The Hyde Derailment
When the Cromwell-Dunedin express was derailed on the outskirts of the tiny Central Otago township of Hyde, on the afternoon of 4 June 1943, it carried a heavy complement of passengers bound for the Winter Show Carnival in Dunedin. Wartime petrol rationing was at the time forcing traffic on to the railways. Twenty-one of those on board were killed and 47 were injured, and because the accident was proved to have been the consequence of a grave dereliction of duty on the part of the engine driver, the Government was liable for compensation claims which involved a sum in excess of £200,000. Travelling at an excessive speed, the engine jumped the rails in a deep cutting and rolled over. One carriage continued on and was smashed, and a second was telescoped against the back of the derailed engine. Four other cars were extensively damaged, only two escaping unscathed. The accident occurred in a relatively uninhabited part of Central Otago, and medical and mechanical aid was delayed for some time. Had the engine driver lost control later in the afternoon when the rougher terrain of the Taieri Gorge and its approaches had been reached, the death roll must have been very much greater. That only 21 lost their lives was due in large measure to the excellent organisation of the rescue work.