The cause of Tasmania's worst rail disaster remains a mystery to this day.
Two hundred people boarded the Hobart Express at Launceston on February 15, 1916, many on their way to the Brighton army camp, or to the enlistment office at Claremont.
The driver of the 100-ton Garratt locomotive was Philip Goodchild of Invermay.
Accompanying him was fireman Douglas Bessell, also from Launceston.
All was fine until about three kilometres north of Campania.
They were coming out of a gentle curve, travelling under 50kph.
Passengers felt a bump and, for an instant, dismissed it.
Suddenly, there were more jolts, and for many, the world turned upside down with a terrifying roar.
The locomotive toppled, taking the tender and first two carriages with it, smashing them into the ground.
Remarkably, the next three carriages decoupled and stayed upright, or many more would have been killed.
As it was, the disaster took seven lives, four from the north. James Quinn from Pioneer was on his way to enlist, while William Orr of Lilydale and John Castles of Latrobe were returning to their unit prior to embarkation. Nearly 100 were injured.
The driver, Boer War veteran Philip Goodchild, of Invermay, survived largely unscathed, struggling out and running clear.
Realising with horror that the boiler could explode while many passengers were still trapped, he dived back into the cabin to release the pressure, suffering hideous scalding, with skin falling off his body.
When help arrived, he refused treatment, insisting the doctor see to his passengers first. He died the next morning.
Thousands of Launcestonians lined the streets for his funeral procession.
The Hinds family from Sidmouth and their friends Rex Westwood, Edgar Kelb and David Annear were all on their way to the enlistment office and now on the injury list.
Poor Henry Hinds had a shattered leg and his foot had to be amputated. His military career was over before it had begun.
But why had a slow-moving train derailed on a gentle bend? On a section recently repaired and in good order? No one could say.
The enquiry afterwards blamed speed, but the locomotive's speedometer was out of order and no one thought they were going fast. One passenger was complaining they would never reach Hobart at the rate they were travelling!
Tragically, only a fortnight later, the driver's wife Emily died. She'd been in poor health already. The shock and her despair proved too much.
Their three children were now orphans. There'd been four, but the eldest died six months earlier.
The children were taken in charge by their aunt Lily Coward. She had to give up a hotel management position to do so.
Premier Walter Lee, from Longford, took pity on their situation and asked parliament for an allocation of 867 pounds to provide for their upkeep and education.
Though MHAs reduced it to 600 pounds for some reason, Auntie Lily made it suffice.
Connect with the past, visit Launceston Historical Society - facebook.com/launcestonhistory
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