November 1902




   Shortly before three o’clock this morning a rather serious railway accident occurred at Perth General Station, when a man named Patrick Caveny, a reservist in the Highland Light Infantry, residing at 89 High Street, sustained serious injuries. About the time mentioned Caveny had been at the station seeing some friends off, but had fallen on the line. Before the unfortunate man had time to get out of the way he was run over by a passing train, and both his hands were seriously lacerated. He was at once removed to the Perth Royal Infirmary, where it was found necessary to amputate four of the fingers of the right hand and two of the left hand. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Saturday 1st November, 1902, p.4.









   A railway accident attended with rather serious consequences occurred on the Joint Line at Dundee this afternoon. 

   Shortly before four o’clock a number of waggons were being shunted on the line at East Camperdown Street. 

   When near the level crossing at No. 2 Gates several of the waggons left the metals, with the result that, owing to the awkward position in which the waggons were placed, considerable inconvenience was occasioned to the passenger traffic. 

   The lines were for a time completely blocked. At the hour of the accident, about four o’clock, the passenger traffic is perhaps the heaviest of the day. Several fast trains for Aberdeen, Forfar, Arbroath, and many other stations leave Dundee East within half-an-hour after four o’clock. 

   The scenes at the East Station were of an extraordinary description. Hundreds of passengers, consisting mainly of business gentlemen and school children, congregated on the platform, and their number was greatly swelled by those who came for the 4.20 train. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Tuesday 11th November, 1902, p.3.


   Yesterday morning a sad accident occurred on the Caledonian Railway near Hallside Colliery, Cambuslang. A nine-year-old boy named George Walkinshaw, son of David Walkinshaw, Montgomery Place, Newton, while proceeding along the line to the pit with his brother’s breakfast, was killed instantaneously by a mineral locomotive. 

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Wednesday 12th November, 1902, p.3.


   SAD RAILWAY FATALITY. – About 6 o’clock on Saturday night a sad accident happened on the up main line of the Caledonian Railway opposite the north signal cabin 200 yards from Mossend Station, a signal fitter named George Hatchwell (42), residing at Cullen’s Land, Calder Street, Coatbridge, being fatally injured. He had been repairing the points at this part of the line, and was working overtime to get them right before he went home. He appears to have been on his knees examining them, and was in the act of rising when the 4.4 p.m. express passenger train from Perth to Carlisle came up, and, knocking him down, inflicted a fracture of his right arm above the elbow and a scalp wound on the right side of the head. He was carried to the waiting room at Mossend Station, where his wounds were dressed by Dr Douglas, assistant to Dr Service, and he was being taken home by train to Whifflet. At the latter station he was seen by Dr Hamilton, who found that he was evident also suffering from internal bleeding of the brain. Death ensued shortly after. The unfortunate man leaves a widow and young family. 

Coatbridge Express, Wednesday 12th November, 1902, p.2.


   Railway Accident. – Shortly before five o’clock on Tuesday night, while shunting operations were in progress at Sinclairtown Station, a guard’s van and three waggons ran off, and travelled down the line to the runaway points between Kirkcaldy and Sinclairtown, where they left the metals. The down line was blocked for half an hour, and several of the fast trains which were due about this time were considerably delayed. No damage was done to the permanent way. 

– Dundee Courier, Thursday 13th November, 1902, p.6.


   ANOTHER brutal and inhuman action or attempt to wreck a train has taken place on the G. & S.-W. Railway line near Saltcoats, a great piece of slag or stone having been laid over the rail in the immediate vicinity of the crossing near the Laundry and causing slight injury to a train. Though we cannot help feeling angry that men or youths guilty of such an action should escape the punishment they merit, it is after all a case really for pity and regret to think that such mentally diseased should exist. Providence has the credit of preventing a more serious accident. If I could bear of an engine catching the culprits some day in the small of the back to their extinction, my conversion to the orthodox would be an easy matter. 

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday 14th November, 1902, p.5.


   SERIOUS RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT MUIRKIRK. – At Muirkirk Railway Station on Saturday evening a serious accident befel Robertson Duncan. Residing at High Street, Newmilns, who had arrived at Muirkirk on a visit to his son. Mr Duncan had got out of the carriage on the wrong side, and was caught by a down-coming engine, receiving serious injuries. After these had been bandaged, Mr Duncan was removed to Ayr Infirmary in an unconscious state. 

– The Scotsman, Monday 17th November, 1902, p.6.


   RAILWAY ACCIDENT. – Larbert was the scene of a railway accident on Monday morning. The 10.30 train from Stirling arrived at the station in due course, but at Larbert Junction the engine missed the facing point and steamed along the permanent way for a considerable distance, dragging the majority of the carriages in the train with it. Indeed, the only vehicle left on the rails was the guard’s van. Fortunately the train was proceeding slowly at the time of the accident, and none of the passengers were hurt, albeit some were somewhat shaken and alarmed. 

– Falkirk Herald, Wednesday 19 November, 1902, p.8.


   ACCIDENT AT STIRLING STATION. – Yesterday morning, while a number of Caledonian Railway platelayers were employed in the shunting yard at Stirling Station, a pilot engine ran into a bogie, on which a number of men were seated, with the result that one of them, named Alexander Ferguson, residing at 30 Nelson Place, had his right leg broken. After receiving first aid, he was removed to the Royal Infirmary. 

– The Scotsman, Wednesday 19th November, 1902, p.8.


   BLAZE AT LESLIE RAILWAY STATION. – On Thursday afternoon while a number of trucks were being arranged in order at the station a spark of fire from the engine alighting on one of the trucks laden with flax now ignited the material, which was soon ablaze. It was at once noticed, and strenuous efforts were made to quell the flames, but this was not accomplished until a large quantity of the material was burned, and the remainder damaged by fire and water. A similar accident happened some months ago. In both cases the supposition is that the covering of the trucks had not been sufficiently attended to. 

– Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian, Saturday 22nd November, 1902, p.4.





   This forenoon a surfaceman on the Killin Railway, named John McLaine, residing at Lix Toll, Killin, was run over by a train near Killin Station, and killed instantaneously. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Saturday 22nd November, 1902, p.4.


   ACCIDENT. – On Thursday afternoon while James Downie, carter, residing at Eastside was engaged at the goods station he met with a serious accident. Along with another man, named Wm. Porter, Downie was carting rubble freestone, Porter unloading it from a railway waggon while Downie packed it on the cart. Porter had placed a stone weighing about 1½ cwt at the edge of the waggon and Downie while lifting it slipped. He fell to the ground and the stone landed on his head after being picked up unconscious he was attended by Dr Martin, who did what he could to alleviate the poor fellow’s sufferings. It is feared that Downie has sustained concussion of the brain. 

– Kirkintilloch Gazette, Saturday 22nd November, 1902, p.2.


   RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT GLASGOW. – A man whose name and address are at present unknown, and who is believed to have been run over by a passing train, was found lying on the North British Railway yesterday morning with his left leg amputated above the knee. The man is about thirty-five years of age, and has the appearance of a labourer. He was lying about twenty yards north of Alexandra Park Station. The man died yesterday afternoon. 

– The Scotsman, Monday 24th November, 1902.


   RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT KILMARNOCK. – Last night John Smith, pedlar, Darvel, met with an unfortunate accident at Kilmarnock Railway Station. While walking along the platform he stumbled and fell on to the line, and before he could get up a strain steamed in, and his right arm was severed from his body by a wheel of the engine. Smith, who is about sixty years of age, was removed to the Infirmary in a very weak condition. 

– The Scotsman, Wednesday 26th November, 1902, p.9.


  FALKIRK YOUNG MAN’S LEAP FROM A TRAIN. – About 12 o’clock on Saturday night a young man named James Stewart, 24 years of age, a moulder, residing at Pleasance, Falkirk, was conveyed to the Police Office on a stretcher by Inspector Bannerman, Grangemouth, and two railway men, he having sustained some injuries by jumping from a train. Stewart had been travelling from Stirling to Grahamston, but, having fallen asleep in the compartment, he passed Grahamston Station, at which he intended to alight, and only awoke and found out his mistake when the train was opposite McKillop’s Foundry, on the journey to Grangemouth. Disappointed at having passed his proper destination, he opened the carriage door and jumped out. On the train arriving at Grangemouth, the police were apprised of the incident, and proceeded along the line, where they found the young man lying. He was subsequently conveyed to Grahamston on an engine, and brought to the Police Office. Dr Fraser was called, and dressed his injuries, which consisted of a large wound on the back of the head and other smaller wounds. He was taken home in a cab, and Dr Smith ordered his removal to the Cottage Hospital. He is now making rapid recovery. 

– Falkirk Herald, Wednesday 26th November, 1902, p.4.


   FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE CALEDONIAN RAILWAY AT AIRDRIE. – Yesterday morning the body of a retired miner named John Forsyth, sixty-two years of age, residing at Stewart’s Land, Chapelhall, was found on the Caledonian Railway a short distance out from the passenger station at Airdrie. He had been meeting his son in the town, and left him to walk home, apparently taking the railway as a near cut. He was run over by a passing train, his body being found in a mutilated condition by the workmen coming along the line from their work. 

– The Scotsman, Thursday 27th November, 1902, p.4.


   An old man named John Smith stumbled on to the rails at Kilmarnock Railway Station, and was so badly injured by a passing engine that he died shortly after being admitted to the Infirmary. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Thursday 27th November, 1902, p.4.




   Information was received at Forfar last night that a young man named George Smith, employed as a porter at Larbert Station, had met his death through being run over by an engine and van while engaged in his occupation. 

   The unfortunate young man, who had been engaged in factory life in Forfar, only entered the railway service about six months ago. He was twenty years of age, and resided with his mother and sister in Queen Street. 

   It is a sad circumstance that the father of the young man also died as the result of an accident. 

– Dundee Courier, Thursday 27th November, 1902, p.4.


   A STRANGE OCCURRENCE. – Considerable speculation was rife in the end of the week over what some declare was an accident to one of the railway employees, Walter Brown. Early on Thursday morning, he is stated to have regained consciousness at the east end of the platform, his head resting near the rails on a pool of blood, a long cut across his head being the injury which left him in this state. He required medical attention and was unable for duty for some time. 

– Leven Advertiser & Wemyss Gazette, Thursday 27th November, 1902, p.3.


   A FIRE which had a sensational ending took place on Sunday evening on the premises of Mr William Wallace, cattle-dealer. Mr Wallace’s premises are situated on Loudon Street, his dwelling-house being known as No. 1. At the back of the house are stables, granary, loose-boxes, house for machines, and a large byre which runs along what is known as the Back Holm. Above the byre was a hay-loft, in which there was a good quantity of hay. Shortly after ten o’clock Mr Wallace was aroused by a neighbour who discovered the hay-loft to be on fire, and a few minutes later the byre was in flames. Mr Wallace and his two sons, however, succeeded, after some trouble, in releasing 33 head of cattle and eight valuable horses, and driving them to the street. the ringing of the church bell roused the inhabitants, who turned out in strong force, ready to give what assistance they could with the working of the fire-engine, which after a little got a splendid supply of water from the new water system. From the inflammable nature of the contents, and the time the fire had been burning before being discovered, little could be done to save the byre and hay-loft, but fortunately the night was calm, and the fire was confined to the one building. It began to be feared that one of Mr Wallace’s men, who had come in from his farm of Darnhay on Saturday night, and who had been in the town during Sunday and was seen at night on the premises, might be amongst the burning hay; but soon all conjecture was set at rest when word was brought up from the Railway Station shortly after twelve o’clock that the dead body of a man had been found by one of the pointsmen while on his rounds lighting the lamps, and after inquiry it turned out to be John Piper, who was thought to be among the hay. It is conjectured that he made his escape from the burning building and found his way to the railway, where he met his death, being run over by a goods train. 

– Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday 28th November, 1902, p.5.







   One could hardly follow one’s chosen vocation for 45 years without having some good stories to tell, of incidents which have happened, of hardships undergone, or difficulties which have had to be surmounted, and few callings provide such a panorama of incident as that of the engine-driver. His work is one continual change. Incidents occur to them which no amount of forethought could avert. A “News” correspondent had a chat the other day with the oldest servant of the Great North of Scotland Railway, Mr Alex Tait, who has just retired, after almost half a century’s connection with that Company. 

   Mr Tait lent a helping hand in the construction of the Great North Railway in 1853. His mind, however, was set upon driving the “iron horse” and with that view, four years later, he entered the cleaning sheds. After being employed there for three years he was promoted to the position of fireman, and started driving in 1865, surely a record in rapid promotion in those days. When he received the appointment of fireman he travelled between Inveramsay and Macduff. From there he was promoted to the charge of the “Buchan” train, which runs between Aberdeen, Fraserburgh, and Peterhead. Recognising that his ability deserved further promotion the Directors of the Company thought fit to transfer him to the main line – from Aberdeen to Elgin. Since then he has worked trains all over the Great North system. 

Time’s Relentless Hand

began to make its mark on his brow, and he latterly received a “cannier job,” as he put it, to drive the “Buchan,” which he has driven for the past ten years. 

   “Any exciting experiences?” asked our representative. 

   “Oh, no, nothing to speak of,” replied “Alick,” as he is familiarly known by his fellow-workers, and straightaway he proceeded to relate an “incident” which few of us would care to experience. “It was about 20 years ago – one dark winter night. I was then driving what is termed the ‘early’ goods from Aberdeen to Keith. A blinding snowstorm prevailed when we left Aberdeen a little after midnight, and I just remarked to my mate that I did not think we would see Aberdeen again that night. Little did I think, however, that such an experience was meted out for us as that which I am about to relate. We had a couple of engines attached to the train, which I might mention was not a very heavy one. In those days there were no ‘cabs,’ as we call them, or what the public would better understand them as, “shelters.” No provision was made for clearing the line such as is the case now. The snow-plough was never thought of then. It was all shovel work, and men toiled day and night, when the driftings had subsided, to get the ‘road’ clear. We had only proceeded about 35 miles out of Aberdeen – I think we were near Huntly – when we ran into a solid mass of snow, It was like an iceberg. the engines puffed and snorted like demons possessed, until they could make no further headway, and then came to a dead stop. Looking ahead we could see nothing but a hill of snow, and a perfect blizzard was blowing. Realising that we could not hope to proceed without the line being cleared, word was sent from the nearest station to Aberdeen that we were ‘snowed up,’ and as soon as possible a squad of men were despatched from Aberdeen, armed with shovels, ready to commence operations as soon as the opportunity presented itself. It was about two or three o’clock in the morning when we came to a dead halt, and before daylight we were 

Walking on the top of our Engines.

   So alarming did the situation become that we actually had to procure shovels, and dig down to the stoke hole in order to keep the fires going. There was a great danger of the pipes for feeding the boiler being frozen up, and we desired to prevent this. Had we allowed them to freeze our difficulties would have been added to a hundredfold. When the drifting subsided a great squad of men started with might and main to clear the line, and after a delay of three days we steamed into Keith Station. the train was not heavy, but I have seen us stick with only four or five waggons on. I can tell you it was an experience which I would not care to undergo again. Our food supply ran short, and we had to rely on the generosity of the neighbouring farmers, who, however, did all in their power to make us comfortable. 

   I remember another incident which for the time being caused us no little anxiety. It was a pitch dark night in 1862, the year after I was appointed fireman. We could not see a yard before us, our signal lights being the only thing visible. We had reached a level crossing at a place called Hotbroth – there’s nothing in a name – the nearest station to Macduff, when we felt the engine give a sudden lurch. We could not make out what it was or could be. A hasty inspection, however, revealed the awful fact that we had run over a young horse, which had been out in the fields all night, and somehow strayed on to the line. The “guard” of the engine struck the animal, and caused it to fall, and the poor beast was trailed along the line until its progress was obstructed somehow, causing the engine to 

Tilt up and Leave the Metals. 

With a sudden swerve we were precipitated over an embankment about twelve or fourteen feet deep. In its career the engine struck the telegraph poles, causing them to fall, and wires and everything came down upon our heads. We held on like grim death, and neither the driver nor myself sustained the slightest injury. It was a miraculous escape and no mistake. Another engine was sent to clear away the vehicles which composed the train, but a line had to be laid over the side of the embankment before the engine could be hauled up. 

   My mate and I, I may state, were the last to pass over the Cullen Viaduct before it collapsed. When we were crossing the bridge we noticed that the structure was giving way. The foundation of one of the arches had sunk, and there was a gap of 18 inches wide between the last arch and the copestone when we crossed the viaduct. We only ran about eight or ten miles when word reached us that the bridge was down. In order that the traffic might be continued trains had to run to the edge of the embankment and the goods transferred to a train waiting on the other side while passengers had to suffer the same inconvenience for about a week, the time occupied in repairing the bridge. It was an exciting enough experience, and we were very thankful for our providential escape. 

   There was one occasion I remember – it was at King Edward – 

A Chair was Placed on the Rail.

bottom upwards. It was a boy’s mad freak, and might have had disastrous consequences. The “guard” of the engine, or what we term the “policeman,” cut the chair in two, owing partly to the speed at which the train was travelling. The boy was meanwhile lying behind a dyke watching what effect the fruits of his mischievous mind would have on the progress of the engine. Stones – not “chuckies” either – have been placed on the track times beyond number, but in the daytime they were usually harmless, because we generally noticed them, slackened speed, and had them removed. 

   “Have you ever driven Royalty?” 

   “Oh, yes, I have driven the Royal train many times. I had charge of the trains conveying the late Queen and other members of the Royal Household on several occasions both from and to Balmoral.” 

   “Have you established any record in the matter of fast running?” 

   “Yes, I had one good run in particular. We were considerably behind time in leaving Huntly, and we had several passengers on board the train who wished to catch the connection for the South from Aberdeen. I covered the intervening distance, which is forty miles, in an hour, and made the usual stops, six in number.” 

   “What is your opinion of the Great North engines?” 

   “They are very powerful, and very comfortable. They are not nearly so heavily built as those of some other Companies, but they are equally as serviceable.” 

   “How do their running capabilities compare with the Caledonian or N.B.?” 

   “Well,” replied Mr Tait, “the Great North has an express train leaving Aberdeen at 8.5, and it arrives in Elgin at 10.34, and the distance by the coast route is 87¼ miles. there are thirteen stops in the run. We generally 

Lose Two Minutes Every Stop,

which you have to make up somehow, and that works out at about 46 miles an hour. On an average the train speeds along at about 50 or 55 miles an hour – that is at scheduled time. When we are late we go much quicker than that. The Great North engines of the latest type are provided with indicators, which denote the speed at which the train is travelling, and they have been known to register as high as 80 miles an hour. We were generally allowed to make up about ten minutes in twenty miles a few years ago, but the trains are “cut down” so much now that it is almost impossible to make up more than a minute or so.” 

   “It is not a long time to look back,” said Mr Tait, to our representative on leaving, “but the Board of Trade regulations have to be obeyed.” 

   Mr Tait, who is now 73 years of age, possesses all his faculties, and can see perfectly without the aid of spectacles. He was greatly esteemed by his fellow-workers, who presented him on his retiral with an easy chair, a walking-stick, and the picture of the latest type of Great North engine. Superintendent Pickersgill, in making the presentations, said – “Now, Alick, just staff about with that walking-stick until you are tired, and then drop into the chair.” Long may Mr Tait’s daily routine follow after the nature thus advocated, and that he may have long life to enjoy his well-earned pension is the earnest wish of his late employers and fellow-workers. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Saturday 29th November, 1902, p.5.

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