Mornington – Wokalup Railway Disaster 1920

Mornington – Wokalup Railway Disaster 1920
Western Australia’s greatest railway disaster occurred near Wokalup on the Mornington line In November 1920. The street art on The Wokalup Hotel tells this harrowing story.

Around 9pm, on Saturday 6th November, a Millars’ Timber & Trading Company train pulled by The Jubilee steam locomotive left Mornington Mill loaded with railway sleepers and proceeded down the Darling Scarp to the stacking yards at Wokalup.

An engine driver, guard, fireman, and traffic manager made up the crew. As there wasn’t a passenger van, nine mill hands perched themselves on the sleepers to catch a lift to Wokalup, contrary to Company policy.

On the descent to Wokalup, the train ran out of control and crashed on the bend. The Jubilee and wagons derailed approximately 4km from Wokalup, burying nine men beneath the debris.

Those killed were crewmen, Thomas Wilton and John Paulson, and mill-hands John Leitch, Ellis Lake, James McNamara, William Malacari, Frank Winfield, Edward Delaney and Walter Maggs.

A train crash survivor made it to the Wokalup Hotel to raise the alarm, where volunteers assisted those who were alive and retrieved bodies from the wreckage. A repairer’s trolley was used to take the three injured men to Wokalup to board a train to Bunbury for hospitalisation.

An inquest concluded that the railway accident was caused by insufficient brake power being applied at the necessary time. In the absence of any regulations governing the running of trains on the line, the jury did not feel justified to attach blame to anyone. As a result of the accident, regulations were formulated to ensure the safe running of trains on the line.

After the crash, The Jubilee was repaired and continued to be used. When locomotives had whistles installed, the train’s bell was removed and hung at the Mornington Mill’s Church of England. When the church at Mornington Mills was dismantled, the bell was taken to St Paul’s Anglican Church in Harvey and hung there.



Mornington – Wokalup Railway Disaster 1920

  • Old Mornington Line, Wokalup WA 6221
  • Private Property
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