Railway Disaster Inquest 1900

From: The Weekly Times, Melbourne, Vic 1869-1954, Saturday 13 January 1900, page 26


The adjourned inquest on William John Langley, Benjamin Burston, and Blanche Hoskins, who were killed in the New Year’s Day railway disaster, was resumed on Monday, before Mr Dwver. P.M.. and a jury of seven.

The Coroner, in summing up, said that it was clear that the engine driver had given two whistles, which were heard by the drivers of other vehicles. It seemed clear that the responsibility of the accident rested upon James Brown, the driver of the vehicle. He apparently was lost in thought and heeded nothing. It was for the jury to seriously consider whether he was guilty of manslaughter.

After an adjournment of an hour and a half, the jury brought in a verdict that the deceased met with an accident by a collision between the cab and the train, and that the driver of the vehicle was guilty of negligence, but not wilful negligence; that the railway department contributed to the collision by not having the belt of timber at the approach to the crossing removed; and that they (the jury) were of opinion that the whistle, when approaching the crossing, should have been of much longer duration. The Coroner said that the verdict regarding James Brown was ambiguous. The jury, after a consultation, said they did not find him guilty of manslaughter.

*Please note Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

The plaque below was erected in memory of those who died in the New Years Day railway accident.

The marble tablet below, was erected by teachers, scholars and friends of St Paul`s Sunday School in memory Blanche Lois Hoskins, John Langley and Benjamin Burston who died from injuries received in the New Years Day train accident.

Plaque 2 : 22-April-2015

From: The Argus (Melbourne) 20 June 1900

A large congregation assembled at St Paul’s Church on Tuesday night, when Archdeacon MacCullagh unveiled a tablet in memory of Blanche Lois Hoskins, Benjamin Burston, and John Langley, the victims of the New Year’s Day railway fatality. Archdeacon MacCullagh referred at some length to the circumstances surrounding the calamity in terms of regret and sorrow, and a special service was held in connection with the ceremony. 
The Argus (Melbourne), 20 June 1900.

THE AXEDALE DISASTER. (1900, January 13). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), p. 26. Retrieved March 24, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article222521897

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Disaster: New Years Day Excursion to Axedale Station 1900

From: The Adelaide Observer (S.A. 1843-1904) Saturday 6 January 1900, page 33

MELBOURNE, January 1.

A shocking railway fatality occurred this morning at a point about four miles distant from Bendigo. A vehicle containing a picnic party of eleven persons, of ages ranging from sixteen to twenty years, and driven by a careful driver named James Brown, was crossing the railway line when it was run down by a special train conveying children of the Bendigo Congregations. Sunday School, to the picnicking ground.

The driver, James Brown, states that when crossing the Heathcote line he suddenly heard a whistle, and saw a train, within twenty yards of him. Then came an impact, and he was thrown to the ground. The horses were carried along the line, while the vehicle slowed right round. A boy and a girl in front of the vehicle were injured, but several inside were much hurt.

Dr. Bassett, who was in the train, attended to the injured, who were sent back in the train to Bendigo, and thence conveyed to the hospital.

John Langley was crushed about the head and chest, and has since expired. Benjamin Burston, son of the head teacher at Gravel Hill, has had has arm amputated at the elbow, and is very weak and in a low state from the shock. Blanche Hoskins, a daughter of C. R. Hoskins, is suffering from concussion of the brain, and is in a low condition. Maurice Fogarty has a severe wound in the face. Fred Wickeby has his left arm broken, but has been able to leave the hospital.

The excursion train, after returning to Bendigo, started again for Axedale Racecourse. There is a cattle pit at the crossing where the collision occurred.

The injuries to Miss Hoskins were found to consist of a compound depressed fracture in the top of the skull and concussion of the brain. There are strong hopes, however, that the young lady will recover. Young Benjamin Burston’s injuries are terrible, and it is feared that he will succumb., He had a compound fracture of the right elbow joint, and the lower arm was practically torn off. He has suffered much from hemorrhage, and the shock was so terrible that although the arm has been amputated above the elbow, the patient’s recovery is very doubtful. H. Fogarty suffers from shock and cuts about the face, and is still unconscious, but the case is not considered to be dangerous.

Besides those already named there were several other occupants of the cab, who were only slightly injured, and who went to their homes. By the time the train, with the injured people, arrived at Bendigo Station, ambulances had been thoughtfully provided by the Stationmaster, and Drs. Gaffney and Murphy were in attendance, but the patients were quickly conveyed to the hospital, where Drs. Long and Patnam had everything in readiness to receive them.

At a late hour to-night news was received from Bendigo that Benjamin Burston, who was terribly injured in the railway accident this morning, had succumbed to his injuries. Miss Blanche Hoskins is in a critical condition. The doctors performed the operation of trephining the skull, and found there had been laceration of the brain. Wickeby, who had his left arm broken. is otherwise unhurt. Fogarty’s lower jaw has been found to have been badly fractured.

The vehicle was smashed, and both horses were killed. One of the horses was killed instantly, while the other was carried along for 20 or 30 yards, and reeived injuries from which it died very shortly afterwards.

The scene .that followed was appalling, the occupants of the vehicle having been thrown about in all directions. Instinctively those who were not hurt got out of the road, only to find a large proportion of their comrades unable to do so.

MELBOURNE, January 2.

Miss Blanche Hoskins, who was seriously injured in the railway, accident near Bendigo yesterday, died today, making the third death. The other sufferers are progressing favourably.

An inquest on the bodies of John Langley and Benjamin Burston was opened this morning at Bendigo, The bodies were identified, and a visit of inspection was paid to the scene of the accident. Langley was eighteen years of age, and the son of a well known grocer. Burston, aged eighteen; was a jeweller by trade. Miss Hoskins, aged eighteen, was the daughter of an ex-Mayor of Bendigo.

*Please note Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

“RAILWAY DISASTER IN VICTORIA.” Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 – 1904) 6 January 1900: 33. Web. 24 Mar 2021 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162415889&gt;.

The Proposed Heathcote Railway

from: The Bendigo Advertiser, Tuesday 06 September 1881, page 3


A public meeting was held at Mr. P. Drake’s Hotel, Axedale, last evening, in connection with the proposed railway from Sandhurst to Seymour, via Axedale, Heathcote, and Costerfield. There were about thirty persons present the president of the Strathfieldsaye Shire Council, Mr A. Bruhn, occupying the chair.

Mr W, S. Cahill, by whom the meeting was convened, explained its objects. he said that the Sandhurst people had taken the matter up very warmly, and they should therefore co-operate with them in endeavoring to obtain a railway through the district. The advantages that would accrue to the district by the construction of a line would be very great.

The Chairman thought they should move heart and soul to have a railway constructed from Sandhurst to Heathcote. Sandhurst would be greatly benefited by the line, not alone on account of Heathcote being a mining district with which it was closely connected, but on account of the farmers situated between the Campaspe and the Goulburn, who would make Sandhurst a head centre. (Hear, hear.)

The railway would complete a link between the Murray line and the North-Eastern line, and passengers would have easier access to Sydney by that means, instead of going round by way of Melbourne. Axedale, as a grain producing district, and a district famed for its dairy produce, would reap considerable benefit from the railway, which would tend to its advancement in many ways. He, therefore, trusted that that they would give the matter favourable consideration.

Mr T. Craike thought the first step they should take should be to form themselves into a branch league. The leading citizens of Sandhurst had taken a very active part in the movement which had called them together that evening. They were all aware of the advantages which would accrue by the construction of the line, which would strike off near Sandhurst and pass on to Heathcote through Axedale.

Mr Ingham, a gentleman with whom they were all acquainted, but who was now in England, had told them that if a railway was constructed to Sandhurst, he could compete with the Melbourne trade, for the supply of bluestone, for building, channelling, and other purposes to all parts of the colony. In bluestone alone there would be an immense traffic on the line.

From Axedale to Heathcote there was a large tract of fertile country, and near Heathcote there were quarries of limestone and marble. These quarries had remained unworked, owing to the cost of carriage to Sandhurst. The marble quarries would form an extensive industry, which could only be developed by means of railway communication. The timber which could be supplied by means of a railway to Sandhurst for mining and building purposes could not be equalled in the colony. It had become a difficult matter in Sandhurst of late to procure suitable timber for mining, which had taken immense strides.

It was, therefore, necessary that good timber should be supplied at cheap rates, and the proposed railway would prove very useful in this respect. As Sandhurst progressed, the country districts progressed likewise, and a great deal of the success of the country people depended on the success of Sandhurst. (Applause.) He concluded by moving “That this meeting form themselves into a branch league, for the purpose of cooperating with the central league in Sandhurst, in their endeavor to further railway extension to Heathcote and Seymour.”

Mr. J. D. Bywater, member of the Mclvor Shire Council, seconded the motion. He referred to the resources of the district that would be opened up by the railway, and instanced the large amount of traffic that would take place in firewood, bluestone, sawn timber, grain, dairy produce, etc. He said the bluestone of the Campaspe exceeded anything that could be obtained in the colony. In connection with sawn timber there were two sawmills situated in the parish of Knowsley West, and one in the parish of Crosby. Each of these mills, when at work sent about 8,000 superficial feet of timber to the Sandhurst market for mining purposes.

The farm produce of the parishes of Axedale, Weston, Muskerry, Knowsley West, Knowsley East, and Crosby would all be sent to the Sandhurst market by means of the railway. From a calculation he had made, he found that in the parishes he had mentioned there were about 8,600 acres under cultivation.

As the proprietor of a threshing machine, he had had a good chance of knowing the acreage of grain producing land of the district. Milk was produced in large quantities in Axedale and forwarded to Sandhurst, much labor and expense being at present entailed in the carriage, which a railway would obviate. He was of opinion that the Government would be acting wisely by constructing the line, as there would not be a more payable line in the colony. (Applause.)

The motion was then put to the meeting and carried unanimously.

Mr Stephen Burke was appointed secretary to the league. .

The following committee was elected tor the purpose of acting in conjunction with the Sandhurst league: Messrs. J.D.. Bywater, T. Strachan, T. O’Rourke, T. Craike, W. S. Cahill, A. Bruhn, M. Burns, J. White, T. Donnellan, .J. Burke, S Burke, D. Mill, and J. Martin, with power to add to their number.

Mr Craike explained to the meeting the action taken by the Sandhurst league, and suggested that a delegate should be appointed to represent the Axedale branch league, on the occasion of the deputation from Sandhurst, waiting on the Minister of Railways.

Mr Bywater said it was the intention of the Mclvor Council to interview Mr Bent, on Wednesday week, provided he could make it convenient to receive them on that day. They proposed to ask for a railway to Heathcote, to be included in the next schedule, but they did not bind themselves to any of the proposed routes. He understood that deputations from Costerfield, Tooborac, and other places, intended interviewing the Minister of Railways on Friday next.

In answer to a question, Mr Bywater said the Mclvor Council were in favor of having a survey made from Lancefield to Heathcote, as promised by Mr Patterson when Minister of Railways.

Mr Cahill read a letter from Mr Crooke, secretary of the Heathcote and Broadford Railway League, in which it was stated that. a deputation was to wait on Mr Bent next Friday at 1.30, and advocate a line from Sandhurst via Heathcote and Costerfield to Seymour.

Mr Bywater was appointed to represent the Axedale league on the deputation from Sandhurst.

The meeting then closed with a vote of thanks to the chairman.

*Please note Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

THE PROPOSED HEATHCOTE RAILWAY. (1881, September 6). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved August 13, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88617963


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