At 1.45 pm on 4 June 1943, the Cromwell to Dunedin express came off the rails at Hyde, in Central Otago. As a result of the accident, 21 people died and 47 were injured.
The Cromwell to Dunedin express on 4 June 1943 was made up of seven carriages and carried 113 passengers, many of them heading for the Winter Show in Dunedin.
The train was travelling at a speed faster than it was supposed to. Just before the accident, passengers were being thrown about by the swaying of the train, and luggage and parcels were falling from the overhead racks. At 1:45 pm the train failed to take a bend in a deep cutting and came off the rails.
In the impact all seven carriages were derailed and four of them piled into each other, reducing the train to wreckage. Some passengers were thrown out of the train, but many were trapped in the carriages.
A farmer who saw the crash ran to telephone for help. His son was one of the passengers killed on board the train. It took one and a half hours for the rescue party to arrive. In the meantime the passengers from the carriages at the back of the train did what they could to help the injured passengers. Some of the injured were trapped in the wreckage for over six hours.
How many died?
21 people died and 47 were injured.
Other events and outcomes
A commission of inquiry discovered that at the time of the derailment the express was travelling at over 70 kilometres an hour, more than twice the speed it should have been moving when it came to the bend.
The commission found that the driver was responsible for the derailment of the train because of his dangerous speed and reckless driving. He had drunk so much alcohol that his driving ability and judgement were affected. The driver was charged and found guilty of manslaughter.
More information and sources
- On the track: Tangiwai and other railway accidents, Geoff Conly, Wellington, 1991
- Listen to an interview with survivor, Jack Wilson from Te Ara
- Rail tragedy at Hyde from NZHistory.net