Miniature train derails, injuring children

By PATRICK O'SULLIVAN

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A train carrying children derailed as it left a bridge today in Havelock North, putting seven people aged 3 to 60 in hospital.

The Keirunga Park Railway steam locomotive tipped onto its side as it left a bridge at  12.20pm. A wooden safety

barrier prevented the skidding engine from sliding down a 10m bank.

Passenger cars were left tilting. Seven of the 12 passengers were taken to  Hawke's Bay Hospital, Hastings, with minor injuries. A 60-year-old man remains in a stable condition and the others have been discharged.

Members of the Keirunga Park Railway Club came rushing to the scene as screaming toddlers were escorted off

the bridge by injured adults.

Club president Brian Murphy said the decision to right the steam train was made to avoid the ''remote possibility of the boiler exploding'',  by using ''brute force and big steel bars''.

The injured were taken to the train station about 50m away where they were assessed by St John Ambulance Service medics. Badly limping parents were taken to hospital carrying crying children in their arms.

Mr Murphy said the day's constant drizzle had worsened at the time of the crash.

''We were just making the decision on whether or not to keep running.''

The accident was nobody's fault, he said.

''It just sledged on the track.''

It is believed the driver had braked at the bend by putting the engine into reverse. He was was sitting on the first coal carriage and pulling four open passenger carriages.

Mr Murphy said he did not know if parents were holding children at the time.

''We normally have a practice that everyone sits on seats.''

Four trains can operate on the track at any one time, he said.

''They are spaced by automatic signal lights that govern how far apart they are.''

He said the club had more than a dozen locomotives, many transported to the grounds  in custom-made trailers.

Labour Weekend was an open weekend, with visiting trains arriving from throughout the North

Island.

Mr Murphy said it was the first incident with injury in the club's 30-year history.

But it is not the first derailment. Last year a train ran into the rear of another that had tipped over while stationary, because of passengers leaning out.

While the scenic ride is a Hawke's Bay family institution, with rides just $1 each, it also attracts train enthusiasts from throughout the world.

Mark Agar was visiting Keirunga Gardens from Melbourne at the time of the accident. He said there was no possibility of

the locomotive exploding.

''There's nothing that can happen - the safety valves could have blown but it didn't get that far,'' he said.

''I've been building trains for 12 years and studying them for 12. They are all built to code - they are over-egineered.''

The 846m track has four viaducts plus three tunnels and bridges as it snakes through the wooded park.

The park is owned by Hastings District Council and part of it is leased to the railway club.

Rides are suspended, with the damaged locomotive sitting on the tracks surrounded by broken-off pieces, pending a Department of Labour investigation.

 

- Hawkes Bay Today

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