The Port Melbourne foreshore has a monument that commemorates Frederick William Maskell and James McNab, the former, a train engine driver and the latter, a fireman. The monument made of a bluestone with a drinking fountain set at the bottom is reminiscent of a tragic train accident that occurred on 11th May 1887 which killed six people and injured 154.
On the fateful day of 11th May 1887, the 5:30pm ordinary train from Flinders Street to Balaclava left Prahran for Windsor at 5:42pm. Around half way between the stations the train brought to a halt seeing a signal being at danger. Upon the signal indicating alright for the train to go; the train could not be started because he could not release the brakes due to a ruptured steam pipe. At 5:40 express train from Melbourne to Brighton dashed into the standing train. Due to a curve in the track and high embankments the driver of the express train had no way of knowing the train ahead was stranded. Six people including the driver and the fireman of the Express train died in the accident. An investigation on the accident revealed many contributory factors for the incident and the major being a sixteen-year-old untrained station hand was left in charge of the signalling.
The train driver, Mr Frederick Maskell instead of saving himself, sacrificed himself to duty by turning off the steam of his engine seconds before the accident which prevented it from being even more disastrous. Mr Maskell, in fact had received from the Commissioners a special reward of £5 for conspicuous and alert and intelligence in adverting an accident due to signal failure only a few weeks earlier.
Sometime after the accident, a movement to erect a memorial for the heroic act of Mr Maskell gained momentum but it was decided to call the monument Maskell and Mc Nab Memorial. A committee consisting of the members of the Council and some of the prominent citizens of borough was appointed and subscriptions were received for the monument. The memorial fountain was designed by architect J B Grut. It consists of an ornamental lamp and drinking fountain, the base of which is composed of polished Malmsbury bluestone.
On Wednesday 16 July 1890, the monument was unveiled at Graham St near the intersection of Station and Princes St. The monument was re-located to Port Melbourne foreshore when the Graham Street overpass was built.
The inscription on one side read—
“This memorial was erected by public subscription in honor of the late Frederick William Maskell and James M’Nab . The former engine driver, aged 46 years, and the latter fireman, aged 21 years who lost their lives through their heroic devotion to duty in the fearful accident on the Victorian Railways, near Windsor, on 11th May, 1887”
On the other side “Erected under the patronage of the Mayor and Councillors of the Borough of Port Melbourne, MDCCCX.”