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MAFFRA LEVEL CROSING FATALITY CORONER SUGGESTS WARNING SIGNS =AND BRIGHTER :LIGHTS Railway Cominissioners Aware of Dangers ! Returning his finding concerning the death of Mr. andi.rs.,C. A. Reynolds, of Maffra, in a.'level crossing accident last mnonth, the De puty CorOner (Mr. S. P. Ashton) last week said that during the preva lency of fast moviig road and rail tiaffie there would 'be. continuous danger at level crossings and he suggested that a mechanical warning device be placed on' level crossings and that' goods trains be equipped with brighter headlights. as an additional warning. . Appearing on'behalf of the Railway Commissioners, Mr. Carbines said-that the cost of installation an: maintenance of mechanic:. warn ing signs at level crossings would be enormous. He would say that accidents would happen at level crossings always because motorists were careless. Even where gates were installed, the Department had reports every day-where cars crashed into closed;gates. ,
Allan Charles Reynolds, a .schoolboy, 12 years of age, -and now residing with his uncle, Mr. Tarrant, at 3 Fe lix Street, Surrey Hills, stated: On the 30th of May, 1946. at about 7.15 p.m., my mother and father and Shir ley Donnelly and I left home to go to Sale..-We were travelling in my fath er's car, and my father was driving. The car was a Buick two-door sedan and; seated in the front seat, next to my father was Shirley Donnelly, and then my mother was on the left side. I was sitting- in the back seat alone. We went down Johnson Street 'to wards the railway crossing, and the car was travelling at a medium speed. The windows in the back and left front side were all closed, but I cannot say: whether the front window on -my father's side was 'closed or not. I did not hear any train whistle until we were almost on the railway crossing, when I heard the engine whistle and looked out through the, windscreen, and I am not sure whether I saw the lights or the reflection of the lights on the engine appear near the-left of the car. My mother' screamed, and about the. same time my father swerved the car to the right. There was a bang as the engine struck the car, and then I felt myself going round and round, and cannot remember anything more until the train stopped. - The next I remember .was that the car and the train had stopped moving and I was lying on the back seat of the car. Whilst I was. lying on the back seat I saw my father push some wreckage' away and, crawl out of the car and lay down between the railway lines. I could see --my mother's legs -in the car, but- she did not move. I got up and walked about the.lines and could hear Shirley :Donnelly calling 'out and saw her lying' near'the engine;. The engine driver helped me over to the bank and:told me -to sit- down, and then the'-tloctor icame and attended me, and I was then taken to hospital. Until the time when I heard -the en* gine whistle, no, remark cobncerning trains or whistles''was made by anyone in the car, and my father continued to drive at the same pace towards the crossing, and in my opinion my father did not hear any whistle until we were almost on the crossing, when he heard the whistle which I heard, and swer ved the car, but was too late. To Mr. Carbines- We left Shirley Donnelly's home in ohnson Street, which would be about half a mile from the railway crossing. We, were not talking in the car at the time of the accident, and I did not hear anyone speaking. I was just sitting in the back of the car. It was a fairly cold night. My father,used to put the win dow up on the side where he was driving,. and I do not think he did so
to keep the car warm inside. I do not know whether the- window was up or down at the time of the accident. I have no idea of what speed the car was d:oing at the time. To Mr. Rice: When we were going down the road in the car we did not see :the lights of the train until we were right on the crossing. Again to Mr. Carbines: We were not looking for a -train coming when we were going along the road towards the crossing, and I was not looking anywhere in particular. Herbert Richard Edmends stated: I nmn an engine driver employed by the Victorian Railways Commissioners and reside at 66 Church Street, Traralgon. On 30th May, 1946, I was driving en gine 620 D.3 which hauled a goods train from Bairnsdale to Traralgon. My fireman was S. G. Bonighton. The train consisted of 16 trucks and a guard's van, and the tonnage was-295 tons. It left Bairnsdale at 5.20 p.m. I saw- the three kerosene lamps burn ing on the front of the engine befoili :we departed. At Stratford the -firetof the. engine was cleaned and I again saw the engine had head lights burn ing. -When about 'a -mile from Maffra station I- shut off steam and the train moasted on a falling grade towards the crossing at the entrance to the station yard. When the' engine reached the whistle post about 440 yards from the crossing I sounded the whistle for about seven seconds. When the engine was about 160 yards from the cross 'T I again sounded the whistle for about seven seconds. I had just stop oed 'sounding it, and was about 70 yards -from the crossing, when the fireman jumped up off his seat and velled out to me, "Blow again, a car " coming." I started to sound the whistle again, .and immediately after doing so I fully applied the Westing house brake.'The speed of the engine it" this point'9*as abdut .25'miles per 'lour. As the engine entered the cross ing the fireman called to me, "Did-he get over?" and, at the same time. I said to him, "Did it stop?" There was an impact immediately after wards.'I was still sounding the whistle at the time of the collision. The en gind came to rest about 170 yards be yond the crossing. 'I then saw a girl lying- under the side" footstep on the right-hand side of the engine cab. - A iwo-dc--- sedan Buick -- car No. 5587 was alongside the right-hand side of the tender of the engine, and it was badly wrecked. A mihan was lying in front' of the wreia:kge, and a woman was on what remained of the front seat. A boy was on the rear seat. The fireman proceeded to the station and I carried the girl, the man and a boy clear. I asked the boy what number of people were in :the car, and he re plied, "Four." I felt the pulse of the woman and-it had stopped, and I con cluded she was beyond human aid. The girl's injuries consisted of a cut on the head .and on one leg, and I could not give her any assistance for these injuries, so- I covered her with a rug from the car until assistance, ar rived. I placed- the injured man's head on my knees and enquired of his injury, and he said, "I can't feel anything." I said, "Didn't you hear the engine whistle?" He said, "I heard the whistle, but I don't know :what I did." He told me -his- name. He -did not. appear to -be able to .sit- up, al tholugh he made several attempts to do so. I told him to take it easy. Guard Gilder was assisting with the injured 'people, and 'later a doctor, ambulance and police arrived. I then made- an examination of the engine. The right-hand, head - lamp bracket was broken, the lamp being damaged and upside down. . The funnel lamp and left-hand buffer lamp were alight. -The? Westinghouse -. brake train pine was' broken -in - front of the engine. The cowcatcher was forced under the leading bogie of the engine. The in jector pipe under the rihlit-hand foot step of:the cabin" was'broken. Arrange ments- were -made for another engine to be -sent to..Maffra.. The accident occurred at. about. 7.2Q p.m., It was dark, fine and calm. . i To -Mr. Carbines: - After I appied the brake there -was nothing more I Auld do to avoid the collision. I regard the pull-up of the train as a good one. The whistle on the engine is a stan
dard one known: as the " 'chimes" whistle, and is used on all express traiins,, and can be heard for miles. It takes approximately. three seconds before 'they"btakes-wohild'- be "ipplied throughout the train in an emergency application as on. this occasion.' To Mr. Rice: I regard the pulling up of the train in 220-yards as-an extra good one. The signal was, down at the top ;of the rise, and I took it that the track was completely clear, but I would nevertheless be on the lookout for anything which may be on the track. I heard Mr. Bonighton say that the first sight he obtained of the car was wher. it was about 70 yards from the crossing. ' Therefore, in that case I could not have pulled the train up be fore I got to -the crossing. 'A speed of 25 miles an hour. at that spot is defi nitely: regarded as safe. I agree that if the car did not pull up, all I could do was to' give the warning signal. The only lights on the engine are kerosene lights which show a faint glimmer on white posts such as sig nals or whistle boards on' the track. If a person failed to hear the whistle, the only other warning he would have would be the three 'kerosene lights. I do not regard the crossing as a dan gerous one. If the motorist was to do the right thing, the crossing would not be regarded as dangerous, and if he did the wrong thing, I could not stop the train. When I assisted Mr. Rey nolds and asked him if he heard the whistle and he replied' to me, I did not form any conclusion as to which whistle he heard. I have been driving on this track for seven years, and dur ing that time I have known of other accidents there, "but no .fatal ones. There is no indicator on the crossing othdr than the -white signboard. A big headlight on the engine would de finitely be of-assistance -to. drivers tand would also be an additionial warning to people at the crossings. When I ap plied the brakes there was an appre ciable check inithe speed of the,.train, as I could notice it stopping all the time. To Mr. Collins: I said that the lowering of the signal indicated that the 'track was clear, but I would still keep a good lookout for anything on the, track after 'passing the signal. There is a Royal Automobile Club sign at the crossing, the posts are painted white, and the normal rail way crossing sign is also "there to in dicate to a motorist that it is a rail way crossing. In reply to. the deputy-coroner, the witness said that the breaking of the pipe on the engine would increase the pressure on the brake if the handbrake had' not been. fully applied. It would not be as effective as it should be, be cause he had the brake in the cabin ':f the engine full on. Adjourning the inquest for a few minutes, whilst he considered his ver dict, the deputy-coroner,' on his return, said he would give a finding that the deaths of Beatrice Hensby Reynolds and Charles Arnold Reynolds had been accidental as the result of the collision between the car and' the train. Mr. Ashton went on to say that he had considered the events leading up to'the accident., with the result that, to "his mind, all level crossings were dangerous, particularly in view of the fast-moving traffic of the present times. It may be that the persons ap proaching a crossing may have- their minds cn some problem' dr other, or may be in' conversation 'with other people in the car. Therefore, ,unless there was some other warning beyond the stationary sign and the whistle of 'the train, there would always be the danger of accidents occurring such as was' before him that day. _ He would therefore suggest that some moving mechanical warning device should be installed at all 'crossings. If he had the power to do so, he would order that they be installed, -but, as' hedid' not 'possess- that power,- all that he could do would be to hope that con sideration would be given to the sug gestion by the authorities responsible. It 'had been a'dmitted .in the' evidence that day that headlights of a power ful nature on the-engine would be of assistance to' the. drivers of the trains and to the drivers of vehicles at level crossings. In view of that evidence, he would also suggest that the proper authorities should give eainest consi deration to the suggestion, and in that way assist towards the prevention of such unfortunate accidents as had been before him that day. Speaking on behalf of the Railways Commissioners, Mr. Carbines said he wished to point out, for the informa tion of the deputy-coroner, that there were '4,000 railwaiy crossings in Victo ri.a, 300 of which 'had -gates and were mainly in the suburban areas, whilsb 70 had mechanical warning devices. The cost of installing mechanical war ning devices at all crossiigs would be terrific, as tfey are very costly to instal and maintain. He would say that acci dents would always happen- at level crossings, because motorists were care less. Despite the installation of warn ing devices, accidents would always happen, iand it may be of interest to iknow that even where gates are in stalled, the railways department re ceives on the average of two reports a week of the gates being smashed by peoule going through them. He agreed with the deputy-coroner that the problem was a large one, but from ex nerience over the years..it had"been proved that the ac'cidents were mainly due ito the carelessness of the. people. The Commissioners ialways 'had the matter in mind and were:doing every thin in their power,. to assist, but 'it was a difficult" roblem to overcome.