SERIOUS RAILWAY ACCIDENT.
It is not often we have to record an accident on the railway between Ashburton and Christchurch, the country being so level throughout that the idea of a train being off the track, unless in cases of gross neglect, would naturally be looked upon as an impossibility. However, yesterday afternoon, the goods train met with an unexpected accident, which considerably d'JjOanised the traffic on the line. It seems, from the information we have been able to glean upon the subject, that the railway authorities are making a new station and siding on the top of the terrace about midway between Rakaia and Dunsandel. Most of our readers who are in the habi. of travelling by rail will know that at this point there is a tolerably steep incline, and it is the only spot on the Great South Railway from Lyttelton to Rangitata on which any heavy amounts of steam is required to be got up, or great pressure required to be put on the breaks to case the train down. Strange to say, the railway engineers have deemed it necessary at this, the most difficult portion of the line, to lay out a fresh siding, which is immediately on top of the terrace. It has been necessary during the progress of this work, to put in a temporary loopline, and allow all traffic to go over it, stopping the main line at this point until the siding is completed. It is a questionable proceeding on the part of the engineers at any time to divert the traffic from a main line to a loop line, more especially when ah express runs on the length without stopping ; and it is against all engineering laws to lay out a siding in such a comparatively dangerous place as the terrace in question is. It is a well known fact that, with the qurntity of trucks a goods train has to draw at this season of the year, an engine cannot draw its lead without facing the gradient with a good head of steam, and a considerable amount of speed to start with. But, of epurse, there ai‘o regulations, and these regulations must be adhered to ; and one of them is, that during the construction of this siding no train shall pass it a rate of more than seven miles per hour. At that rate of speed, ono of the strongest engines the Hew Zealand Government possesses cannot possibly surmount that incline with an ordinary grain freight behind her, and the engine driver, to keep his time, knowing that there are express and passenger trains to meet, is compelled, nolens volens to get up that incline so as to keep his time. Owing to the dilatoriness of the engineering department, this siding, which was a necessary one, was left to be constructed at a time when it was injudicious to interfere in any way with the main line. However, the District Engineer undertook the formation of this siding, and he, being a professional man, will probably be able to explain why such a work was undertaken at such an unseasonable period of the year. The details of the accident are as follows. The afternoon goods left Christchurch at the usual time, and on approaching the cutting where the temporary loop-line is laid, ran off the rails, the reason being at present unexplained, and there will bo an official enquiry as to that part of the business. Eight trucks followed the engine in its exploration for a new route, and the rest of the trucks and carriages remained on the line. Information was at once telegraphed to the line inspectors, and Mr. Innes, who was down south at Winchester, took the first train back to put the permanent way in fit condition to travel on. Mr. Stevenson, the locomotive stationed here, had once proceeded to the scene of the accident ; and by the time the express arrived, some one and a-half hours after her due date, a temporary line had been laid, and the trains were able to get through. The engine, which is off the rails, is one of the large English goods engines, known as the J class, and as they weigh some 3G tons, it will require some knowledge of gravitation to get the monster back into her place. There are also eight trucks off the line, one being freighted with sheep, and the rest with old sleepers for firewood. Strange to say, the truck of sheep was next the engine, and not a pelt was injured. The passenger carriage was at the tail end of the train, but owing to the drag on the engine there was no shock felt by the passengers, who were unaware of the fact of the engine being off the rails until they were informed so by the guard. We could not learn the exact amount of damage done to the engine and trucks, but we understand that is slight, and easily remediable. The local staff are deserving of all praise for the promptitude, displayed in getting all their available hands concentrated on the work, and it speaks well for their efficiency that under such circumstances the delay did not extend ever two hours.
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