Just over 100 years ago, a large contingent of railwaymen gathered at Goulburn Lawn Cemetery to farewell two of their number, tragically killed on duty.
The widows of local men Lancelot Jacob Hermmann and Albert Edward Taylor were there too, mourning the loss of much-loved husbands and fathers. Each had two young children when they died in a "freak" rail accident near Binalong on the evening of Saturday, September 25, 1920. The men were aged 29 and 32 respectively.
A century later, rail historians and enthusiasts have supplemented the men's now faded headstones with bronze plaques.
Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre (GRHC) member David Stevenson said it was only fitting for a "long forgotten" tragedy, the likes of which had never happened again.
After taking a strong interest in the story, published by rail historians Stephen Halgren and Ken Groves in 'Byways' in 2003, Mr Stevenson kicked off a collection for the plaques among GRHC members.
Several delays prevented their placement on the centenary of the men's death but the occasion proceeded on Tuesday. A group of nine gathered in a quiet corner of Goulburn Lawn Cemetery's Presbyterian section for the dedication.
Around the graves they had placed a fireman's lamp, a timesheet of the day, fob watch, sweat rag and soap, a shovel and driver's tuckerbox.
GRHC president Dale Wake said the men had died in "terrible circumstances." Two of the three men on board had been run over by their own goods train after a wagon broke away from the loco near Binalong. It had set off from Goulburn at 1.30pm that Saturday, bound for Harden.
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As Mr Halgren and Mr Groves revealed, both the driver, Herrmann and fireman, Taylor had made several makeshift repairs to the coupling between the loco and its tender. The tender is coupled to a steam locomotive and carries the water and coal supply.
But after leaving Binalong at 8.05pm, it finally failed. Guard Samuel Derbyshire noticed a drop in air pressure in his van and assumed "a breakaway had occurred somewhere on the train." He applied the handbrake to his van, and on going to inspect, found Taylor's body. He had apparently fallen and been run over by the train.
Herrmann was found "in a sitting position beside the line, some 25 yards back from the fireman."
"On checking him he noticed a badly injured arm and an obviously broken neck and believed him to be still alive," Halgren and Groves wrote in their 2003 article.
But he soon died, despite Derbyshire walking "in a state of shock" two miles to Binalong to enlist medical help.
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Meantime, the parted tender rolled on to Galong where a crew slowed it and applied the handbrake.
The Goulburn Evening Penny Post reported that the men's bodies were firstly taken to Binalong and later, Goulburn.
"The two processions joined at Goldsmith Street and the bodies were interred in adjoining graves in the Presbyterian portion of the general cemetery," the article stated.
"There was a big muster of railwaymen at the sad ceremony. Both men were held in great respect and were warmly esteemed by their comrades for their fine qualities. The news of the terrible accident shocked the whole community."
Herrmann's two children were under six, while Taylor's were aged about seven and five.
Mr Stevenson and researchers could not locate any descendants. They gained special council permission to place the plaques. Mr Stevenson also thanked council staff, including the Goulburn Library's Madeleine Young, for their assistance.
Mr Halgren, of Sydney, and Mr Groves scoured coronial inquest papers and other primary sources to again bring the story to light.
"Finding the graves was a plus," Mr Halgren told the small gathering.
The retired Commonwealth public servant of 30 years said the accident highlighted the dangers faced by all rail workers of the day. Goulburn was a prime rail centre at the time.
"They worked very long hours, had an interrupted social life and there was the ever-present danger that every rail worker faced," he said.
"(But) here we are 100 years later paying homage to these men...It's a great recognition of them and wonderful to know that their faded headstones are supported by bronze plaques with the same detail."
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