T is for Travel, but it’s also for Train Wreck … 

I’ll be honest, I’ve been really looking forward to writing something for the A-Z Challenge today. It’s time for the letter T. Those of you who have read my blog before will know that I’m an avid traveller. I love it. It’s my greatest passion! So it should be no surprise that Travel, and why I adore it, was to be the subject up for discussion today. That’s right … I said “was”. I’m going on a completely different tangent. In my recent post on Journeys my friend Cheryl, over at Two Brown Feet, commented that she loves to travel by subway. My response was that I avoid trains (or anything resembling a train) like the plague. I’m going to explain why I don’t like trains …

Let me take you back in time … it’s the 6th May 1990 and I’m 12 years old. A mechanic that my family uses had invited us to purchase tickets for a ride on one of the country’s old steam trains, the 3801. My Dad & I, along with two of my aunts (one of whom was pregnant), two of my uncles and two of my cousins decided to take up the offer. So on this day, we are all aboard the 3801. The journey was to take us a couple of hours to the north of Sydney, to a country town called Morpeth (near Newcastle), for a jazz festival. Coming home later that night and we cross over the Hawkesbury River heading back to Sydney. On the southern side of the river, as you reach land, you go through a tunnel which is situated on a bend, when you pop out on the other side the rail line runs along the side of a mountain. It’s a relatively steep drop on one side. It’s about 7:30pm from memory, we are all laughing and talking about the day. Everyone is in good spirits. People are walking about and between the carriages. The 3801 has five carriages, all wooden. My family is in the back row of the fourth carriage. I’m in seat number 40 (I still have my ticket from that day; I carry it in my purse every day).

After emerging from the tunnel, the 3801 comes to a stop. The old steam train is having a difficult time trying to climb the steep hill ahead of it. The crew are out of the train, walking along the tracks looking at the wheels. They have been dropping sand to try to get some traction for the climb, which I believe is standard practice. One of my younger cousins has noticed that the signals outside on the edge of the track are still showing green. As in “green for go”, just like any other traffic lights. All of the sudden, my young cousin pulls his head back inside the window and braces himself …

The next part is difficult to put into words. I remember a horrific and bone-jarring jolt. There are bodies flying through the air, crashing into each other. There is a large, dark, hulking shape outside my window which is exploding in the brightest, most blinding flashes of light. I’m being thrown and rattled around; backwards and forwards, side to side. And then it’s suddenly still. The strange thing is … I have no sound to accompany this event. The whole experience for me was deathly silent, as though my ears had shut off from the shock. My Dad remembers it differently – screams and screeching of metal and splintering wood. The Intercity express train from Newcastle to Sydney, coming out of the tunnel with nothing but green lights and no knowledge that we were ahead, had crashed into us at some speed. The impact of the collision derailing both trains. The fifth carriage of our steam train all but obliterated and reduced to matchsticks. All the power lines have been ripped from the earth and we are sitting in pitch black, on the side of the mountain, listening to the cries of the injured.

This train crash has become known as the Brooklyn (or Cowan) trash disaster. It took the emergency services a little while to figure out how to reach us but when they did, they lit up the wreckage with huge flood lights. The expressions of horror on their faces is something I will never forget. Nor will I forget the mutilated body of the man, laying dead outside my window. There were six people killed, some of whom I remember walking past me in the moments before the crash.There were over a hundred injured. To this day, trains make me nervous. I’ve been on several train journeys on my travels, and not without some trepidation. But train rides at home? Forget it …

For those who are visual in nature, like myself, the below news footage from the event will help:

 

This post is part of my contribution to the A-Z Challenge for April 2016

Click here for a list and links to my other challenge posts!

img_5831-2

Advertisements

55 thoughts on “T is for Travel, but it’s also for Train Wreck … ”

  1. Omg how horrible!! I would have the same reaction as you and avoid trains after that. In Korea, I love the subway system and use it all the time for travel, since buses and taxi’s drive all crazy. The reporter’s name is “Harry Potter” and I was glad for that little bit of levity for such a heavy post! I’m glad that you and your family were all ok!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WOW! Kim. that must have been terryfing xx what a post indeed. My grandpa’s favourite saying in life if something went wrong is ‘It is not a train smash’ – the wisdom and profoundness of these words resonate loud and clear after reading this ) x glad you made it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was an experience alright. I like your grandpa’s saying … Something like this crash helps put things in perspective for me. We were very lucky. I’m glad I made it too, Daisy! xx

      Like

  3. That drew some empathy here Kim…mine was a car crash not as the driver…..not quite the same scale but it does alter life perspective and makes it seem more fragile. Terrible thing though. We hear about things like that on daily news, it’s almost numbs people. But when you read an account from a real person it makes it suddenly tangible….but for a moment in time being different I might not be posting this…either crash might have ended our moments then. That’s a scary thought and equally says live it while you have it 🤔

    Really glad you made it too….but a question…do you think it changed your general outlook on things? Not just the understandable trepidation about trains in general…because that’s…pretty understandable !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re exactly right, Gary. We can become desensitised to things like this, until it happens to you or someone you know.
      I don’t think I could say it changed my outlook, purely because I was so young and didn’t have one yet, but … I do think it helped form my outlook on life and death. I’ve known a lot of death, of family and friends, and those experience coupled with the fact that things could’ve gone different in the train crash have shaped my view on matters. I’m not afraid of death and I won’t live my life worrying about it … When my number is up, it’s up. I’ll enjoy every minute of life until then.
      What about you, Gary? Did the experience of the car crash affect your outlook?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think for me, that lay latent until I saw the car after. It was on a dual carriage way at speed and the driver curbed it before hitting a dip defining a farm entrance and rolled it through a telephone pole. Strangely I remember pulling my foot back as the side I was on scraped the ground after the seat broke. None of the ambulance crews believed it was us…crawled out the back window totally unscathed…apart from my eyesight. I lost my glasses that day and for the rest of the night my vision was perfect. Weird that. Since then there have been a number of naff bits….murder and mayhem so to speak…collectively they have changed my outlook yes….made it darker in thinking and that bites at times but also….I have a total amazement of life…the molecular complexity and diversity. I think it made me a deeper thinker too. Life the universe….but me another but…. I do feel its positively affected my ability to write…so good things out of bad ones maybe?

        It’s why I told Simon if I had time for his space odyssey it would be as Astro-biologist lol

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s one hell of a crash, Gary. Unbelievable that you walked away! And how strange is the eyesight situation?! Sounds like you got a couple of things from the experience – darkness and light, if you like 😀 I understand what you mean about it impacted your writing. I think when we think or feel deeply about something, it translates clearer in our written expression. I know I empathise more with posts that were written with feeling.
        It would be great to welcome an Astro-biologist to the mission. It’s going to be quite a challenge, I’ve not done creative writing before lol! Worth a shot though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s the impact of blogging though…your post made me self reflect. Which is a good because it keeps me in touch with the past. Keystone memory kind of thing…although I have loads of them lol..it not lol as the case maybe 🤔 My current book manuscript is drawing on much of this sort of thing so in that sense it’s helped !! That’s part of post empathy…they do say write what you know…which but for a quirk of fate, destiny, karma, universal pre determination? I could be writing humour 😁
        Astrobiologist is probably my forte…and my ket writing genre is horror….you sure you want me on board lol

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You’re right, there’s a lot of self reflection to be found in blogging. I often find connections in the posts of others. Your manuscript sounds interesting too.
        Haha horror on the space mission? Awesome! If my creative writing attempts fail, you could write a grisly death scene in space lol

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I noticed that too. Might be that’s what draws the community together. It’s such a friendly place…the proper caught me out. In January it was like…what blogging all about…I can’t do that…no idea how….why do some have billions of followers and I have tumbleweed…now I think that at some point everyone has gone through that and no doubt every new blogger today will be setting off with similar trepidation…it’s life…but not as we know it…not that one has ever watched Star Trek obviously
        My manuscript has ups and downs…sometimes I love it sometimes I think WTF is this rubbish lol

        Horror suspense in space is all the rage in gaming…Dead Space, Alien…. I have ideas on stuff like that on a daily basis….if I hook up Simon best order a shed load of red away team shirts…I am a firm believer that it all aliens are nice….let’s face it to them watching out media broadcasts we must seem uber scary !!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a traumatic event! I can easily understand why you avoid trains like the plague after such a horrible accident.
    I am glad you got through it unharmed physically from what it seems!! Even though the memroies must be horrible to have. So sad about those people who didn’t make it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was traumatic. I didn’t get away completely unscathed, I had some minor injuries. You see, the seating in the carriages were booth style seats, facing each other with a table in the centre. The impact threw me towards the back of the train but I got caught on the table across the mid-section. I wasn’t immediately aware of a problem but hours later noticed both legs had turned black from the hip down. I guess the body delays reactions sometimes. I had issues with pain for some time but as you say, nothing physical long term. It’s very sad about the people who died. One of the men was a university associate professor … Years later that would be the university I attended, they would have a remembrance service each year and as someone who was there that night, I found that difficult to see.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Such a sad event. I can imagine the fear remains, after that. The body remembers things that has one been dangerous for us.. So sad about the professor, too! I hope that you and your family could support each other emotionally after that event. I would guess so, after remembering your previous post about the warmth of family..
        Hugs!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I had goosebumps reading this, Kim. From the minute I started reading I think I knew what was coming. No wonder you don’t like train trips, those memories will no doubt be with you for life. Such a traumatic event to experience but at least you and your family survived it. Thankfully. What a post for T.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The memories do stick around! As a family, we had trauma counselling after the event. I think that’s why I went on to do psychology at uni – it taught me the value of talking openly about things. I can talk quite freely about this, without it being distressing, but I always try to word it so people can visualise it themselves. I’m very thankful indeed that we made it!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The rest of the family came out relatively unscathed. I think we all had our bruises and scrapes, and fair share of mental trauma. Fortunately my pregnant aunt was unharmed and in September that year had a little girl (the same little girl who’s wedding I wrote about on my post for the letter F in the A-Z Challenge). We were very lucky indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a terrifying event, Kim. I can understand it is still hunting you and why you have an aversion to trains. And “they” think traveling the world is dangerous! Being at home is – obviously – not without risks either. Especially on the road, in a car. I am more scared (of other drivers) while on the highways than I ever was on our boat!

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi, Kim. Yikes. Reminds me of my time in England, and in Germany a few years later. 2005 and 2006, these times were. Train travel still very much a mainstay in both countries then. I remember moving the experience of riding the two-hour express from Norwich to London, the wash of green going past outside, and the glimpses I was afforded into the little towns and gardens the train passed through on its way. Never once on any of my dozen trips did I fear an accident of the kind to describe here. I suppose that may have more to do with my own complacency than anything else.

    I wrote a post a few weeks back about how seriously lucky members of my family have been surviving car and bike accidents. Your post reminded me of how scant I was in recounting the details of the accident I was involved in. A highway accident, this was. I was as lucky as you and your family to walk away unscathed. It has really made me think about the things a mind chooses to remember. It has also made me think about faith and gratitude. It seems only right to be thankful to have walked away from an accident which by rights should have ended my life. I’m glad to know you and your father have worked through the trauma this experience caused, and that you’re finding ways to share the experience with others. This was a strikingly impactful post. And I’m glad to have read it, and to have been invited to reflect along with you on this experience. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Patrick. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I did see that post you wrote about the lucky escapes of your family members. Makes me wonder if the saying about cats having nine lives isn’t perhaps applicable to humans as well? As horrible and as frightening as the experiences are at the time, I think the good that comes from them is the reminder to enjoy our time here while we can.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I can’t imagine being in such a horrific crash at such a young age! I hope writing about it helps. And I think it says a lot about you that you still enjoy traveling so much , even if you do avoid trains now. (And I would, too, if I had been through that crash). You are a very courageous person!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s certainly an experience that has shaped me in some way. Over the years it’s become easy to discuss it with people and to answer questions. I’ve always found it fascinating to look at the different ways my family members recall the actual moment – some with sound, some without, some saw different things. I don’t like trains but I think the crash made me a little braver, I’m not one to shy away from the more adventurous activities. Thanks so much for commenting, Ann. I hope you have a lovely Sunday 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It must have been really difficult to write this post. And you were only 12 years old! This must have a long lasting impact on your life, Kim! I can’t imagine what it must have been to be a part of this tragedy. I couldn’t even get myself to see the entire clip. I must confess, my imagination gets the better of me, and these are things I dread the most when I travel. 😦 How did you cope with it? And find the strength to keep travelling?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the passage of time makes a big difference, Cheryl. I don’t struggle with talking about the crash or recalling the memories of what it was like. It doesn’t impact me with the same horror it did in the months following it. I think if anything it made me more determined to be a traveller because we never know which day will be our last.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Nikki! What a great surprise to wake up to! I really appreciate you sharing it.
        I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a weekly post to share some of my favourite pieces from other blogs … but I’m struggling to stay on top of the April A-Z Challenge so maybe when it’s finished! 🙂

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s