24 February 2023

Riverina Rewind: The time a Morris Minor took on the Albury mail train

| Chris Roe
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Car on railway line

A Wagga motorist came off second best in his close encounter with the Albury mail. Photo: Chris Roe.

Today we take you back to 1944 and a miraculous escape for a Wagga motorist who tried his luck against the Albury mail train.

One of the tricky things about trains is how difficult they are to stop.

The history of Australia’s railways is littered with tales of animals, people and vehicles coming off second best in their encounter with a locomotive.

The year before our story, in 1943, Australia’s worst road-rail crash occurred at Wodonga when a busload of soldiers collided with a steam locomotive resulting in the deaths of 25 people.

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With such a tragedy fresh on Australians’ minds, you would have thought that drivers would have taken extra care at level crossings but this was not the case when 39-year-old insurance traveller, John Henry Tier from Tarcutta Street, Wagga got behind the wheel on a Tuesday morning in March.

Before the Pearson Street bridge was built, cars traversed the railway line at a level crossing on Urana Road (Street) near the old Wagga trucking yards.

As Mr Pearson made his way towards Turvey Park in his Morris Minor, his view of the railway was obscured by 18 stationary stock carriages, but since the gates were open, he presumed he was in the clear.

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It was not until he was on the crossing that he realised his mistake and saw the Albury mail just metres away, bearing down on him at more than 60 miles per hour.

Knowing it was too late to stop he hit the accelerator and attempted to cut across the line at an angle.

He was almost clear when the locomotive clipped the rear of his car – the mudguard was sent hurtling 21 yards away, the back seat was torn out and three windows were smashed.

The engineer hit the brakes and the train squealed to a halt 400 yards away.

Miraculously, the insurance man escaped without a scratch; his poor Morris Minor, however, was a write-off.

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