Saturday, January 23, 2010

Scenic Sunday: Royal visit : Tangiwai Disaster


Prince William just visited New Zealand and Australia. There is a lot of talk in New Zealand and Australia about becoming a Republic. Some writers in Queensland talk about the Royal family snubbing the State love them most.

I am a romantic person. I love stories of princes and princesses. Prince William charmed the hearts of many when he went to the bush fire areas of Melbourne.

I think of another royal visit to New Zealand, when the Queen was in New Zealand when the Tangiwai Disatser happened.

Years later, in 1999, we went to the Tangiwai Disaster at Whangaehu River with the children and paid our respects to the many who died during a time before we were born.

The Tangiwai disaster on December 24, 1953 was the worst rail accident in New Zealand. The overnight North Island Main Trunk express train from Wellington to Auckland, hauled by steam locomotive KA 949, fell into the Whangaehu River. The bridge over the river had been badly damaged just minutes earlier by a lahar from Mount Ruapehu.

Cyril Ellis is credited as being a hero of the accident because his actions saved many lives. He saw that the railway bridge was damaged and ran down the track, waving his torch at the oncoming train. It is believed that his warning enabled the train driver to brake before the bridge, slowing the train sufficiently so that only the first six carriages tumbled into the river. Almost everyone in the sixth carriage survived. All following carriages stopped safely.

Of the 285 people on the train, 134 survived and 151 died. Of those that died 20 bodies were never recovered; it is believed they were washed 120 kilometres from the bridge and then down the river and out to sea.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were visiting New Zealand on their first royal tour when the disaster occurred. The Queen made her Christmas broadcast from Auckland, finishing with a message of sympathy to the people of New Zealand. Prince Philip attended a state funeral for many of the victims.


Ruth said...

The train disaster is one of those times when a leader like the Queen is all important, pulling everyone together under a mother's care and protection. It's amazing how affective that is.

Ah Ngao said...

whats that you're throwing? looks like coconuts..

Anonymous said...

Very interesting story about the disaster. I'd not heard about it before. Thanks