1949 Orlando Train Disaster.

One of the interesting things about gravehunting is that often you find the graves of people who have been affected by a significant event. Often it is an event that you are not even aware of. While rooting through my images from Newclare Cem in Johannesburg I remembered finding a grave for people killed in a rail accident. 

At the time I didn’t really go into it, but recently, while considering trains that pass through cemeteries I decided to revisit the grave and see what was available on the internet about the incident.

I was quite surprised that I actually found a reference to the accident, although there is not too much information.

“29/04/1949. At the time the accident was the worst rail disaster in SA, and occurred when 3 electric trains, all headed in the same direction on the same track were involved in the crash. Two were stationary on a high embankment when the 3rd came around the bend and smashed into the back of the one train which then rammed into the train ahead of it. 74 Passengers lost their lives and more than 90 were injured. An investigation found that the block signal system was faulty.”

Orlando Station is on the Soweto Line, and I expect that many of the other victims ended up being buried in Avalon or one of the other Soweto Cemeteries. I do recall that when I lived in Mayfair during the 60’s, a train derailed just past Langlaagte Station, and it was a real mess, I don’t know what the death toll was, but it was a major incident. I seem to recall that there were tank wagons involved too. The coaches in use in those days on the “non-white” services were mostly the slam door suburbans which had wood throughout, and they would have been very crowded. I can just imagine what the scene must have looked like to those who responded to the disaster in Orlando.

A partly demolished slam door sub from the commuter trains in South Africa.

Update 11/06/2020.

This past week a friend of mine posted an article about the Langlaagte train accident and I was shocked to see what the death toll was.  13 died and 155 were injured, many with severe burns. The article appeared in what was then the Rhodesian Herald of 13 February 1969. 

DRW ©  2013-2022. Images recreated 12/04/2016

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