Forty years ago on a sweltering hot summer’s day, Wendy Miles’ world came crashing down. She lost her two daughters, Helen and Rosie, as well as her father and step-mother all in the same day. All four perished in the Granville train disaster – still the worst rail tragedy in Australia’s history.
January 18, 1977 saw a crowded eight carriage “red rattler” depart Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains at 6.09am. The train was almost at Granville station in Sydney’s west when it unexpectedly derailed and hurtled into a row of support beams holding up the Bold Street Bridge overhead. Moments after the train came off the tracks the steel and concrete bridge above collapsed and crashed onto the packed locomotive below. Ultimately, the catastrophe claimed 83 lives, injured 213 and affected countless others – including Ms Miles.
Now, as the 40th anniversary of the Granville train disaster approaches, 74-year-old Miles – who was known as Wendy Ward when the tragedy happened – has opened up to The Australian Women’s Weekly’s January issue about how she’s coped battling almost a lifetime of grief.
“It’s been a torment,” Miles told The Weekly about the death of her eldest girls.
“I also agonised for years over whether to say I had four children if I was asked – or two. That’s still hard sometimes.”
Granville has been with Tina Morgan too. As one of the accident’s youngest survivors Tina – who was the aged 14 and going to meet her uncle in the city for a day of sightseeing – was left with fractures, facial injuries, an impalement wound, lacerations and burns after she was pulled from the wreckage six hours after impact.
All these years later Tina, who actually remembers seeing the Ward girls on the train with their grandpa, tells The Weekly her anguish hasn’t been numbed.
“Forty years have gone by, but I still get flashbacks,”