of the engine on the other side of the broken line. Before doing so he fastened the end of the wire to the overturned cattle van. He rang up Parachilna and gave news of the accident. A carpenter came from Edeowie and reported that a relief train was coming from Quorn, also a train from Beltana. The actual weight of the train was 223 tons.

Frank Yeomans, Resident Engineer of Quorn, said he visited the scene of the accident on January 28. He went to the front of the train and found that there had been about 40 feet of a 4 ft. high bank washed out which would leave the rails and sleepers swinging at this spot. The engine had fallen to the bottom of the washout.

Patrick Bernard O'Malley, Traffic Superintendent of Quorn, deposed as to the occurrences on the day of the accident. He did not think the circumstances of the accident warranted a doctor being sent to the scene of the accident before the special relief train, more particularly as they expected to get away sooner than they did. It would not have been advisable to meet the wheat special without establishing a crossing. There was no unavoidable delay on the way.

Guard Taylor, recalled, stated that in his opinion the train was travelling at from 15 to 20 miles an hour when he heard the brake whistle. He did not think the speed the train was travelling at was excessive.

The coroner, in his finding, said Samuel Edwin Rowe was accidentally killed by being crushed on a locomotive at a washaway and derailment on the Great Northern line near Brachina on January 28. The coroner remarked 'I cannot find any culpable negligence on the part of any officer of the Railway department'.

This article was published in Pichi Richi Patter, Volume 10 No. 3, Autumn 1983, and Volume 10 No. 4, Winter 1983.

Read more about the history of the locomotive involved in this accident, Y141, which is now in the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society's collection (as Yx141).