Hendrikus Trip was killed by the trains that he helped cared for, but a bond that developed on those tracks at Valley Heights has led to a memorial that involved a passionate search for facts from the Blue Mountains all the way to Holland.
On Friday [August 12] his relatives from The Netherlands, two local MPs, a representative from the Consultate General of the Netherlands, Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum volunteers and the many local sleuth/historians who helped piece together Hendrikus Trip’s tragic short life at the depot, attended the official unveiling of a memorial marking the Dutch man’s connection to the area.
Hendrikus Trip, known as ‘Rieks’, was a fuelman with NSW Railways at the depot in 1952 and tragically died a year later when he was hit by a locomotive in Springwood while running late for work. He was 39.
Springwood Historical Society members Dick Morony and Sue Fulton wrote in material presented in the memorial that Rieks had been running late for his 8am shift on April 10, 1953 because his motorbike wouldn’t start. He had started walking along the tracks as a shortcut.
“He was approaching a curved section of the track and saw a westbound train coming towards him, normally he would have stepped clear of the train altogether but the embankment was steep … he decided to move across to the east bound track. The steam train passed him as he was walking around the curve. He did not hear the east bound train coming up behind him.”
“It’s amazing how silent a steam train can be going downhill,” Mr Morony told the Gazette later.
Keith Ward, a spokesman for the museum, said Rieks’ story was unknown to the volunteers until 2006 when they received an email from two of Rieks' nephews Jan Hoekman and Johan Trip seeking details of the accident. The museum enlisted the Springwood Historical Society's help.
After much Sherlock Holmes work and from letters back home, which the museum had translated by Annemarie Smithers, they were able to piece together life at the time at the busy industrial hub where Rieks had one of “the dirtiest and most physically demanding work,” re‐fueling the locomotives with coal and water, Mr Ward said.
Nieces Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the memorial’s unveiling and meet with members of the depot. “To most of us he was the uncle who went to Australia and never came back,” Mrs Boxem, who spent the week being spoiled by the museum staff, said. “We owe this trip to a Trip,” she added.
“It’s a great story, we all worked together,” added Sue Fulton.
Mr Ward said in the end “the exhibition almost wrote itself and now occupies a whole wall of the museum’s café”.
Museum chairman Bruce Coxon said the depot hoped to shift more of its focus into tales from the community so that visitors had even more to enjoy.
The Museum is open on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month.