The Wiluna Crossing Smash

James Farrell Read Age 18 who was killed in a train collision at Wiluna in 1936.

Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950), Thursday 2 April 1936, page 4


WILUNA GROSSING SMASH
TWO KILLED AND FIVE INJURED TAXI SMASHES INTO RAIL TANK

The already long  list of level crossing fatalities was added to yet again last night, when two persons were killed and five others injured when an engine, preceded by a water tank, collided with a taxi car at the Red Hill level crossing about a mile from Wiluna Mines. The victims were : —

Albert Pethon WESTGARTH  (61), underground mine worker- fractured skull, and multiple injuries (died on the way to hospital) , James Farrell READ (18), miner, fractured skull, head and body injuries (died this morning). Injured:-  Saul WARNE (67) mine carpenter, dislocated hip and shock, Salvatore LOCICERO  (38), taxi owner, body injuries and shock ; Michael Gibbon BEAUMONT (26), draftsman, probable fracture of the base of the skull and shock,  Ethel MCKAY, domestic, broken leg, fingers, ribs, and shock,  Cecil Percy PORT, guard, abrasions and shock who was riding on the tender, he was struck by coal, and was thrown 20 feet on to the road.

The Engine crew escaped with a severe shaking.  An engine and a water tank were returning last night at about 8.30 o’clock after taking oil tankers and material to Wiluna Mines. When passing over Red Hill crossing, about a mile from the mine, the water tank, which was in front of the engine, struck a taxi driven by Salvatoire LOCICERO and carrying five  passengers.
The impact was terrific, the car being thrown down almost parallel with the engine on the western side of the embankment and being smashed to pieces. The tank left the rails, turning round and resting practically overturned on the same side, badly damaged. The tender left the rails on the opposite side. The occupants were seriously injured. The Wiluna Mines ambulance was summoned immediately and removed the worst cases to hospital. So far no definite information as to the cause of the smash has been obtained.
The railroad between the mines and the station runs in a slightly north-west direction towards the town. Visibility both ways was good, there being no obstructions to prevent road traffic from detecting the approach of trains for some distance. The country is practically level, but owing to heavy traffic and dry weather, the dust was extremely thick. The turning of the road at this crossing is said to be regarded by motorists as difficult.

Doctor Alfred Johnston and the police were quickly on the scene and all did much worthy work to assist the sufferers.

The following information was supplied by a relative of James Farrell READ – Rosemary BAIRD ,thanks also go to Rosemary and her family for the photographs in this article.

James was the second eldest son of Charlotte and Mark (dec) Read of Northampton.  James’s second name was in memory of his mother’s brother, James Farrell who was killed in 1917 on the Western Front during WW1.   Then in 1928 at the age of 10, James’s father died.

James was an excellent scholar but unfortunately the family could not afford for him to stay in the education system.   With the onset of the depression in 1929, times were hard.  More than 21% of Australians were unemployed in the mid 30’s and at times much higher.  Desperate to find work and contribute to the families income, James had travelled from Claremont near Perth to find work.

He finally found employment at the Wiluna Gold Mine, and according to his mother, was happy to be working.  Around 9:00pm on the 31st of March 1936 he was in a taxi with 4 other passengers heading to work. Unfortunately the taxi he was travelling collided with a reversing train.

James was severely injured and died the following day in hospital.  He was only 18 and buried in the Wiluna cemetery.  Unfortunately his mother wasn’t aware of his death for several weeks due to errors in the paper.   The report had him as much older than his 18 years and his second name was incorrect.  She sensed something was wrong as she hadn’t heard from him, he normally wrote several times a week.  In an effort to find him, she asked the Mother Superior at Northampton if she had heard anything.  Eventually word came that James had been killed.

The Taxi driver, Salvatoire LOCICERO , was committed to Perth court on June 2 next on a charge of manslaughter. Bail was fixed at a personal bond of £200 and two sureties of £100 each. It is not known the outcome of the trial but it is believed he was acquitted as two years later he applied for Australian Nationality.

 

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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Comments

  1. James Parker says:

    Hey Moya, an interesting story about the railways in Wiluna. While stationed there 96-98 I remember one day chatting to old timer Fred Quaddrio. He told me that the last train pulled out of Wiluna in 1957? The locals didn’t want the train to be taken away and the night before the last train was due to leave, some went out and greased the tracks. At that time there was a slight hill out of Wiluna and the greasing of the tracks made it very difficult for the train to climb it. The locals stood by watching, hoping the train wouldn’t get over the hill but we’re all disappointed when after a bit of effort it did and left Wiluna for good.

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