Walter Dunn- misfortune

William Dunn and Mary Ann( nee Young) were a London based couple who had 2 daughters , Susanna, and Anna, and 3 sons, William, Walter and John in Clerkenwell before sailing on the Birman to Wellington, New Zealand in 1841.

Their son Walter was born on the 27th September 1835 and baptised at Saint Leonards, Shoreditch on the 10th July 1836.

A further two sons , Edward and Henry, were born in Wellington.

The family had been in Greytown for some time, when 45 year old  Walter and his brother Henry, 35, both bachelors, boarded the morning train to Wellington on September 11th, 1880 for a day at the races.

(Walter as a younger man)

Between Greytown and Wellington lie the Rimutaka Ranges, a series of mountains with a high point of 940 metres.

The railway system that Henry and Walter travelled on used the Fell system, which provided extra braking and traction on steep inclines by means of a raised centre rail.

One section of this journey was known officially as Horseshoe Bend, but nicknamed  Siberia Curve, due to the strong cold winds which gusted around this section at 200 kmph.

This image of Siberia Curve from  is out of copyright

Two carriages were swept off their tracks that day as the train rounded Siberia Curve, falling  into the gullies. Three young children died at the scene, and a fourth of injuries later, and 13 adults were injured , five seriously.

Walter sustained severe head injuries at the time and  suffered debilitating headaches and bouts of depression from that time on.  He was one of the passengers who tried to assist 11 year old Ada Pharazyn, who had died at the scene.

On the morning of  the 1st September, 1892, almost 12 years to the day from the rail disaster, Walter was found hanging in his kitchen lifeless.

The inquest was held a few days after:

Walter Dunn was my great, great great uncle.

Author: gorcat28

writing up my ancestors one week at a time

2 thoughts on “Walter Dunn- misfortune”

    1. Yes, NZ has had a quite a few disasters, well known ones like the Napier Earthquake,(1931) Wahine Ferry (1968) and the Tangiwai Bridge disaster which occurred on Christmas Eve, 1953. My Mum often spoke of it, being about 18 at the time. We tend to forget of the ripples out into the communities , and being a survivor/rescuer of one would have a lasting impact on people.

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