On Wednesday, April 15, 1896, Dannevirke locals woke up to a beautiful, calm autumnal morning - the dawning of the much anticipated annual Caledonian Sports gathering.
With great excitement, families and spectators dressed in their Sunday-best and laden with picnic baskets, arrived at the recreation ground to watch track and field events, quoits, Highland dancing, and pipe band performers.
Competition between adversaries proved fierce, each contestant vying for first place. Cheers and clapping erupted around the venue at the end of an event, when prizes were ceremoniously presented to the winner.
This, combined with the resonating pipe band music, made the scene reverberate with sound.
The games finished at 5pm and passengers heading north by train, trudged wearily to the Dannevirke Station where "the best locomotive on the Napier section", a "J" engine stood waiting.
The "J" engine was the first locomotive in New Zealand to have a tender (a vehicle which contained coal or wood and water). The tender, which hooked directly behind the engine, was necessary to keep it going over long distances.
This particular "J" locomotive had recently been refurbished in Wellington and fitted with a new boiler, thereby making it Napier's most up-to-date engine.
Earlier that day, the Dannevirke stationmaster complained to Napier officials that his railway yard was congested with wagons and requested that six empty cattle trucks be hitched between the engine and passenger carriages.
Instead of leaving for Napier at the scheduled time of 2.50pm, the train delayed its run until 5.30pm, to accommodate passengers who had attended the sports meeting. When the stationmaster blew his whistle indicating boarding time, about 50 people clamoured into the empty passenger carriages.
On the journey towards Napier there were three passenger stops: Matamau, Ormondville and Hastings stations.
As the engine gathered speed, the passengers settled down to enjoy the journey home. Just south of Matamau, the highest station above sea level on the Hawke's Bay line, a cattle beast suddenly darted across the track.
Jerry Flynn, the engine driver, had no time to slam on the brakes and collided with the animal. Within minutes, two other cattle followed, both connecting with the front of the engine and it was this second collision that caused the engine to topple over, overturning about 12 feet (almost 4m) onto a siding below. All three animals were instantly killed.
Luckily, Flynn and fireman Mr Hood did not fall from the engine onto the siding, as if they had, both would have been crushed to death. Instead they suffered minor cuts and bruising from being flung about the cab and were smothered in coal which fell from the bin.
The six empty cattle trucks were smashed to smithereens by the force of the collision, but unquestionably they averted a major catastrophe. If these cattle trucks had not been directly behind the engine, it would have been the passenger carriages that were destroyed, potentially causing loss of lives. To a lesser degree, the passengers felt the force of the collision and took the first opportunity to leap from the train, sustaining a few injuries.
Once the accident became known, a relief railway gang was dispatched from Makotuku to the scene with instructions to remove debris from the line and if possible put the engine back on the rails.
A locomotive, which had left Napier at 1.35pm that day for Dannevirke, was ordered to travel directly to the accident, by-passing any stations, and transport the passengers to Napier.
Once at the scene, the engine could not turn around so had to travel in reverse as far as Waipukurau, making progress very slow. Fortunately at Waipukurau Station, a turntable was available and the engine was about-faced, enabling the train to accelerate in pace towards its destination. The rescue train, along with its frightened passengers, finally arrived at Napier Station at 2.15am on the Thursday.
The following day, a steam locomotive with crane attached, was taken to the location. Thick chain was looped around the 40-ton engine and the crane slowly lifted it back onto the rails.
Eager spectators, including several children were present to watch progress, along with Southern Hawke's Bay photographer Charles Mariboe, who took the image at top.
• Gail Pope is social history curator at the MTG.