Races turmoil at Spencer St. Station

The South Australian Advertiser Saturday 8 October 1859 p.2
[From the Argus, October 3.]

The race for the championship of the Australian colonies is over–witnessed by 35,000 people, and won by a Victorian horse. Flying Buck, when the prospects of Victorian pre-eminence were dubious, came io the rescue, saved the national reputation, and achieved a victory. He came, as other heroes have come–from whence he was least expected ; of respectable pedigree, but unknown, he held a place in the rearward rank ; he has, however, won, and henceforth will be famous. All that his competitors can complain of is his extreme ill breeding in leaving them so far behind. New South Welchmen may sneer, Tasmanians look dismayed, and South Australians bewail over their " Barber," but the laurels remain with Victoria.

Having said so much, we will, before describing the race itself, endeavor to give some account of the features connected with it. For days previous to the race steamers from the neighboring colonies and the seaboard of Victoria have been crowded with passengers; while from Ballarat and Dunolly, from Bendigo and the Ovens, they came in as great numbers as the conveyances available would contain. From an early hour on Saturday morning Melbourne became the entrepot of eager expectants of the sport from the suburban districts. By river, by road, and by rail, in vehicles, and on foot, they poured in thousands. Brighton the seaward, Kew the Arcadian, St. Kilda the secluded, Prahran the spacious, Collingwood and Richmond the noisy, each contributed its quota.

At 10 o'clock, the streets leading to the Spencer-street Railway Terminus began to be traversed by continuous streams of people, and within an hour afterwards the Station was completely blockaded. The authorities to the last appear to have shown great inaptitude, and to have totally disbelieved the popular statement as to the numbers who would avail themselves of that route. The platform at the Saltwater River completed, they seemed to imagine that all the necessary preparations were made, and that there was no occasion to obtain the aid of police or erect barriers of any description to prevent the ingress of the crowd.

The three ordinary "pigeon-holes" were alone used for the sale of tickets ; and, until a late period of the day, only three or four policemen were in attendance ; and, as if to make matters as awkward as possible, the first-class tickets were only to be obtained at the aperture nearest the entrance, and where the great majority who wished 2s. tickets had to struggle to get past, thus increasing the confusion.

On the platform matters were no better. The first-class carriages were placed in various parts of the train, and, no one knew where to find them, and they were rushed by second-class passengers. In one train 35 persons, most of whom held first-class tickets, had to ride down shut up in a luggage-van, without light and almost without air. It is said that some hundreds went down without paying at all ; certain it is, that, in many instances, the tickets were never asked for.

At 12 o'clock the crowd had in- creased nearly across the street, and the rush to obtain tickets and seats was overwhelming. It was not until after this period that any attempt, by closing the entrances, or otherwise, was made to check the crowd ; those who got in a line with the doors were impelled forward by the pressure from behind, and to retreat was impossible.

Several women fainted, and their cries, and the screams of children resounded on every side. To meet this exigency not the slightest preparation had been made ; and we are credibly informed that no application was made for the assistance of the police until Saturday morning, and then not until after they had been otherwise disposed of.

Altogether , the arrangements (or rather want of arrangements) were most reprehensible. At the racecourse-platform matters were managed very differently, and the precautions taken at the one end were a remarkable contrast to the absence of any at the other. The whole of the mismanagement is attributable to the stubborn refusal on the part of the authorities to appoint places in the city at which tickets might be obtained.

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