The Gowrie Junction Smash

I will not sing of battle-fields or martial feats of arms,
For Providence has cast our lot remote from war's alarms;
But I have known some noble deeds performed by humble men
Which would inspire a loftier muse—deserve a worthier pen.
It was a most tempestuous night upon the Darling Downs;
The elements were at their worst, and wore their gloomiest frowns;
The storm-king rode upon the blast—down dashed the blinding rain
God help all those who had that night to face the Gowrie Plain!

Upon the Dalby railway line the damage had been great—
Long strips of ballast washed away—all in a dangerous state;
And, though the traffic had been stopped, an engine had to run
For gangs of labourers to repair the havoc which was done.
At duty's call four gallant men without a murmur went/
And, to carry out the orders given, each heart was firmly bent.
Into the dark they steamed away, 'mid blast and blinding rain—
God help that noble crew to-night upon the Gowrie Plain!

'Twas black as pitch; in either ditch foamed down a raging flood;
And what firm ballast was before was now but yielding mud.
Yet still the engine kept the rails until they reached to where
.A dangerous gully crossed the line, and death was lurking there.
No beacon light appeared in sight to bid the doomed ones wait,
Nor friendly signal could they see to warn them of their fate.
Oh! God, to think one little lamp had saved the woes and pain
Which those four heroes felt that night upon the Gowrie Plain!

The flood had washed the line away, and down into the gap
The fated engine disappeared, as in some hideous trap;
A dozen feet she rolled and fell/ then on her side she lay,
It was miraculous that one survived that awful day;
For in the dark no eye could mark a method of escape,
It seemed as if the jaws of death for them did open gape;
But God from heaven in mercy looked on the poor shattered train,
And spared their lives that stormy night upon the Gowrie Plain.

The fireman, Robert Dollar (all honour to his name!
For he proved in this catastrophe his thorough British game),
Soon as the first surprise was o'er that he was still alive
To extricate himself and mates endeavoured to contrive.
The cruel steam played on his legs with fierce and scalding force;
And he was sadly bruised and jammed beneath the iron horse.
Without a pause he struggled on his freedom to regain—
Soon clear he stood, but sorely hurt, upon the Gowrie Plain.

To help his mates he then commenced, But only one was found,
The other two were gone from view, and Dollar thought them drowned.
The one remained—Gerhardt his name, of German lineage; he
Was stuck so tight beneath the wreck "Bob" could not get him free
The only plan to rescue him was straight to hurry back
To Gowrie Junction, whence they'd come, upon their wretched track,
And send assistance; for he saw that with all his might and main
He could not get him out himself upon the Gowrie Plain.

Three weary miles he had to trudge upon that cruel march,
Around him was the howling storm, above the heavenly arch.
His mind was firm in duty's path, his courage strong and pure,
Or else he never had been fit such tortures to endure.
And when we think upon the pain poor Dollar had to feel—
For his head was bruised, and both his legs were skinned from hip to heel!-
We must admire the manly pluck with which he on did strain
To bring assistance to his mates across the Gowrie Plain.

"Now, God be praised!" methinks he said within his thankful soul
When on his sight there flashed the light which heralded his goal.
Half-dead he struggled bravely on; and soon his piteous tale
Caused manly eyes to fill with tears, and sunburnt cheeks grow pale.
No time was lost by those who soon were to the rescue bound;
And, by the help of Providence, they all alive were found;
'Twas then the doctor's skill was taxed to ease the dreadful pain
Of those poor fellows wrecked that night upon the Gowrie Plain.

So, now, hurrah for Dollar! that fireman young and brave
Who tried, with such heroic zeal, his comrades' lives to save.
Long may he live and flourish to reflect with manly pride
How well he bore himself the night they took that fearful ride!
Long weeks he lingered on his bed all scalded, sick and sore;
But, thanks to God, he soon will be as hearty as before.
One only—poor Gerhardt—has died, and three alive remain;
But memory still their hearts will thrill when they think of Gowrie Plain!


The Gowrie Junction Smash , July 5, 1876
see Rockhampton Bulletin report

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