Early on the morning of 11 November 2015, a Watco freight train was travelling southbound on the Frenches to East Northam rail line in Western Australia.

As the train rounded a left corner approximately 3 km north of Northam, the driver saw a hot air balloon. The hot air balloon was low to the ground and inside the rail corridor to the left of the rail tracks.

The train driver applied the brakes in an attempt to stop the train before it reached the balloon’s location. However, there was insufficient distance to bring the train to a stop before it passed the balloon. The driver also sounded the horn to alert the pilot and passengers of the balloon that the train was approaching. The train passed the balloon at slow speed before continuing on its journey.

The balloon had been on an early morning scenic flight in the Avon Valley. The balloon was at the end of the scenic flight and on approach to land in a paddock next to the rail corridor when the train passed. The balloon was just above fence height and moving away from the rail tracks as the train passed.

The balloon operator has since amended their operating procedures to ensure that they will remain clear of rail corridors in future.

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