Hyde Railway Disaster Memorial
Here on a fresh winter’s afternoon in 1943 a drunken or fatigued train driver took a 30mph curve at 70 mph, and twenty one New Zealanders lost their lives, and 47 more of the total 113 on board were injured.
The location of this disaster was then named Straw Cutting and it was the first steep curve after the station at Hyde, visited regularly by the Cromwell to Dunedin daily service. Many of those on the train were bound for the Dunedin winter show but did not make it.
Descriptions of the carnage are graphic and photographs of the scene more so. The engine AB782, came to rest in the cutting, one carriage resting ahead of it, the rest jammed together concertina style, victims inevitably, everywhere. A particularly tragic story is that the landowner upon whose farm this took place, had just put his son upon the train at Hyde, only to be faced with his dead body in the paddock minutes later.
It was actually not until 1991 that the modest cairn, a classic Otago style memorial, was erected here, complete with the names of the deceased and a description of the incident. The story of those who fought for the memorial is captured in a book.
Easily accessed by the Otago Rail Trail, now a popular cycleway, the memorial deserves a moment, because this story has become somewhat lost in New Zealand’s history, as it was wartime and tales of devastation from Europe were top of the news.
Image (1) Credit: Derek Smith and Maclean Barker Photographers