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Sunshine Station Train Disaster

The Sunshine rail disaster occurred on the 20th April 1908 at the junction of the Sunshine Railway Station when a Melbourne bound train from Bendigo collided with the rear of a train from Ballarat.


44 people were killed and over 400 injured, almost all of them from the Ballarat train, as the Bendigo train was cushioned by it's two locomotives.


The passenger listed as being killed in the accident and living in Sunshine was Mr Albert Ellingsen (H.V. McKay Employee). Those listed as being injured and living in Sunshine included Mrs G. Bult, Mr W. Cleary, Mr Oscar S. Kierulf, Miss Alice Lynch, Miss Ethel Charlotte Lynch, Mr G. Page, Mrs Page, Miss Kate Page, Miss L. Page and Mr Robert Page.


Three people killed and working for H.V. McKay but living outside the district were Mr John Thompson Brown (Ballarat East), Mr Leslie Russell Gates (Footscray), Mr Joseph Richard Gates (Footscray) and Mr James Victor Pascoe (Footscray).  There was also another 10 people listed as being injured and working for H.V McKays. They were Mr Frank Barton (Footscray), Mr Robert Button (North Melbourne), Mr John Garson (Ballarat),Mt George Henry Lampier (Footscray), Mr Percy Oxlade (Footscray), Mr William Reynolds (Footscray), Mr William Richards (Footscray), Mr Ernest Smith (Footscray) and Mr John Varty (Footscray).

There was only one sole witness to the accident, Mr Robert Perriman, an employee of Parsons & Lewis. He had been waiting at the station platform and was knocked off his feet and momentarily stunned. He soon recovered to help the others who had arrived to help at the accident.


Another Parsons & Lewis employee, Michael "Mick" Edward Laffan also helped at the accident and unfortunately found the bodies of his two young sisters.

A plaque has been placed at the station at the exact place where the accident happened.

This accident remained as Australia's worst train accident until the Granville, NSW Disaster where 84 people were killed.

The Society's Tom Rigg has written a book "Sunshine Railway Disaster 1908" detailing all the events before, during and after the accident.

Full list of those "Killed".

Full list of those "Injured".

List of some of those "Involved" in the accident.


The following is one of the poems written to commemorate the tragedy.

He was driving a Bendigo engine.

The train was running all right,

It was going along as usual,

Till Sunshine came into sight,

He put on the brakes and he whistled,

For the signal was against the train,

But alas! It was all in vain.


If those trains had only ran,

As they should, their proper time,

There wouldn't have been a disaster,

At a place they call Sunshine,

If those brakes had only held,

As they did only a few hours before,

There wouldn't have been a disaster,

And a death-roll of forty-four.

The doctor and nurses arrived there,

And the sight it caused them pain,

To see all the wounded and dying,

In the wreck of that faithful train,

The people of Sunshine ne'er faltered,

But assisted with all their power,

To help the doctors and nurses,

In that awful painful hour.


Sunshine Railway Station Plaque Unveiling (Sun Adv 515.2) 1998 Photo 01.JPG

In 1998, a memorial service was held at the station and a memorial plaque was unveiled on the city bound platform.



Ref: Harvester Town, The Making of Sunshine 1890 - 1925 by Olwen Ford

Ref: Sunshine Railway Disaster 1909 By Tom Rigg

Photos: Melchior Bajada

Photos: S&HDS

Sunshine Railway Station Plaque Unveiling (Sun Adv 515.2) 1998 Photo 02.JPG
Sunshine Station Train Disaster Memorial
Sunshine Railway Station Disaster Memorial Service 20th April 1998 Photo 01.jpg
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