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Office of Rail Heritage – Projects - Ca$h On Track, The Story of the Rail Pay Bus
Dangerous Occupation

Life on the Pay Bus was not without its dangers. Pay Buses had their fair share of mishaps. The explosion of a Pay Bus travelling on the main Southern Line on Monday 8 December 1941 was the most serious incident of all.

FP5 left the Clyde Yards at 8.00am with three crew aboard, driver George Sydney Randall, paymaster Frederick Walker of Moss Vale and guard Alfred Thomas Philpott. Each man was armed and in custody of a safe - welded to the chassis of the Pay Bus - containing over £11,000 in cash. The Pay Bus stopped at Picton, Tahmoor, Bargo and Yanderra stations and was to make further stops along the track to pay the fettling gang responsible for track maintenance between Bargo and Yerrinbool.

In anticipation of this, paymaster Walker had withdrawn some £2,500 from the safe in notes and coins. Minutes after making the first stop, the Pay Bus was hurled off the tracks by a powerful explosion.

About five minutes after the explosion an express goods train on its way from Goulburn to Darling Harbour managed to stop just past the scene of the accident in time to see two men crouching beside the bus collecting the loose money and trying to prise open the safe. Driver John Gersback and guard Alan Stubbings leapt from their train and gave chase, but the men escaped into thick scrub, never to be seen again. After attending to the victims, Gersback took his train to Yanderra to summon help, stopping first to ensure that gangers had placed detonators on the down line to alert oncoming trains of an incident ahead. Tragically, all three men in the Pay Bus were fatally injured.

Despite talk that the attack, which occurred the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, had been intended to derail an earlier train carrying troops, no-one has ever been apprehended or prosecuted for the crime.

Robbery was assumed to have been the only motive. FP5 was destroyed in the explosion and scrapped. For many years after the incident, fettlers working on the section of track reported finding coins and notes near where the robbery occurred.

To see photographs of the Yanderra tragedy go to www.fairfaxphotos.com and search under 'Yanderra'. The original newspaper articles can be found at the State Library of NSW.


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