Torrens Creek is tiny, living on memories of former glory

PASSERS-BY travelling from Hughenden to Charters Towers might be forgiven for not stopping in Torrens Creek. Like many outback towns it is tiny, living on memories of former glory.

Back in 1885, when the railway came through, it boasted shops, pubs, police station, schools and entertainment centres galore. Mailmen rode out from its centre with the post to surrounding stations and all was hustle and bustle.

One of the most remarkable stories to come out of those times was the heroic action of John Crosby who single-handedly saved the lives of everyone on a crowded train.

The local railway water pump operator, John lived on the east side of Torrens Creek to be near his boiler and pump. One wet evening in 1917 he saw a wall of water, loaded with debris, roar down the creek, wiping out the railway bridge.

Aware that the train, which was due to arrive in town shortly, would not see the damage in time to stop, he grabbed his axe and a hurricane lantern and ran to the railway line.

Quickly he cut wood to build a big fire on either side of the line.

Then stabbed himself and mopped the blood up in his handkerchief to wrap around the lantern to make a warning red light.

John then charged towards the oncoming train waving his white shirt in the glare of its light.

At the last minute he leapt aside as the train, unable to stop, knocked his warning lamp aside and roared past the fires he'd built.

At the last minute it pulled to a halt before plunging into the flooded Torrens.

Without the actions of this brave railway worker, everyone on the crowded train would have perished in the raging waters.

They don't make heroes like that any more - or do they?

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