Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum

Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum remembers Dutch fuelman who died on the tracks

Blue Mountains Gazette 9 August 2016 By: B.C. Lewis

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.

Rikie Schuurke and Alie Boxem traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of a memorial and meet with members of the depot and local historical sleuth Dick Morony
In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Rikie Schuurke and Alie Boxem traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of a memorial and meet with members of the depot and local historical sleuth Dick Morony who helped bring their uncle's lost story to life.

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.

In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.
In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.

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.

In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.
In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.

In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem thanked the museum's Ted Dickson for his efforts in recovering her uncle's story.
In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem thanked the museum's Ted Dickson for his efforts in recovering her uncle's story.

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.

Super sleuth: Historical Society's Dick Morony is given a small token of thanks by Alie Boxem who traveled from Holland to see the unveiling of a memorial to her uncle who went to Australia and never came back.
Super sleuth: Historical Society's Dick Morony is given a small token of thanks by Alie Boxem who traveled from Holland to see the unveiling of a memorial to her uncle who went to Australia and never came back.

“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.”

In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.
In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.

“It’s amazing how silent a steam train can be going downhill,” Mr Morony told the Gazette later. 

In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.
In the footsteps of a lost uncle: Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.

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.

Remembering a lost uncle: Hendrikus Hendrik Trip's nieces Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.
Remembering a lost uncle: Hendrikus Hendrik Trip's nieces Alie Boxem and Rikie Schuurke traveled from Holland and New Zealand to see the unveiling of the memorial and meet with members of the depot.

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.

Memorial plaque

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.

Hendrikus Hendrik Trip
Hendrikus Hendrik Trip