Picnic train ‘cop car’ still with us
Wednesday, 31st December, 2014
By Andrew Robertson
As the first new car in Broken Hill, Bruce Lord’s 1912 Overland already holds a significant place in the city’s automotive annals.
But it also played a small but important role in one of the most infamous incidents in the city’s history - the 1915 picnic train attack.
Tomorrow, January 1, marks the 100th anniversary of what was the only enemy attack on Australian soil during the Great War.
Mullah Abdulla and Gool Mohammed fired on passengers heading to Silverton before fleeing to nearby White Rocks where a gun battle ensued and the killers were slain.
Police scrambled to get as many men to the area as quickly as possible, which is where Mr Lord’s Overland came in.
“When the Turks ran amok the police went up to the Cable Hotel at the top of Oxide Street (near White Rocks),” explained Mr Lord.
“They didn’t have enough police and my grandfather was using his Overland as a hire car and police asked him to go to the station and pick up as many as he could and take them to the hotel.”
Mr Lord’s grandfather Henry owned H Lord and Sons, the largest car dealership in town, and had the Overland imported from the US in 1912.
It was still one of only a few cars getting around on local roads at the time of the attack, and almost certainly the only hire car in town.
Decades later, Mr Lord’s grandmother would tell a young Bruce that his grandfather made two trips to the hotel with reinforcements and, when it was all over, took some officers back to the station.
“When he finally came home he was a bit cut up and pretty happy to get home.”
His grandmother expressed her relief at the safe return of Henry with all those bullets flying around, to which he apparently replied he too had been worried - for the safety of the Overland.
A couple of years later Henry sold the car to the Department of Education which used it to train students enrolled in its motor mechanic course.
It had a further six or seven owners but never left Broken Hill.
Mr Lord tracked it down after a lengthy search led him to a property on the city’s fringe, where the Overland was sitting in the open, rotting away.
It underwent a painstaking restoration over many years and now rarely leaves My Lord’s garage, apart for the occasional car rally.
But he just might fire it up for a service and plaque unveiling at the Sulphide Street Railway and Historical Museum on New Year’s Day to mark the attack’s centenary.
“Provided it will start; it’s a hundred and two years old and sometimes it can be cantankerous,” Mr Lord said.