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February 1900

[Scottish Railway Incidents (1900) Contents]

Narrow Escape of Brakesman.


   Last night a collision took place at the Caledonian Central Station, Hamilton, which is now the almost daily scene of accidents. About six o’clock a train of empty carriages, which was intended to form the 5.20 train from Hamilton to Buchanan Street, Glasgow, was being shunted in order to be put into position on the up platform, when it came into violent collision with the rear-end of the mineral train which was at a standstill on the down line between Orchard Street and Park Road Bridges, immediately at the west-end of the station platforms. The brake van of the mineral train and several waggons were derailed, as were also a carriage and the engine of the passenger train. Luckily the brakesman had before the collision took place left his van in an endeavour to draw the attention of the driver of the colliding train to what was likely to happen, otherwise he would in all probability have been killed, as his van was completely wrecked. During the evening traffic had to be conducted on a single line.

– North British Daily Mail, Saturday 3rd February, 1900, p.5.



   Yesterday afternoon, the driver of the 2.45 p.m. goods train from Burntisland reported at Kirkcaldy station that he had come across a man lying on the down line, near the Tyrie Cottar Houses. A party was at once despatched to the spot, where the mutilated remains of the man were found. They were brought to the mortuary at Kirkcaldy, and were identified as those of Alexander Scott, draper, 84 Balsusney Road, Kirkcaldy. The unfortunate man was seen travelling in the direction of Kinghorn some time before the painful discovery, but it has not yet transpired by what train he had met his death. The probability is, that it may have been the train due at Kirkcaldy at 2.32, the driver of which must have been unaware of the occurrence. Deceased leaves a widow and a young family. 

– Dundee Courier, Tuesday 6th February, 1900, p.5.

   FATAL ACCIDENT. – Mr Macleod, insurance agent, Fortrose, was killed at Muir of Ord Station on Thursday night by the last north-going train. The accident was not noticed at the time, and the body was found on Friday morning lying across the up rails. Deceased had suffered terrible injuries. 

Banffshire Journal and General Advertiser, Tuesday 6th February, 1900, p.7.



   Yesterday James H. Asher, sixteen years of age, a native of Elgin, lost his life at Keith Junction Station by being run over by a goods train. Asher, who had been five months at Keith, acted as numbertaker of the evening goods train from Dufftown, and had attempted needlessly to jump on to a waggon as it passed the passenger station. He missed his footing and got entangled amongst the wheels. He was dragged about forty yards before the train could be pulled up, when it was found he had sustained fearful injuries about the legs and body. He succumbed about twenty minutes afterwards. 

– Dundee Courier, Wednesday 7th February, 1900, p.4.

   CURIOUS ACCIDENT AT BURNTISLAND. – On Saturday forenoon the “boots” of the Forth Hotel got on the roof of the old station building to look for a leak, as water was coming down into the refreshment room. In getting along the roof he stepped on a glass sky-light, the glass gave way, and he fell first on the roof of a railway carriage and then to the platform. He had an arm broken, besides receiving a severe scalp wound and other bruises. The wonder is he was not killed, which is what might have been expected. 

– Leven Advertiser & Wemyss Gazette, Thursday 8th February 1900, p.2.

   ACCIDENT AT PERTH STATION. – About ten o’clock last night an accident occurred at Perth Station, by which a fireman named William Milne, in the employment of the North British Railway Company, who resided in Watergate, Perth, lost his foot. Milne had been uncoupling his engine, which brought the 7.30 P.M. passenger train from Edinburgh, at St Leonard’s Bridge, when his foot slipped, and one of the front wheels of the engine passed over his left leg, cutting his foot clean off above the ankle. The injured man was removed to Perth Infirmary. 

– The Scotsman, Friday 9th February, 1900, p.9.


   Yesterday a man, named Thomas Fleming, a platelayer, residing at Trinlaymire, near Linlithgow, was accidentally killed by being run over by a pug engine belonging to Messrs James Ross & Company, Philipstoun Oil Works, where Fleming was employed. Deceased leaves a widow and family. 

   A man, name unknown, was run down yesterday by a passenger train near Longriggend Station, North British Railway. He had been seen a short time previously in the village. His skull was badly fractured, the brain protruding, and the shoulder blade broken. He was conveyed by train to Glasgow Royal Infirmary. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Friday 9th February, 1900, p.4.


   The bill to be introduced by Mr Ritchie next week on behalf of the Government will in the main follow the lines of the report of the recent Royal Commission on Accidents to Railway Servants. It will provide means for bringing the work done by shunters, goods guards, brakesmen, and platelayers into the category of dangerous trades in the same way as certain trades are now scheduled by the Home Office, but in this case the jurisdiction will be exercised by the Board of trade. There will be a power of appeal on the part of the railway companies to the Railway Commission if they regard as unreasonable any of the rules and regulations drawn up by a Departmental Committee for the safer working of such dangerous sections of railway employment. The railway companies and all the interests concerned will have the opportunity of being represented upon the committee to whom the task of drawing up the general rules is to be committed. 

– North British Daily Mail, Friday 9th February, 1900, p.3.

Fatal result of Accident

   The boy named Alexander Watt, 13 years of age, residing in Albert Street, and who had his arm severely crushed last Tuesday by being run over by a waggon at the railway siding near Watson’s Colliery died from the effects of his injuries in the Glasgow Western Infirmary. 

Serious Accident to a Fireman

   On Friday last Thomas Aytoun, fireman, from Polmadie, met with a very serious accident on the Caledonian Railway, near Motherwell Station. His engine was engaged in shunting operations, and Aytoun had proceeded to uncouple a waggon from his engine by way of assisting his brakesman when he seems to have fallen in front of the waggon, which passed over his right leg and almost severed it, and his other foot was also badly crushed. He was removed to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. 

Motherwell Times, Friday 9th February, 1900, p.2.

   THE RECENT RAILWAY FATALITY. – At Linlithgow on Monday – before Sheriff Substitute Macleod and a jury – a public inquiry was held concerning the death of Robert Anderson Stephen, waggon checker, who was killed at the railway siding near Uphall Station on the 11th January last. Representatives were present for the railway company and for the relatives of the deceased. It appeared from the evidence that Stephen had got on at Pampherston Works to what is known as the Bathgate and Camps mineral train for the purpose of getting a lift to Uphall Station. When the train had got to within thirty yards of the home signal, Stephen jumped off the engine, saying he was going to see what was in a train of waggons standing on No. 1 siding. It was supposed that while Stephen was engaged checking the waggons in the siding an engine and train of empty waggons came down the Camps branch, and that he was crushed between one of the empties and a loaded waggon which was standing at the end of the siding. The body, it was said, was almost cut in two, and death was instantaneous. At the conclusion of the evidence, a formal verdict was returned, but the jury made a suggestion to the effect that the Railway Company, with a view to greater safety, might see fit to have catch points constructed at the siding where the unfortunate accident occurred. 

Linlithgowshire Gazette, Saturday 10th February, 1900, p.4.

   MAN KILLED ON THE RAILWAY NEAR BATHGATE. – A man named McDonald, who resided at Bridge House Rows, Westfield, was run over and killed on Tuesday evening at a part of the railway about half-way between Bathgate and Westfield by a passenger train from Bathgate. His right arm and right leg were cut off, and he was otherwise injured. 

Linlithgowshire Gazette, Saturday 10th February, 1900, p.8.

   FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT. – On Tuesday morning Robert Stevenson, signalman, residing at Portland Place, Hamilton, was killed on the Caledonian Railway, near Blantyre signal cabin at Strathaven Junction. He was relieved at seven o’clock, and shortly after the new signalman observed a dark object lying on the railway some little distance away. This he found to be the body of Stevenson, terribly mutilated, whom he had just relieved. It is presumed he was run over by the 7.10 train from Hamilton to Glasgow. 

   FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT. – On Friday morning, while Alexander Young, joiner, residing at 97 Raglan Street, Glasgow, was walking to his work along the up Caledonian line at Mossend South Junction, he approached too near the rails, and being overtaken by a train going in the same direction, he was knocked down by the engine and run over, both legs being severed, one below and the other above the knee. The injured man was conveyed to the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, where he succumbed to his injuries on Saturday afternoon. He was 66 years of age, and leaves a grown-up family. 

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, Saturday 10th February, 1900, p.6.


   … – Robert Small, a tramp labourer, engaged at Blairenbathie Colliery, was yesterday run down by a mineral train on the Blairenbathie Railway near Blairadam Colliery. Deceased was killed on the spot. He was thirty-five years of age, and only started work at Blairenbathie on Wednesday. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Friday 16th February, 1900, p.4.


   Shortly after six o’clock last night an alarming railway accident occurred at Gourock Station. The train arriving from Glasgow at 6.19 was by inadvertence allowed to come on while the previous train to arrive was being backed out empty on the same line of rails. Three carriages of the shunting train had gained the loop line, and three were still on the main line, when the arriving train struck into them, partially wrecking two of the carriages and badly damaging a third. The engine of the incoming train was thrown off the rails and jammed between the wrecked carriage and a goods train standing on the adjoining line, and the two fore buffers were carried away. None of the carriages left the rails, and the passengers only suffered a slight shaking. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Friday 16th February, 1900, p.3.


   Yesterday morning Thomas Robertson (30), a surfaceman in the employment of the North British Railway, residing at 26 Yeaman Place, Edinburgh, was killed in the Haymarket Tunnel. While working there he was knocked down by the 2.57 newspaper train from Glasgow, and instantly killed. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Saturday 17th February, 1900, p.2.



   Shortly before twelve o’clock to-day a man named Ronald Smith (25), fireman, in the employment of the Caledonian Railway Company, had his left foot amputated above the ankle, as the result of an accident sustained while in the course of his duties. It appears that Smith was in the act of stepping off the engine, and had missed his footing, with the result that the wheel passed over the unfortunate man’s left leg. It occurred at the south end, and Smith was at once brought to the station in the pilot engine, being afterwards taken to the Perth Royal Infirmary by the Station Ambulance Corps, under Mr J. D. Smith, where his injuries were attended to. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Monday 19th February, 1900, p.3.



   Shortly before noon on Saturday a sad accident occurred on the Caledonian Railway between Greenock Upper Station and Inverkip, whereby a workman named James Macdonald lost his life. It appears that a landslip had occurred near the railway line through the snowstorm, and Macdonald was despatched along with the flying squad to make the necessary repairs and clear the line. At the time of the occurrence he was standing in a waggon. An engine was brought along to be connected, and in his efforts to steady himself Macdonald fell out of the waggon on to the line. One of the wheels came against his head, cutting the half of it away, death being instantaneous. The remains were immediately conveyed by the engine to Upper Greenock Station, and the County Police, who were then summoned afterwards, had them removed to the mortuary in Dalrymple Street. Deceased, who was of middle-age, was in lodgings at 13 Brymner Street, Greenock. 

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Monday 19th February 1900, p.2.

   FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT. – Last night Robert C. Burns, spirit merchant’s traveller, residing at 10 Hayburn Crescent, Partick, while attempting to enter a train in motion at College Station, fell between the train and the platform. One of the carriages passed over him, severing his right leg at the knee and his right arm at the shoulder. He died at the Royal Infirmary this morning. 

– Glasgow Herald, Wednesday 21st February, 1900, p.7.



   On Thursday, while George Weir, the local agent of Messrs Milne and Company, manure manufacturers, Dyce, was attempting to cross the railway line at Wartle Station, he was knocked down by a special cattle train from Fyvie, which was entering the station at the time. He was struck by the engine, with the result that he sustained a compound fracture of the left leg. Weir was brought to Aberdeen by the 7.10 train, and removed to the Royal Infirmary, where his injuries were attended to. 

– Aberdeen Press and Journal, Wednesday 21st February, 1900, p.12.

   NARROW ESCAPE OF AN EXPRESS. – During the storm on Thursday evening the passengers of the North British Railway train due at Aberdeen at 10.5, but which did not reach its destination till three o’clock next morning had a most exciting experience on the journey north. When about a mile north of Laurencekirk a violent gust of wind blew down several telegraph poles across the line, and on to the train which was then in motion. With great presence of mind the driver, Charles Spalding, 36 Ashvale Place, Aberdeen, immediately pulled up the train and it was brought to a standstill as the engine got amongst a heap of tangled wires and poles. One of the lamps in front of the engine was smashed, and half a dozen windows in the carriages were broken, while one of the lamps of the guard’s van at the rear of the train was also very much destroyed. Word of the accident was at once conveyed to Laurencekirk, and a squad of workmen soon arrived at the scene and commenced operations with a view of clearing the line. The accident happened at 10.58, the train being late at the time, and it was about half-past one o’clock on Friday morning before the line was cleared to allow the train to proceed. The place at which the accident occurred is much exposed, and at the time the wind was blowing with hurricane force. A great length of poles and wires lay across the railway. After getting clear the train proceeded very cautiously to Aberdeen, and arrived at the Joint Station at three o’clock in the morning. 

Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs, Thursday 22nd February, 1900, p.7.





   On Tuesday morning an accident occurred on the Highland Railway which completely blocked the line for the whole of the day, and caused great dislocation of traffic on the system. As the 1.30 a.m. goods from Perth to Inverness, to which two locomotives were attached, was proceeding to beyond Dalwhinnie, the second engine left the metals and was followed by 17 waggons. The permanent way was torn up for a considerable distance, and the waggons with their contents mostly smashed up. The mishap is attributed either to part of the train breaking away, or to the wheels of the engine becoming clogged with snow. 

   The accident occurred shortly after six o’clock. A breakdown squad, together with a large steam crane, were despatched from Inverness. A special train with two engines, snow plough, and 30 men were also sent North from Blair Atholl. The work of clearing the line was further complicated by a breakdown of the steam crane, while the prevalence of snow showers and heavy drifting at that exposed part of the Grampians also retarded progress considerably. Meanwhile through passengers travelling both North and South had been suffering great distress. Those for the North were being forwarded by the usual trains from Perth to Blair Atholl in the hope that the line would be clear in time to allow of their proceeding from there with very little delay. 

   Unfortunately, however, these hopes were quite belied. Passengers by the 6.15 a.m. Highland mail booked through numbered 30, and were landed at Blair Atholl at 7 a.m. The 9.25 a.m., 11.50 a.m., and 4.30 a.m. brought further contingents, there being in the evening altogether 50 waiting passengers. Several residents kindly furnished some of the famished passengers with supplies of food, while others, more fortunately circumstanced, were able to satisfy their wants at the local hotel. A party of Seaforths, bound for Fort George, returned to Perth with the 6.20 p.m. train to spend the night in barracks there. 

   Our Inverness correspondent telegraphs:- The mail train due at 9.40 a.m. from the South only reached Inverness at midnight, owing to a serious accident to the 1.30 a.m. goods train from Perth at Dalwhinnie. On reaching Dalwhinnie the train divided. The rear portion of the train dashed into the waggons in front, with the result that twelve of the waggons left the rails, and were badly smashed. The tender of one of the engines was also derailed. The accident crane and a staff of workmen were despatched from Inverness, but owing to the severe snowstorm the work of clearing the line proceeded under difficulty. The line was cleared about ten o’clock in the evening. There were twenty-four passengers on the mail train for stations north of Inverness, and they were accommodated in the Station Hotel, Inverness. A goods train from Aviemore being embedded in the snow, but after a few hours’ work the line was successfully cleared. 

– Dundee Courier, Thursday 22nd February, 1900, p.7.

   A SMASH AT THE LEVEL CROSSING. – The ever-present danger to all using the railway was illustrated on Tuesday, at the level-crossing for carts at the east end of Innerleven. A load of the town’s manure was being carted by the contractor, Mr Shepherd, to the beach, when the accident happened. The driver was leading the horse across, and the cart was just between the rails when an engine dashed into it from the west. Horse and cart were tumbled over, but the driver succeeded in leaping clear. From the mass of debris the cart and horse were extricated with difficulty. By some happy chance the horse escaped without injury, but the cart was a wreck. The axle was bent, the wheels smashed, and the framework generally damaged. This crossing is largely used by the public, but this is the first accident that has taken place at the spot. It will likely lead to the company insisting on the engine drivers giving warning when they are approaching the crossing. 

– Leven Advertiser & Wemyss Gazette, Thursday 22nd February, 1900, p.3.

   ACCIDENT ON THE RAILWAY. – Yesterday morning James Caldwell, platelayer, Renfrew, was knocked down by a passenger train while engaged clearing the snow from the points at Fuller Street Station, Renfrew. Stepping out of the way of an outgoing train, he inadvertently went in front of one approaching. He was struck on the head, and rendered unconscious. 

– the Scotsman, Friday 23rd February, 1900, p.8.

   FATAL ACCIDENT. – James Caldwell, 21, platelayer, residing in King’s-lane, Renfrew, was admitted to the Infirmary on Thursday in an unconscious condition suffering from fracture of the skull. In the morning he was engaged clearing the snow from the points at Fulbar-street Station, and had got out of the way of a passenger train leaving the station. He failed to notice the approach of an incoming train, which caught him unawares. He succumbed to his injuries in the course of the afternoon. 

– Paisley & Refrewshire Gazette, Saturday 24th February, 1900, p.6.

   SURFACEMAN SERIOUSLY INJURED NEAR HUNTLY. – A serious accident befell a surfaceman at the rock cutting near Huntly on Tuesday morning. James Slorach (36), with other workmen, was engaged on the line after the heavy snowfall. To avoid a train coming along the set of rails upon which he was working, Slorach stepped on to the other line, failing to observe an engine with snow-plough approaching. He was caught by the latter, and pitched on to the rocks. He was at once taken to Huntly Station and examined by Dr Thomson, who found that severe injury had been sustained at the base of the skull. The unfortunate man lies at the Cottage Hospital in a condition which causes much anxiety to his friends. 

   ACCIDENT ON GREAT NORTH RAILWAY. – An old man named George Weir, in the service of the Northern Agricultural Company, and employed at Wartle Station, on the Great North of Scotland Railway, was crossing the line on the 15th inst. Owing to the tremendous gale he did not observe the approach of a special train that was coming in from Fyvie market. He was struck by the engine and thrown backward, his right leg being severely injured about the knee. Dr Gray, Wartle, attended the injured man, who was conveyed by train to Aberdeen Infirmary. He had sustained a compound fracture of the leg, and his injuries otherwise were so serious that he died on Wednesday morning in the Infirmary. Deceased resided in Inverurie, where he was much respected. He leaves a widow and one son. 

– Aberdeen People’s Journal, Saturday 24th February, 1900, p.8.



   About four o’clock on Saturday afternoon, a man, whose name and address have not yet been ascertained, fell from the platform at Glasgow Cross Railway Station on to the line, and was struck on the head by the buffer of the engine of an east-going train. The man appears to have been about forty years of age, and death was due to fracture of the skull. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Monday 26 February, 1900, 2.


   The Government are not taking the best way of atoning for the somewhat discreditable withdrawal of their Railway Automatic Couplings Bill last session. That Bill was withdrawn in consequences of threats of opposition by railway directors and waggon owners, led by Lord Claud Hamilton. Protection of the lives of shunters and other railway workers was apparently thought to be less important than retention of the political support of railway magnates. The Government shelved the matter for the time being by appointing a Royal Commission “to inquire into the causes of accidents, fatal and non-fatal, to servants of railway companies and of truck owners, and to report on the possibility of adopting means to reduce the number of such accidents, having regard to the working of railways, the rules and regulations made, and the safety appliances used by railway companies.” As the Commission included representatives of railway companies and waggon owners, there was no fear of the report going too far in the direction of radical reform. But the report, which was presented in January last, was not at all a bad one. Though the Commissioners recommended no great and immediate change, they were unanimously in favour of steps being taken to effect improvements. The Commission recommended that railway companies should, either voluntarily or by obligation placed upon them, proceed forthwith to make practical experiments which in their opinion ought to precede the general application of any system of automatic couplings; and that the Board of Trade should be empowered to appoint a Departmental Committee to co-operate with the railway companies when making such experiments, and to consider the results of them when made. A number of recommendations on other points of railway working were added. Seeing that even railway directors were willing to go so far – the fact being that the case for the introduction of automatic couplings was so strong that they could not resist it – the Government might very well have reintroduced their Bill requiring the companies to provide automatic couplings within five years. But the new Bill which has been brought in by the Government evades the main question altogether. It deals, in a way, with almost everything except automatic couplings. Its first clause enacts that the Board of Trade may, subject to the provisions of the Act, make such rules as they think fit with respect to any of the subjects mentioned in the schedule to the Act, with the object of reducing or removing the dangers and risks incidental to railway services. The subjects mentioned in the schedule are (1) brake levers on both sides of waggons; (2) labelling waggons; (3) movement of waggons by propping and tow roping; (4) steam brakes on engines; (5) lighting of stations or sidings where shunting operations are frequently carried on after dark; (6) protection of point rods and signal wires, and position of ground levers working points; (7) position of offices and cabins near working lines; (8) marking of fouling points; (9) construction and protection of gauge glasses; (10) arrangement of tool boxes and water gauges on engines; (11) working of trains upon running lines without brake vans; (12) protection to permanent-way men when relaying or repairing permanent way. This long list of subjects is quite an ingenious compilation. We have no doubt that each of these subjects deserves some measure of attention, and that they may all be dealt with in such a way as to diminish the number of accidents. But why is there not a single word about automatic couplings? The introduction of such couplings would do more than anything else to reduce the number of accidents to railway workers. It is in the course of shunting operations that by far the greatest number of fatal accidents occur. The Commission gave in their report the following statement of the railway workers killed from all causes per 1000 employed:- Railway servants in general, excluding contractors’ men, clerks, and mechanics, 124; permanent-way men or platelayers, 19; porters, 115; goods guards and brakesmen, 292; shunters, 508. These figures clearly show where the mischief is, and evidently suggest the use of automatic couplings to prevent shunting accidents. In the United States every car is now fitted with such couplings, and the result has been a material diminution of the number of accidents to railway servants on the American lines while engaged in the operations of shunting and coupling. With such facts before them, why do the Government not insist upon the requisite reform within a given time, instead of leaving the whole matter over for an indefinite period, on the pretext of ascertaining by experimental what has already been fully proved? Ministers are apparently still afraid of the railway directors, and so the lives of shunters and goods guards and brakesmen must be sacrificed to the supposed interests of the Tory party.

– North British Daily Mail, Tuesday 27th February, 1900, p.4.
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