Granville Rail Distaster: remembered forty years on | Photos

Phil Pitkin, then 23, was on his way to work when he boarded a train at Parramatta on January 18, 1977.

Minutes later, the train derailed and crashed into the supports of the Bold Street Bridge at Granville.

“I was hanging upside down for three-and-a-half hours with overhead wires hanging over me,” he told the Sun.

Special moment: Alexander Pederson, 103, lost his son Bruce in Australia's worst rail disaster 40 years ago. He led the walk from the church to the Bold Street Bridge.

Special moment: Alexander Pederson, 103, lost his son Bruce in Australia's worst rail disaster 40 years ago. He led the walk from the church to the Bold Street Bridge.

“It was a dead silence, apart from a girl screaming her lungs out. My foot was crushed and my hip was pulled from my socket.”

Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the Granville disaster, which killed 83 and injured 213.

Mr Pitkin was among the survivors, victims’ families and emergency workers at an emotional memorial service. It followed by a ceremony attended by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Premier Mike Baird, where almost 50 wreaths were laid.

Survivor: Phil Pitkin, now 63, said the Granville disaster 40 years ago was preventable. "It cannot be forgotten as it's part of Australia's history."

Survivor: Phil Pitkin, now 63, said the Granville disaster 40 years ago was preventable. "It cannot be forgotten as it's part of Australia's history."

Mr Pitkin spent weeks in hospital, and had several operations. While he never thought during the ordeal he would die, he regards himself as one of the lucky ones.

“Every day is a bonus,” Mr Pitkin said.

“But it was four years before I got on another train.”

Wednesday was the first anniversary without John Hennessey, who organised the annual memorial.

Two weeks before his death last May, Mr Hennessey requested the 40th anniversary service be run by survivors and victims families.

The names of 13 victims inscribed incorrectly on the memorial wall were rectified for the commemoration.

It also marked the first anniversary since the death of Police Rescue Squad member Dickie Lamb, one of the first rescuers at the scene.

Granville remembers

Granville remembers

Meredith Knight was 15 when her father Bryan died three days after he was pulled from the wreckage.

“I left school halfway through year 10 so I could work and help pay the rent,” she told the service.

“My brother asked Premier Neville Wran for a job and became a land tax officer. But after seeing graphic images of Granville on the 10th anniversary, he had his first schizophrenic attack. He lost his job and hasn’t worked in the 30 years since.”

The state government will make a formal apology to victims’ families, survivors and emergency workers in parliament next month.

“It’s long overdue but it will be done,” Premier Mike Baird said.

Gerry Butchmann, who was at the scene 40 years ago, shared his sentiments about the apology. 

“The government should have gotten off their butts and apologised to families, survivors and rescuer workers at the time and do it 40 years later,” he said.

Mr Butchmann laid a wreath in honour of his late friend Mr Hennessey.

“There wouldn’t be a memorial service each year if it wasn’t for John.”