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There was a big jolt, the lights went dark, and the sound of grating metal and splintering wood echoed in the surrounds.
It was May 6, 1990 and the historic 3801 steam passenger train was returning from the Morpeth Jazz Festival, which is held around 40 kilometres from Newcastle.
But it was no ordinary train ride back to Sydney.
The journey was brought to a halt when the 3801 was struck at the rear by the City Rail inter-urban passenger service around the Cowan area.
The force threw passengers through the air and six people were killed, 100 injured.
There were screams and then an eerie silence. I know, because I was there.
Friends on the trainMy boarding school friends Brigette Thorn and Briony Blackstone were also on board alongside me.
"I had visions of you, Giselle, flying through the air," Ms Thorn said.
Survivor Brigette Thorn says she can still remember the train crash scene 30 years on.(Supplied: Brigette Thorn)
"The carnage of bodies was full on and to see people with broken bones; there was this terrible panic. That terrible shock and panic has lived with me."
Ms Blackstone said her memories of that day are clear.
"I remember all the power was off, it got really really hot and all the lights on the train had gone out. I clearly remember a lady yelling out that her leg was stuck behind a seat." she said.
"It was [also] getting really hot and people started to kick the windows out."
Live wires were strewn across the crash site, which meant we had to stay on board inside the smashed up carriages for some time until it was deemed safe.
Once we were finally allowed to disembark, we started to walk.
We travelled through a tunnel, along the tracks and down the steep terrain to the riverside village of Brooklyn.
ABC News reporter Giselle Wakatama was on board the electric train when it crashed.
She visited the village of Brooklyn 30 years on from the tragic event.(ABC News)"Anyone who had a lighter, lit the path up, the stones were really big on the railway track and I had this big suitcase," Ms Thorn said.
"I have memories thinking that we could have been walking out of a war zone."
Ms Blackstone also recalled the trek.
"I remember walking in the dark through a tunnel, carrying our bags and I remember wondering how we knew what to do," she said.
"When we got on awaiting buses I too remember a sense of exhaustion and calm, before getting to Sydney's Central Station and sobbing as I used a pay phone to call my mum."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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