Ongarue Railway Accident 6 July 1923, notes from published reports, compiled by Les G. Dyne.
On Friday 6 July 1923 the journey of two hundred passengers aboard the overnight Auckland – Wellington express, Train no. 221, ended abruptly when it derailed near Ongarue, 160 miles (257.5 km) south of Auckland and 14 miles (23km) north of Taumarunui. With seventeen deaths and twenty-eight others seriously injured, the derailment was at that time the worst accident to befall New Zealand Railways.
Whilst a few paragraphs could cover the story, this would not do justice to the number of people involved, or to the dramatic impact the accident had on many lives. Many of those involved are named in the book.
About two hundred rescuers from Ongarue, Taumarunui, Te Kuiti, Auckland and Wellington dealt with the aftermath, among them doctors, nurses, railway workers, and dozens of local residents who provided care and support for the injured and uninjured passengers. With the involvement of family members, friends, and associates the number of people directly affected by the accident would be in the thousands.
All these people had a story to tell. The stories in this book have been collated from newspaper reports, and witness statements presented to the Official Board of Inquiry. All reflect the pain, anxiety and relief that followed the accident.
Also included are snippets of social history and details of the Tyer’s Electric Train Tablet rail safety system developed to ensure the safety of railway travellers and staff.
This book is an acknowledgement to all those involved in the rescue effort, and to the railway staff who cleared the wreckage and re-laid the track to ensure the swift resumption of train services, something they could all be proud of.