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Rattler volunteers fly last flag

Flagmen Brian Davis and Geoff Johanson will man the level crossing at Dagun Station for the final time on November 21, marking the end of an historic tradition.
Flagmen Brian Davis and Geoff Johanson will man the level crossing at Dagun Station for the final time on November 21, marking the end of an historic tradition. Craig Warhurst

FLAGMEN Brian Davis and Geoff Johanson will wave their red flags goodbye on November 21 when they become the last in Queensland, and possibly Australia, to halt traffic for a steam train to pass at a level crossing.

The pair of Dagun Station volunteers will miss this historic tradition of flagging the train, which was re-introduced in 1988 by the Mary Valley Heritage Railway.

At that time, traffic was flagged down at most of the level crossings enroute to Imbil however, the practice was phased out from 2002 when Queensland Rail’s Safety Unit increased its focus on safety at level crossings throughout Queensland.

The Dagun Community Group continued to use flags to clear the tracks at the station until MVHR recently ordered them to “cease and desist” in compliance with industry practice.

MVHR manager Jim Walker said police had also raised concerns about the risk to local drivers who may expect to be flagged down at other level crossings used by the Valley Rattler.

He said MVHR’s risk assessment had identified flagging as a hazard for the people on the ground, particularly at night because the crossings were poorly lit.

“The Rail Safety Unit has emphasised the correct level crossing practice for the last four to five years now and it does not include the operation of flags,” he said.

“If we chose to have flagmen we would need a series of signs to alert motorists but we don’t have that in place.

“We consulted with police locally and they put it to us that they wanted to see MVHR comply to industry practice, so that is what we have done.”

FAR from taking a negative approach to the decision, the Dagun Community Group has decided to celebrate the fact that Dagun is the only station in Queensland — and perhaps Australia — where the historic tradition of flagging the train has continued.

In conjunction with MVHR, Dagun volunteers will be making a day of it on Sunday, November 21, to celebrate the end of an era.

“Any train buff, and indeed anyone who recognises that we are losing a lot of links to our past, will enjoy the chance to farewell the flags,” Dagun Community Group president Len Summers said.

“Steam trains were flagged at crossings when they first started running in Australia in 1854 and in Queensland in 1875, so we are talking (more than) 150 years of history here.

“We believe it’s probably the last time it will happen in Australia, so we are making a family day of it.”

Plans are afoot to bring in the Gympie Vintage Car Club, the Bushrangers from Imbil and Dagun school kids to hark back to a time of good old-fashioned transport.

The Mary Valley Lions Club will provide a barbecue and attendees will be encouraged to wear period costume.

The event will coincide with the monthly historic re-enactment at Imbil and celebrations will kick-off at 1pm.

The Gympie Regional Council recently adopted a 40kmh speed zone for the Dagun crossing, while a 50kmh speed zone will apply at the nearby Amamoor-Kandanga crossing.

Gympie Times

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