Sunday, May 8, 2011

Collision at New Lynn, 1913

Edited and updated 26 March 2015

These images come from photographs held by Heather White, grand daughter of Albert Crum, who operated the NZ Brick, Tile and Pottery Works at New Lynn from 1905 to 1929.  Apart from the one above, they appear to show the aftermath of an almost forgotten train collision in May 1913 in the vicinity of the Rewarewa stream railway bridge between New Lynn station and Titirangi Road. The above image probably shows the Whau River bridge, which has been replaced by a modern version, due to the double-tracking of the Western Line.

A passenger train from Henderson (thirteen miles from Auckland) and a train from Auckland collided on the railway bridge at New Lynn at 6.50 this morning. Two carriages were telescoped, and both engines were badly damaged.

The facts, so far as they have been ascertained, indicate that the signals were obscured by heavy fog, and were not visible until the train was right upon them. The driver of the Henderson train on observing the danger signal promptly applied the brakes, with the result that the passengers were thrown out of their seats.

The rails were very greasy on the steep grade, and covered with frost, and the train kept on at a good speed until it crashed into the train from Auckland. The latter had gone up the line to sidetrack, and before it could return the collision occurred on the middle of the New Lynn bridge. The engines collided head on, both being badly broken, up. The first carriage of the Henderson train was not damaged, but the next two were completely telescoped, and crumpled up like a concertina. Both carriages left the railway lines, and were hanging over the side of the bridge. The next two carriages had their windows broken. The rearmost carriages escaped. As showing the force of the impact, the buffers for almost the whole length of the other train were driven into one another.

There were nearly 100 passengers on the Henderson train and a few workmen on the other. About nine passengers sustained slight injuries, cuts, and bruises. Hurst Stone, a resident of Oratia, was very badly injured, and has been conveyed to the hospital. A railway employee named Thomas and a fireman on one of the engines were also very badly hurt.

Evening Post 28 May 1913

The most serious injuries in the railway collision at New Lynn on Wednesday morning were received by Mr E. H. Stone, of Waikumete, whose chest was crushed when the two cars were telescoped. His condition showed some improvement to-day, but he is not yet out of danger. Of the score of passengers who suffered material injury in the collision nearly all are now feeling the effects of the shock. There is no anxiety regarding the condition of any of them, except Stone.

An enquiry, with a view to ascertaining the cause of the accident, will be held by the Department of Railways. The date has not yet been fixed. Following the usual custom of the Department the enquiry will not be public.

The wreckage of the two carriages telescoped by the collision was loaded into wagons yesterday, and carried into Newmarket workshops. Any parts that are not damaged will be sorted from the debris and utilised, and the remnants will be relegated to the waste pile. Some damage was done to the other six carriages of the train, and they and the two locomotives have been sent to Newmarket for repairs. The injury to the track was remarkably small. Half a dozen sleepers oh the bridge were broken, and in one place the rails were slightly bent.

Evening Post 30 May 1913

A deputation from the New Lynn and Henderson districts waited upon the Hon. W. H. Herries, Minister for Railways, this afternoon, with a request that a public enquiry should be held into the circumstances of the recent accident at New Lynn. They especially asked for a Magisterial enquiry, and Mr. Handley presented a petition signed by over 70 people, comprising practically the whole of the passengers on the train which met with the accident. The Minister said that there would have to be a Departmental enquiry first. One of the victims of the accident was unfortunately very ill, and it might be necessary for art inquest to be held, and that in itself would be a public enquiry. If he got well— and the Minister hoped he would— then it would be time for considering the question of a public enquiry. No good, however, would be served by duplicated enquires. He knew of no objection to a public enquiry, but could not at present give a definite promise.

Evening Post 5 June 1913

The New Lynn Collision.
Replying to Mr Bradney, the Hon. W. H. Herries said that both the engineer of the Kaipara train and the tablet porter at New Lynn had been dismissed as a consequence of the recent New Lynn railway accident.

Ashburton Guardian 1 August 1913

The enquiry by the Railway Committee of the House of Representatives into the New Lynn railway accident opened to-day. The enquiry was decided upon as the result of a petition from the residents of New Lynn and its surroundings asking for a Parliamentary investigation into the causes leading to the accident. In addition to the members of the Committee, Messrs. T. Ronayne and R. W. McVilly were present.

J. F. McDermott, ex-railway employee, who was stationed at New Lynn from to December, 1911, during which 'he was in charge of the station part of the time, expressed the opinion that the yarding and engine watering accommodation were at the time of the accident quite inadequate. He also contended that the lack of shunting facilities for trains going north was a source of serious danger if trains were crossing there. In the case of the two trains in question only six minutes were allowed for the actual crossing of the trains, including all incidental work. Witness contended that the Department knew of the various disabilities, yet failed to remedy them. He declared also that home signals only existed at New Lynn, while a bad curve increased the difficulties. As to the fog signalling regulations he had not seen any fog signalling done or instructed during his 4½ years' service. These regulations he regarded as a dead letter. A fog signalman was only appointed at New Lynn two months after the accident.

Replying to Mr. Veitch, witness expressed the opinion that railway examinations are not sufficiently thorough.

O Grandison, a builder resident at New Lynn, expressed the opinion that the practice of shunting trains from sidings on to the main line after the signalling of an approaching train from Henderson was a dangerous one. He had been told, however, that it was necessary in order to keep the time-table. Four passenger trains crossed at New Lynn daily . This, with shunting operations during the day, made the station a dangerous one for passengers. The tablet porter at the station had too much to do, and the accident which had happened had been expected by people in the district. Witness declared that the public had lost confidence in the Department, and felt unsafe in travelling from New Lynn. There was just as much chance of an accident there now as before the collision.

H Green, labourer, also gave evidence. The committee adjourned until 10 o'clock to-morrow morning.

Evening Post 9 September 1913

When the committee set up to enquire into the railway accident at New Lynn to-day, A. Margin, manager of the New Lynn brickworks, pointed out that during the last six years the traffic had increased there enormously. The whole of the different brickworks' output went through New Lynn while, with other goods, the amount handled there would be several hundred tons daily. Sometimes a goods train overlapped the siding on to the main line at both ends, and generally the accommodation and facilities were utterly inadequate.

The system at the station was also imperfect for the public safety. The officials, he contended, had on several occasions had the danger of accident pointed out to them, but had always ignored the warnings. The witness added that the revenue of the station was over £15,000 yearly. The congested state of the traffic there, with the lack of proper station facilities, had put a premium on the possibility of accidents. An island platform. he claimed, was badly needed and had long been sought by residents.

Mr. McVilly: How would a stationmaster have prevented the accident?

Witness : Because he would have exercised greater discipline.

Evening Post 10 September 1913



The Railway Committee appointed by the House of Representatives reported on the New Lynn accident today:-

That, there was a slight fog in the morning, when the collision occurred, but not sufficient to warrant the use of the fog signals. That the porter was not to blame. That driver Corich was guilty of an error of judgment in not slowing down early enough to avoid passing the danger signal. That railway facilities at New Lynn are sufficient to carry out the work with safety. The committee recommends that Porter Mortimer be exonerated; that driver Corich, owing to his youth, and not being of ripe experience, be retained in the service at lower capacity for a time.

Thames Star 24 October 1913


  1. It is never managements fault. Yet the porter was not to blame, the driver dealt with gently because of his lack of experience and the facilities are all adequate.

  2. Yep. Just one of those things. Mind you, they did try to keep things hush-hush ...

  3. So, government whitewashs are not new...! Gee, what a surprise. LOL

  4. Amazing I was just reading about this crash down at Olympic Park the other day.
    Thank you once again for an informative post :)

  5. Ah, I'm glad they went with that idea, then! I had an email from Jan Ramp on 19 February last year where she said "I am working on an interpretation panel about the old railway bridge across the Avondale Stream at Olympic Park, I have been involved with the park for a few years now, I created the general interpretation panel, the maps and the 'crossroads' viewing deck near Wolverton Street." I suggested the 1913 train collision, she didn't know about it -- and now it's out there! Good stuff.