21.8 C
Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Unable to save their friend from the wreckage, these mates did what they could

It’s a September night time in 1971, and a gaggle of males are sitting close to a dry creek mattress taking part in playing cards by lamp mild.

Beside them is the wreckage of a locomotive, upturned and lined in the sugar cane bins it was hauling when it derailed from the bridge above.

As the three mates performed poker, one factor was on all of their minds.

It was a sombre night time he would keep in mind for many years to come.

The accident

On September 16, 50 years in the past, a cane practice derailed off a small bridge in Finch Hatton, west of Mackay in North Queensland.

Those who keep in mind the occasion say it took about 5 hours to free the injured driver from the wreckage.

It took even longer to retrieve Garth Mathieson, the driver’s assistant – or “fireman” – who died at the scene.

an old photo showing cane bins on top of a train underneath a small bridge
The locomotive was discovered upturned in a dry creek mattress, buried beneath the full cane bins it was hauling. (

Supplied: Frank Delaney


Former loco driver Mr Delaney remembers preparing for the afternoon shift hauling cane on the identical line when he heard the news.

“My brother-in-law was going past with the crane … he pulled in and said there’s been an accident at Faux’s Bridge,” he mentioned.

“I jumped on my [motor]bike and headed straight out there.”

Mr Mathieson’s friend and roommate in the mill barracks, Glen Steinberg, additionally rushed to the web site from the Finch Hatton Hotel.

“[We] soon realised it was a serious one — it was pretty traumatic,” Mr Steinberg mentioned.

a polaroid picture shows two men embracing
Glen Steinberg (left) and Garth Mathieson (proper) had been good mates. (

Supplied: Frank Delaney


A crowd had gathered at the web site, however as laborious as they tried they could not retrieve Mr Mathieson’s physique.

“It was beyond our capabilities just working with hand tools,” Mr Steinberg mentioned. 

So later that night time, Mr Delaney, Mr Steinberg and one other friend returned to the web site and did what they felt they could. 

“We had one of those card tables and a hurricane lamp, and we played cards right through until about five in the morning,” Mr Delaney mentioned. 

a black and white picture of a locomotive smashed up after an accident
It took days to up-turn the locomotive, which derailed off Faux’s Bridge in Finch Hatton.(

Supplied: Frank Delaney


“It was a mates factor, I suppose you’d name it — one thing you’d do on your mates.”

Mr Delaney remembers authorities being able to retrieve Mr Mathieson’s body the next day, and in the coming days the loco was upturned and removed from the site.

A fateful day

Mr Delaney lost a good friend who he said was an “wonderful younger bloke”.

But having regularly driven trains across the same bridge himself, the accident has stuck with him for another reason as well.

“Prior to the accident, Garth was with me as a fireman on the loco and we might been on that run,” Mr Delaney said.

“Little did we learn about the occasions it was main up to.”

a railway track running over a small creek
Faux’s Bridge runs via non-public property in Finch Hatton, west of Mackay. (

ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons


Days before the accident, the rosters were changed up and Garth was put on with a different driver on the same run he’d been doing with Mr Delaney.

“Apparently what had occurred was a rail on the bridge had a free joint,” he said. 

“Every time the loco went over the rail it could rub up and down … finally when the time got here it simply snapped.

two men sit on a yellow and green loco
Loco driver Frank Delaney (left) mentioned it was a enjoyable job.(

Supplied: Frank Delaney


A long-lasting affect

Former loco driver Mr Steinberg stopped working in the sugar business after that season. 

“It did have a big impact, it still has an impact,” he mentioned.

“It was a close-knit group — we labored collectively, performed collectively and had good instances collectively.

An old newsletter announces a loco crash which killed Garth Mathieson and injured driver Alan Bazley
Frank Delaney saved this excerpt from the Canegrower’s e-newsletter in 1971.(

Supplied: Frank Delaney


“For one in every of us to go so younger, and in such tragic circumstances, it was very very laborious to deal with.

“[Garth] had a life in front of him, he was a very easygoing young man who made friends easily.”

a man has a photo album out, looking at the camera, in his dining room
The accident has had a long-lasting affect on Frank Delaney and people concerned. (

ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons


Finch Hatton is a small city, and the incident devastated the sugar business group.

Mr Delaney stayed in the space and in the sugar business, together with work inspecting bridges. 

“One of the things I always took notice of was the rails on the bridge,” he mentioned.

#Note-Author Name – Angel Parsons

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles