The Picnic Train

The Picnic Train



1st January 1915


Based on a true story of a massacre which took on New Year's Day in 1915 near Broken Hill, NSW. Alma, who was killed in the shootout, was 17 years old. From my latest book, I Do.

"I am so excited! Only two days to go. My Johnny is taking me on the picnic train on New Year’s Day."

So many of Dad’s friends work for the zinc-lead-silver mine and they all like Johnny. He only started to work at the mine a few months ago and he was also looking forward to the trip to Silverton just like me.

Mum thought he was cute and little Emma wanted to climb all over him when he came to call on Christmas Day with my present, a silver heart that I put on straight away to show him how much I loved it.

Mum made us all a cup of tea and brought out the silver platter with her special Christmas cookies while Emma was reaching up to touch the soft new growth on Johnny’s chin.

My poor Johnny, I knew he was embarrassed when we told him he would have to start shaving soon.

We were making preparation for the picnic. Mum didn’t think we were old enough to drink beer so she made us ginger cordial and Dad put it all in his cool bag next to the rifle he never left home without.

New Year’s Day was the most important day after Christmas and no one was going to let Dad talk about the War that had just started somewhere far away from our country.

Today we all met at Sulphide Street Station. We were surprised to find a noisy crowd that filled the forty open iron ore carriages in Broken Hill.

Some said there were 1,200 people that boarded the picnic train, and then the loud blaring of the train whistle made the last stragglers jump up on board.

Only about 5 miles out and above the loud revellers, we heard some firing shots coming from the ‘White Rocks’.

"Oh listen, someone is starting the fireworks," and I edged closer for a better look.

A scream shattered the air as a volley of shots whistled past my ear.

I didn’t hear my next scream. I just felt a numb, hot, warm liquid envelop me as I sunk slowly down to the iron floor of the train………

Alma was the first to die.


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