December 1901

Causes of Railway Disasters.

   WITHIN the past few days there have been three remarkable railway disasters – the Detroit accident, involving the loss off about 100 lives; an accident on the Cologne line, resulting in several shocking deaths and injuries to seventeen persons; and the accident to the Scottish express, [in Crewe,] notable mainly on account of the miraculous escape of the passengers. The three accidents represent three different kinds of causes, any one of which may result in frightful havoc in human life and limb. The American disaster shows the liability of those in charge of trains to err in the matter of signals. The German catastrophe proves that malice sometimes renders railway travelling unsafe, as it is stated that in this case several rails were maliciously removed. Then the accident to the Scottish express, which was going at the rate of about 89 miles an hour, is an illustration that a flaw in the plant may cause a great disaster. 

   The important question for the public is how to lessen danger from any or all of these causes. For the prevention of mistakes the very best, tried, and experienced men, with reasonably short hours, must be secured, though even with these a reduction of rather than an exemption from disaster is all that can be expe3cted. From the human fiend who can lay a block across or lift the rails there is almost no security. there is no line but what has its lonely spot where the criminal may place an obstruction on the line unobserved, and the main safety of the travelling public here lies in the fact that there are few so lost to the feelings of humanity as to deliberately plan wholesale destruction of human life for the sake of inflicting suffering or for the purposes of robbery. As for the giving way of the material of railway plant, as in the case of the connecting rod of the Scottish express, we are reminded that a machine may be broken to pieces by its own velocity. This at least may be said, that the greater the speed the greater the strain, and therefore the greater the liability of the material to give way. That is one cause of danger in railway racing. 

– Dundee Courier, Monday 2nd December 1901, p.4.


   ELGIN – FATAL ACCIDENT AT THE HIGHLAND RAILWAY STATION. – On Saturday afternoon James McConnachie, 14 years of age, son of Mr McConnachie, The Wards, Elgin, met with an accident, from which he died four hours afterwards. The young lad had passed an examination for a clerkship in the Highland Railway and though he had not received an appointment, he had of his own choice been in the way of going to the station. The accident happened on the arrival of the 2.40 goods train from Keith, previous to the commencement of shunting operations. No one saw it, but it is supposed that McConnachie had attempted to jump on to the waggon, and had missed his footing and fallen. Several waggons passed over his right leg, smashing it badly. He was removed to the Hospital with all speed, but the shock to the system was so serious that he died a few minutes after eight o’clock in the evening. He was a very promising boy, and much liked by all the staff at the station. 

– Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser, Tuesday 3rd December, 1901, p.4.




   On Saturday afternoon a serious accident occurred on the railway at Kittybrewster to Alexander Duthie (26), yardsman at Kittybrewster Station, in the employment of the G.N.S. Railway Company, and residing at 76 Summer Street, Aberdeen. The unfortunate man was standing on the six foot way between the sidings of the Buchan section and the main line, when he was struck on the back by the waggon of a passing train which knocked him down with his face to the ground. In attempting to regain his footing he was struck by the grease box of a train going north on the main line, and was turned over, with the result that his left leg got on one of the rails and the wheel of one of the waggons passed over it. Immediately after the accident Duthie was seen by Dr Fraser, Elmbank Terrace, who ordered his removal to the Royal Infirmary, where it was found necessary to amputate the limb. 

– Aberdeen Press and Journal, Wednesday 4th December, 1901, p.6.


   A MIRACULOUS ESCAPE ON THE RAILWAY. – Robert Thomson, a night watchman, employed by the North British Railway Company at the Dunfermline Upper Station, and residing at New Row, Dunfermline, had a most miraculous escape on Saturday morning. He was crossing the railway at the east end of the goods shed when he was overtaken and knocked down by a pilot engine. He cluing to a crossbar near the front wheels, and kept himself clear of the line. His cries were heard by the engine-driver, and the engine was brought to a standstill as speedily as possible, but not before Thomson had been carried a distance of fifty yards. He escaped with a shock to the system and a few cuts about his hands. 

– North Star and Farmers’ Chronicle, Thursday 5th December, 1901, p.7.



   An extraordinary railway accident occurred at Lochee Station, on the Dundee and Newtyle Railway this morning. About half-past eight a passenger train from Newtyle to Dundee was leaving Lochee Station, when the rearmost carriage left the rails. The train, however, was not brought to a standstill until the derailed carriage had crashed into the side of an overhead bridge. There were a large number of passengers in the carriage, and scarce one escaped without injury of some kind or another. The majority were but slightly bruised. Mr Peter Bain, contractor, Downfield, was an unfortunate exception. He was seated in the compartment that was wrecked, and how he was not instantaneously killed was a miracle. He was severely injured about the shoulders, and suffered from shock. Several other gentlemen were in the same compartment, but escaped with a severe shaking. the line was completely blocked for two hours, and considerable inconvenience was caused. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Thursday 5th December, 1901, p.3.


   RAILWAY GOODS TRUCK ON FIRE. – On the arrival of the luggage train from Thornton on Wednesday nights, it was noticed that one of the trucks was on fire and blowing fiercely. A water supply was at once poured by the station hands and the flames soon extinguished. The truck is a new one, and the cause of the accident is attributed to the fact that there was not sufficient grease on the axle, the friction heating the iron and thus igniting the woodwork. The truck was not much damaged. 

– East of Fife Record, Friday 6th December, 1901, p.4.



   Last night a railway accident occurred on the Auchtertool line, resulting in serious damage to an engine and several waggons. When the train left Achtertool the rails were very slippery, and the sand which was put on the line was blown away by the wind. The train which was going to Burntisland, got beyond the control of the driver, and the pointsman seeing this, opened the runaway points, and allowed the train to run into the embankment, the engine and several of the waggons being overturned. there was no obstruction to the passenger traffic. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Saturday 7th December, 1901, p.4.


   ACCIDENT. – Alexander Ewing, 27 Deveron Street, met with an accident at the station on the 28th ult., whereby three of his ribs were broken and his left arm severely bruised. He had been standing on the footboard after the train was in motion, and in stepping off fell between the platform and carriage. 

– Aberdeen People’s Journal, Saturday 7th December, 1901, p.7.



   Last night a sad accident occurred at Ratho Station, by which Mr Robert Marshall, builder, Uphall, received such injuries as to cause his death. Deceased travelled from Linlithgow to Ratho to catch the 7.17 train from Uphall. Both trains arrived at Ratho at the same moment, and Mr Marshall got out of his train hurriedly to get to the other side of the platform. The carriage door struck him, and he stumbled, falling between the carriage and the platform. On being extricated, it was found the unfortunate man was seriously injured. One of his legs and one of his arms were broken. He only lived a quarter of an hour. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Tuesday 10th December, 1901, p.3.







   The main line of the Caledonian Railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow was blocked last night about eleven o’clock owing to a collision which occurred at Fauldhouse Station between a goods train and a mineral train. The goods train came from the east, and, it appears, the trains from that direction, requiring to shunt at Fauldhouse, must first get on the east-going line. The engine and waggons of the goods train were in this position when the disaster occurred. the mineral train passed at Benhar Junction, and the signalman there immediately wired the fact to the signalman at the Fauldhouse goods yard. the latter at once left his cabin and warned the engineman and fireman of the goods train, and they fortunately 


On of the men on the mineral train was injured. The two engines and almost 30 waggons were thrown off the rails by the collision. Great damage has been done to the permanent way, which was entirely blocked. The engines are badly twisted, and the tender of the goods train lies at the foot of the embankment. The waggons attached to both engines are in some cases completely smashed, and goods and minerals are strewn everywhere. The passenger traffic was considerably interfered with, but, by transhipping the passengers at the scene of the accident, the traffic was overtaken, though necessarily there was delay. A large breakdown gang was early set to work to put matters right, and by nine o’clock this morning the west-going line had been cleared. The disaster is the most serious that has taken place in the Fauldhouse district since the railway was laid down. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Wednesday 11th December, 1901, p.5.


   MAN KILLED AT WHIFFLET. – About six o’clock on Monday night a roller, named William McLaren, residing at 19 Dechmont Street, Parkhead, Glasgow, was severely crushed by a light engine against the platform of the High Level Station at Whifflet. He was removed to the Alexander Hospital where he died shortly after being admitted. It is unknown how the man got so near the engine. 

Coatbridge Express, Wednesday 11th December, 1901, p.2.




   Last night an accident which might have resulted in serious detention to traffic occurred on the North British Railway Line at the entrance to the tunnel at the Tay Bridge Station, Dundee. An engine employed in connection with the Harbour traffic was conveying a train which included a number of bogie waggons, on which had been placed a quantity of short-cut trees. When the bogies were taking the curve the wood shifted, with the result that two of the bogies were thrown off the line. A number of officials were promptly summoned, and, after about an hour’s work, the bogies were lifted on to the rails, fortunately in time to prevent any interference with the traffic. The line was slightly damaged. 

– Dundee Courier, Wednesday 11th December, 1901, p.5.


   Linlithgow-bridge Man killed on the Railway. – On the afternoon of Monday last, Robert Edgar, surfaceman, Linlithgow-bridge, while employed on the N.B. Railway near Avonsbridge, was accidentally run over and killed by a pilot engine which came upon him unobserved. It is stated that Edgar, who was about 50 years of age, was a little defective in his hearing. The deceased was instantaneously killed, being literally cut in pieces. 

– West Lothian Courier, Friday 13th December, 1901, p.5.


Serious Railway Accident.

   On Tuesday afternoon Henry Barrett (20), surfaceman, Wellington Street, Motherwell, was seriously injured at Ross Junction, Caledonian Railway. At the time he was examining the line, when the 4.8 p.m. passenger train came up unobserved by him and knocked him down. he was brought on to Hamilton Central Station. Dr Adam, who dressed his injuries, found that he had received a compound fracture of the skull. He ordered his removal to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and he was taken there by special train. he has since died from the effects of his injuries. 

Motherwell Times, Friday 13th December, 1901, p.2.



   On Saturday evening an accident occurred at Kelso Station, which is the terminus of the North British and North-Eastern systems in the Border district. Abot 27 minutes past seven o’clock the afternoon goods train from Berwick was just moving off in the direction of the goods sheds, when the 4.25 p.m. through express was nine minutes late, dashed into the station and crashed into the rear of the goods train. the last two trucks were smashed into matchwood, the hindmost waggon being turned upside down and partly thrown over the funnel of the passenger train. The impact threw the passengers from their seats, but, fortunately, beyond receiving a shaking, no one was injured. About nine o’clock a breakdown gang arrived from Hawick to clear the line, which was effected in the course of the night.

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Monday 16th December, 1901, p.4.


   DISTRESSING ACCIDENT AT DALMUIR. – A distressing accident occurred yesterday afternoon at Dalmuir N. B. Station. A young booking-clerk named Robert Drysdale, son of the stationmaster at Ardlui, was in the act of passing a letter to the van when his foot slipped from the footboard, and, falling, he was crushed between the platform and the train as it moved away. the unfortunate lad received serious injuries, and he was conveyed to the Western Infirmary. 

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Tuesday 17th December, 1901, p.3.





   At an early hour this morning a shocking railway accident occurred near Perth North End Goods Station, whereby a young man named John McKerland, about 20 years of age, residing at 82 South Street, Perth, and employed as a greaser at Perth, received terrible injuries. 

   The young man, who was employed on night-duty, had been walking along the line near the north end goods yard when an engine and a waggon came up behind him unnoticed. 

   A companion, who observed the engine approaching, shouted a warning to McKerland, but apparently he did not hear, with the result that the engine ran down the unfortunate young man. 

   Both his legs were severed from his body, and he was otherwise fearfully injured. The mangled limbs were found lying some distance along the line from the scene of the accident. 

   Without delay the unfortunate youth was removed to Perth Royal Infirmary, where he died a few hours later. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Tuesday 17th December, 1901, p.3.



   EARLY yesterday morning a most distressing accident occurred at the north end of the General Station near Dovecotland Bridge. A young man named John McEarlan, residing at 82 South Street, was on night duty at the Station when he was run over by an engine and waggon and sustained mortal injuries. The poor fellow, who was only sixteen years of age, and was employed as a greaser, was alternately a week on day duty and a week on night duty. This week it fell to his turn to be on night duty, and about two o’clock in the morning while he was walking along the railway near Dovecotland Bridge, he failed in the darkness to observe or hear an engine approaching with a waggon attached. A companion who observed the danger that the poor fellow was in shouted to him, but before he could get out of the way he was knocked down, both the engine and waggon passing over him. He was frightfully mutilated, both legs being torn off at the hips. He was removed to the Infirmary, and was promptly attended to by Dr Burgess, the house surgeon. In addition to having his two legs wholly severed from the body, the young man was otherwise so seriously injured as to render an operation upon him out of the question. McEarlan expired about one o’clock the same day. 

Perthshire Advertiser, Wednesday 18th December, 1901, p.5.


   MAN KILLED AT WHIFFLET. – Early on Monday morning James Torrance, engineer, Dunbeth Road, Coatbridge, was killed on the North British Railway near Whifflet Station. Deceased was taking a near cut to Messrs Murray & Paterson’s engineering shop, and had just stepped on the up line, when a workmen’s train dashed up and knocked him down. His right arm and right leg was fearfully damaged, while he received a terrible wound on the back of the head. the man only lived about ten minutes after the accident. 

Coatbridge Express, Wednesday 18th December, 1901, p.2.



   As the result of a shocking accident in the Caledonian Locomotive Works, Springburn, the death took place this morning in Glasgow Royal Infirmary of a labourer, James Paxton. Paxton was standing on a high ladder oiling a revolving shaft, when his jacket became entangled, and to the horror of his mates he was wheeled round the shaft at terrific speed. Before the machinery could be stopped and Paxton extricated, he was fearfully smashed, his arms and legs being broken and his head smashed. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Thursday 19th December, 1901, p.3.


  FATAL SHUNTING ACCIDENT. – William Smith, a waggon inspector, who resided at 36 Elmvale Street, Glasgow, was crushed between the buffers of two waggons at Camlachie goods station on Friday and received fatal injuries. 

   THROWING A CHILD FROM A TRAIN. – At Hamilton Sheriff Court on Friday, Isabella Cowan Hunter, Parkside, was charged with assault with intent to murder, by having thrown a female child from the window of a train on the Caledonian Railway. A special plea of temporary insanity was tendered, and the case was adjourned to Glasgow Circuit Court. 


   SURFACEMAN KILLED. – Early on Friday morning the body of James Martin, a surfaceman, was found on the line at the cattle loading bank of the goods station at Girvan. He left for work about four o’clock in the morning, and is supposed to have fallen off the bank on to the line and been stunned. A goods train coming up in the darkness had cut off part of a hand and foot. 

– Southern Reporter, Thursday 19th December, 1901, p.4.



   This morning a serious railway smash occurred outside Hamilton Caledonian Central Station. A heavy mineral train, laden with coal, and propelled behind by a pilot engine, had just passed through the station towards the West Station, when the brake van left the rails, owing perhaps to their slippery condition. The pilot engine driver shut off steam, but the engine could not pull the heavy train up the steep incline, and finally it ran backwards and crashed into the brake van and pilot engine. The van was smashed to matchwood, four waggons were wrecked, and other ten buffer-locked, while the pilot engine was knocked over on its side. The driver, fireman, and brakesman almost by miracle escaped unhurt. Both lines were completely blocked, and the permanent way damaged. A break-down gang, with cranes, was soon at work, but passenger trains to Glasgow had to be taken round by Motherwell and Newton. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Monday 23rd December, 1901, p.2.


   RAILWAY GUARD KILLED. – Yesterday afternoon William Grassie, goods guard, Caledonian Railway, met his death as the result of an accident at Cove Station. Deceased left Aberdeen with a goods train at noon. When Cove Station was reached it was supposed that Grassie descended from his van to apply the brake to some waggons, and that in so doing he stumbled and fell, with the result that he alighted between the waggons, which passed over both of his legs. The station officials ran to his assistance, but life was extinct before they reached him. The deceased, who was a widower, had been for over fifty years in the service of the Company. 

– The Scotsman, Wednesday 25th December, 1901, p.7.



   Here is a list of some of the railway accidents which have occurred at Christmas time during the past 60 years:- 

   December 28, 1879. – Tay Bridge, Dundee. Bridge and train blown into the river; about 74 lives lost. 

   December 23, 1895. – Bellahouston (Glasgow and S.W.). Engine backed into train standing in station; five injured. 

   December 23, 1899. – Glassford (Caledonian). Train left rails; three killed, 12 injured. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Thursday 26th December, 1901, p.5.



   After having had a most wonderful escape from instant death, a yardsman named William Robb expired in Glasgow Royal Infirmary this morning. Robb, when engaged in shunting operations at the Caledonian Railway Company’s shed, Newton, was knocked down by a passing train, and while he lay prostrated between the metals, an engine and 40 waggons passed over him. Although he survived his terrible experience, Robb’s injuries, especially about his head, proved fatal some time after his admission. 


   A very painful accident with fatal consequences took place this forenoon at Alexandria Station. A railway travelling crane, belonging to the Caledonian Railway Company, was employed lifting a heavy piece of machinery, weighing over five tons, which was to be taken over to Dalmonach Print Works, Bonhill, when the chain of the crane slipped, and the heavy machinery came down, crushing John McGuire, a railway surfaceman, to death, seriously injuring another surfaceman named Robert McEwan, and fracturing both legs of Mr Richard Allison, the stationmaster. The injured men were conveyed to the Glasgow Infirmary by train while the body of McGuire could not for some time be extricated from under the heavy weight. The news of the accident caused a large crowd to assemble at the station. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Saturday 28th December, 1901, p.4.





   A distressing accident, attended with fatal results, occurred at Stoneywood Railway Station about four o’clock yesterday afternoon. Henry Park, son of Mr Robert Park, inspector of the permanent way, Dyce, and employed at Stoneywood Station, was crossing the line from the west platform to the east, when he was struck by a pilot engine proceeding to Dyce, and instantly killed. The lad crossed near the roadway bridge, and had not noticed the engine’s approach. It was impossible for the driver to pull up in time, but the engine was brought to a standstill about the north end of the platform. The driver and fireman came off the locomotive and turned back to where the accident occurred. Mr John Ogston, station agent, who was in the ticket office at the time, having just returned after seeing the Dyce train away a few minutes previously, noticed the engine stop, and immediately went out to see what was the matter. Lying on the permanent way, close to the west platform, he saw the mangled remains of the boy Park, who had not, it may be stated, returned to the office with the station agent. Along with Constable Joseph Pirie, Mr Ogston had the remains removed to the office, and then conveyed to the house of deceased’s parents at Dyce. It is not known whether or not the boy came down the steps leading to the platform and then jumped on to the line, but the engine-driver states that it appeared as if he did come down the steps. The boy was only 13 years and 8 months old. He was bright and intelligent, and had to take charge of the station during the station agent’s absence. Much sympathy is expressed with deceased’s parents in their sad bereavement. 

– Aberdeen Press and Journal, Tuesday 31st December, 1901, p.4.


   MAN KILLED AT MOTHERWELL. – A platelayer named James Rice was shockingly injured on the main line of the Caledonian Railway Company near Motherwell yesterday evening, and died shortly afterwards. Deceased, who was thirty-six years of age, and resided at Craigneuk, had been walking home along the line when he was knocked down by a passing train. The unfortunate man had only recently recovered from the effects of an accident whereby he got both his legs fractured. 

– The Scotsman, Tuesday 31st December, 1901, p.4.

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