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April 1904

[Scottish Railway Incidents (1904) Contents]

   RAILWAY ACCIDENT. – While a goods train was on its way from Forfar to Dundee, and when at a point between Eassie and Alyth Junction on Saturday the axle of the guard’s van snapped, causing the vehicle to leave the rails. Fortunately the down line was left clear, as an express train passed shortly after the accident. The guard of the goods train had a narrow escape. The railway breakdown gang and crane from Forfar were soon on the spot, and had the line cleared. 

– Forfar Herald, Friday 1st April, 1904, p.4. 

   SHUNTER KILLED. – On Wednesday night while William Bain, carriage shunter, residing at Somerville Place, Carstairs, was engaged in shunting operations at Carstairs Junction, he was knocked down and run over by the train. He was engaged in marshalling. It appears deceased had just finished, leaving two carriages in a siding, when the engine-driver felt his engine go over some obstacle. He immediately pulled up, and found Bain’s body lying across the rails, death having apparently been instantaneous. 

– Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, Saturday 2nd April, 1904, p.3. 

   WALKING ON THE LINE IN THE DARK. – The body of the man found on the North British Railway on Sunday morning between Bo’ness and Manuel Junction was identified as that of James Binnie, carter, who resided at John Street, Grahamston, Falkirk. Deceased had left Grahamston for Bo’ness by the last train on Saturday evening, and missing his connection at Polmont it is thought he must have set out along the railway, and been overtaken by a goods train. When found on Sunday morning at three o’clock he was in an unconscious condition. Both his legs were broken and his face smashed. He was conveyed to the Falkirk Cottage Hospital, but only lived for about an hour. 

– Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, Saturday 2nd April, 1904, p.6. 


   About 10.30 on Saturday night James Hamilton, labourer, of no fixed residence, was found lying on the footway near Cowdenbeath Station. 

   It is supposed that he had been walking along the line and been caught by a passing train. 

   His right foot was badly injured, the third tow being off, while his left heel was also severely bruised. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Monday 4th April, 1904, p.4. 

   PASSENGER TRAIN COMMUNICATION. – The Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company have just completed their arrangements whereby all the passenger trains running on their system will be equipped with the chain communication. The Caledonian and London and North-Western Railway Companies are making arrangements to have all their trains similarly equipped on and after 1st July. The chain when pulled in any compartment sets the automatic brake in operation, and attracts the attention of the engine-driver and guard, at the same time exhibiting a red disc above the window of the compartment where the chain was pulled. This system has been in partial operation for some time, and has given every satisfaction in its working. 

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Tuesday 5th April, 1904, p.3. 




   This afternoon a telegraphic message was received from Lunan, at Montrose, asking that a doctor be sent to attend an accident which had occurred on the line there. 

   No particulars were received with the message, but it is presumed by the officials at the station that one of a gang of surfacemen at work there had been struck down by a passing train. 


   Latest particulars conveyed the information that the surfaceman injured at Lunan Bay had succumbed. His name was Alex. Davidson, and he resided at Lunan. He, along with two other surfacemen, were walking at the south end of the station, and was overtaken by a goods train which leaves Montrose between 12 and 1 o’clock. 

   It is presumed that owing to the high wind he did not hear the train approach, and so terrible were his injuries that he expired soon afterwards. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Tuesday 5th April, 1904, p.4. 

   RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT GLASGOW. – While a goods train was passing through Gushetfaulds Station, on the Caledonian Railway, yesterday, a waggon and a van jumped the rails, and struck the engine of an empty passenger train going on the opposite line. The engine was derailed and much damaged, but the driver and stoker escaped unhurt. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Tuesday 5th April, 1904, p.2. 





Chat with Mr Andrew Robertson. 

   To emphasise railway progress is to draw attention to the obvious, and yet until one had talked with those who remember railway matters many years ago one is inclined to accept modern improvements as a matter of course. 

   During a chat yesterday with Mr Andrew Robertson, the retiring district superintendent of the Caledonian Railway to Dundee, we went over many curious metamorphoses in railway matters – none probably more striking than the improvement in railway carriages which has taken place within the last two or three decades. 

Former Railway Carriages. 

   “In those days,” said Mr Robertson – “I speak of 1850 to 1860 or so – the carriages were of much lower build than now. The third class carriages were entirely without cushions, the second class (now abolished) little better, and the “firsts” only roughly upholstered. Artificial heating in any class was entirely unknown, while the ‘smoking carriage’ had not yet been introduced. Smoking at that time was absolutely prohibited, though I can myself vouch for the fact that a good deal of surreptitious smoking went on, both in first and third class carriages. 

The Luggage Van of ‘60. 

   Luggage in those days was, in a general way, strapped on to the roof of the railway carriage, a process involving no little exposure to weather and no little risk to the proprietors of the articles carried in this manner. Two things conspired to abolish this primitive method – the risk incurred by the porters who strapped on the goods, and the fact that when piled too high a portmanteau or two would sometimes come to grief when passing under the arch of a bridge! I can recollect more than one porter being killed in the process of strapping on passengers’ luggage to the roof of a carriage. The strap would snap suddenly, sending the poor fellow head foremost on to the paving stones of the station platform, killing him instantly. The introduction of improved and commodious luggage vans did away with all this. 

Meagre Train Service. 

   “In those days there were no return third class fares. Two trains daily at penny-a-mile fares were run between Perth and Glasgow, and one between Perth and Edinburgh. Between Dundee and Glasgow two daily, and one only from Dundee to Edinburgh. Trains carrying first and second class passengers were more frequent, but only about one-fourth of the number of passengers were carried altogether. Improvement in accommodation and speed, reduction of fares, and the sweeping influence of education have altered all that. 

Private Carriages. 

   “Another peculiar matter may be noted in connection with passenger accommodation in the days of which I speak. Then gentlemen might send their own carriages by rail and travel with them, thereby securing the privilege of smoking and also of privacy. The carriage, brougham, or what-not, was run on to a railway truck, securely fastened, and despatched by the ordinary train, as often as not with the proprietor and his party seated snugly inside. The fare of the passengers carried, plus the “carriage” of the carriage, were demanded for this exclusive method of travelling. Not very many availed themselves of it. 

Goods Traffic Lost. 

   “Two trains daily were run from London to Dundee at that time, but while such passenger trains were few and far between all bales of goods for America were in those days sent from Dundee by rail to Liverpool for shipment to the States. Vessels now discharge in the port of Dundee, as you know, and the railway company have lost this additional freightage.” 

The Tay Bridge Disaster. 

   Asked whether he remembered the Tay Bridge disaster, Mr Robertson said that on the eventful and fateful Sunday he was in Stirling, where at that time he held the post of goods superintendent. Strangely enough, long before many in Dundee were aware of it Mr Robertson received information of the loss of the ill-omened train. The news was already being flashed to all parts of the country of the collapse of the bridge, but few knew at that time whether any loss of life was to result from the accident. Happening to be in the telegraph office at Striling Station on the night in question the clerk in charge read out a message to Mr Robertson as it passed on its way to Aberdeen. It was to the effect that the mail bags had been picked up on the beach at Broughty Ferry, a communication from which all who heard it drew their doleful conclusions. 

   “Owing to the violence of the storm the telegraph wires to Aberdeen had been blown down. The message, therefore, which came from the postmaster in Dundee to the postmaster in Aberdeen, had to be sent from Dundee to Edinburgh via Stirling: from Edinburgh to Inverness, and thence to Aberdeen! In such a roundabout manner did the news of the Tay Bridge disaster reach the Granite City. The same night some signal posts at Stirling were blown to an angle of 45 degrees by the violence of the wind.” 

   Want of space forbids any further enumeration of many curious and interesting changes which Mr Robertson has noted during his long and useful connection with the Caledonian Railway Company. 

– Dundee Evening Post, Tuesday 5th April, 1904, p.2. 


   The axle of a waggon on a heavily laden goods train, mostly of coal, proceeding from Smeaton to Hardengreen, on the North British Railway, snapped last night. Several waggons were smashed, and the line was completely blocked till this forenoon. Had the mishap occurred a few hundred yards further along the railway the train would have been precipitated into the South Esk river. The permanent way is torn up for a considerable distance. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Wednesday 6th April, 1904, p.2. 

   ACCIDENT TO A GUARD. – John Young, goods guard, residing in the Kinneil district, met with an accident some twenty minutes after going upon duty yesterday morning at six o’clock. In the course of shunting operations at the lye, opposite the passenger station at Bo’ness, Young tripped over his coupling stick and fell in front of a waggon, the wheels of which passed over his foot, which was very severely injured. The wound was dressed by Dr Aitken’s assistant, after which the patient was taken by the first train to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. 

– Linlithgowshire Gazette, Friday 8th April, 1904, p.5. 

   RAILWAY ACCIDENT. – An accident occurred on the railway at Nitshill Station last Saturday night, which unfortunately was attended with fatal consequences to a man named John Gourlay. It appears that he travelled with the 11.15 train from St. Enoch to Nitshill on Saturday night, and shortly afterwards he was seen by an official on the station road. For some reason unknown, the deceased went back to the station, walked on the line, and was killed by the first train that passed. Gourlay was thirty years of age, and unmarried, and resided with his brother at Victoria-road, Nitshill. 

– Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette, Saturday 9th April, 1904, p.6. 









   An unfortunate sequel to the trip to the International football match at Glasgow took place on the Caledonian Railway between the stations of Guthrie and Glasterlaw early yesterday morning, when a young man named Jas. Sim (22), residing at Lossie Wynd, Elgin, sustained rather severe injuries as the result of falling from an excursion train returning from Glasgow. 

   The unfortunate man, it appears, had been alone in one of the compartments of the train, but how he fell from the carriage is meantime a mystery. When Laurencekirk was reached it was discovered that one of the doors was open, and, suspecting something was wrong, the railway officials commenced a search, with the result that the man was found lying in an unconscious condition and bleeding profusely from the head and hands on the line not far from Guthrie. 

   Sim was at once taken to Guthrie and temporary dressings applied, after which he was conveyed to Forfar Infirmary. Here he was medically attended to, when he was found to be suffering from slight concussion of the brain, while his hands were in a terribly torn condition. 

   At a late hour last night Sim was still unconscious. 

   It is a coincidence that exactly two years ago, on the occasion of the Ibrox international football match, an accident of a similar nature occurred in the same district, although on that occasion it was unfortunately fatal, the victim being an Aberdonian. 

– Dundee Courier, Monday 11th April, 1904, p.4. 


   At Lochgelly Police Court to-day, a young man residing in the burgh was brought up on a series of charges, arising out of an extraordinary scene at the station on Saturday night. Accused, it was stated, had persisted in riding along the platform on the footboards of several passenger trains, and when checked by the station agent he turned and assaulted him. The latter retreated to the booking office, and chub-locked the door, but accused following burst the door in. The stationmaster, pursued by his assailant, ultimately reached his residence, and even there accused attempted to force his way in. For 20 minutes the agent was kept prisoner in his own house. Bailie Garry said it was a serious case, but in view of it being a first offence, he would limit the sentence to 15s. fine, or ten days’ imprisonment. 



   About eight o’clock on Saturday night, Alexander Murray, railway surfaceman, residing at Brodie Station, Forres, was accidentally killed on the railway. The unfortunate man had been walking on the line, and a goods or passenger train had run him down. Both feet were cut off, the right arm broken, and the head terribly bruised. Deceased was 35 years of age. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Monday 11th April, 1904, p.3. 



Surfaceman Killed Near Edinburgh. 

   About eight o’clock this morning a fatal accident took place on the Granton branch of the North British Railway near Bonnington Junction. Two surfacemen were working on the line, and were caught by the engine of a train to Edinburgh. Connelly was killed, and Dodds seriously injured. Deceased, who was about 30 years of age, resided in Portobello. Dodds, who stays in 4 Earlston Place, Edinburgh, was taken to the Royal Infirmary. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Tuesday 12th April, 1904, p. 4. 

   ELGIN MAN FALLS FROM A TRAIN. – On the arrival in Aberdeen, about 5 o’clock on Sunday morning, of the last of the special trains run from the city to Glasgow on Saturday in connection with the international football match, a passenger named James Cattanach, residing in Old Road, Huntly, reported that after leaving Forfar he fell asleep, and on waking up at Laurencekirk he found the door of the carriage open, and that a fellow-passenger, named James Sim, residing in Lossie Wynd, Elgin was missing. The railway officials at the joint station at once communicated with the city police, who, in turn, notified the Forfar police of the occurrence. As the result of a search along the line by the Forfar railway staff, Sim was discovered lying on the line in an unconscious condition, near Glasterlaw. Sim was removed to the Forfar Infirmary, where it was found he had sustained severe wounds on the head and face, while his arms and legs were also badly bruised. Sim had not regained consciousness up to last night. 

– Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser, Tuesday 12th April, 1904, p.4. 




   John Jackson, foreman platelayer on the Alyth line, while finishing work for the day shortly after five o’clock yesterday afternoon at Alyth Station, was accidentally caught in shunting operations, two carriages going over his right leg, and dreadfully mangling it at the thigh and below the knee. Dr Philip temporarily bandaged the leg, and afterwards accompanied the unfortunate man per special train to Dundee Royal Infirmary, where it was subsequently found necessary to amputate the limb. 

   Jackson, who has for many years been foreman platelayer on the Caledonian Railway, is a married man with a family, and resides at Leighton’s Square, Alyth. Alyth Station enjoys a happy immunity from serious accident, the previous one taking place about ten years ago, when a young man, a porter, was killed while engaged at shunting. 

– Dundee Courier, Wednesday 13th April, 1904, p.5. 





    Alyth Railway Station has claimed very few victims as the result of railway accidents, but on Tuesday evening one of the most sad that has ever occurred took place, causing the death of John Jackson, foreman platelayer, Leighton Square, Alyth. As was reported in yesterday’s issue of the “Courier,” Jackson, who was engaged on the line, had finished work for the day, when he was accidentally knocked down by some carriages which were being shunted. Two of the carriages passed over his right leg, dreadfully mangling it at the thigh and below the knee. Dr Philip temporarily dressed the injuries, and accompanied the unfortunate man per special train to Dundee Royal Infirmary, where it was found necessary to have the limb amputated. The operation was carried through, but Jackson appeared to be suffering acute pain, and at an early hour this morning death claimed him as his victim. 

   Jackson was for many years foreman platelayer in the service of the Caledonian Railway Company. He was a married man with a family, and much sympathy will be felt for the widow and children in their sad bereavement. 

– Dundee Courier, Thursday 14th April, 1904, p.6. 

   Yesterday afternoon passengers in a train crossing the Tay Bridge witnessed a unique railway race. A collie dog, whose master joined a train at Wormit, decided to test the speed of the swift little engine used by the North British Company on the Dundee-Tayport line. 


   The collie got into its stride immediately behind the train, and got up a remarkable speed. At the windows of the compartments the passengers watched the collie, and at one point excitement was created by the dog crossing to the other line upon which a South-going train was approaching. The collie, however, managed to escape the danger, and held steadily on the down grade towards the Dundee side, the engine steamed rapidly away, but the dog arrived at the Esplanade Station two minutes behind the train looking little the worse for its testing race over the two miles of Tay Bridge. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Saturday 16th April, 1904, p.4. 

   A Fife farmer sends me the following note:- “Referring to your issue in Saturday’s “Telegraph” re the collie dog and the N.B. engine by Tay Bridge, this famous dog has again crossed the Bridge en route to his old abode, ‘Langha.’ Alone he did it. He is a splendid specimen of a canine, and is worthy of praise. No doubt he will be likely heard of again.” Can it be that the collie is to become a regular train racer. Why not match the dog against a Caley engine? 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Tuesday 19th April, 1904, p.4. 

   IN MEMORIAM. – The employees on the Lennox town section of the North British Railway have placed a very beautiful wreath on the grave of their late comrade, Mr Geo. Craven, in Lennoxtown Churchyard. The wreath stands on a two-tier pedestal of marble, while inside the globe is a card with the following inscription – “In memory of George Craven, who died from result of an accident at Lennoxtown Station. A token of respect from his fellow-workmen.” The globe and pedestal is encased with a wire protector. 

– Kirkintilloch Herald, Wednesday 20th April, 1904, p.5. 

   FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT NEAR PERTH. – A railway fatality occurred on the Caledonian line last night a few miles from Perth, when an old man, apparently a hawker, was run down by the London express, which leaves Carlisle at 4.7 and arrives in Perth at eight o’clock. The accident took place at Forgandenny Station, which the express is timed to pass at a quarter to eight. Deceased was seen making his way towards the bridge which leads to the opposite platform, but, noticing the train coming, he hesitated, returned, and in his attempt to cross the rails before the arrival of the train, the express, which was running at the rate of between fifty and sixty miles an hour, was upon him, and literally cut him to pieces. The driver noticed the man and sounded the whistle, but he was to close upon him to draw up. It is supposed that the man thought the express was his train for Perth, and, being too late, tried to cross the line. He has not yet been identified. 

– Scotsman, Friday 22nd April, 1904, p.8. 





Body Scattered Over Railway. 


   A railway accident of a shocking character occurred at Forgandenny Station, near Perth, last night, when an elderly man, supposed to be a hawker belonging to Perth, was almost cut to pieces. 

   The accident occurred just at Forgandenny Station shortly before eight o’clock, when the express from London to Perth, which was travelling at the rate of 60 miles an hour, came upon the unfortunate man while he was trying to cross the rails. 

   A signalman just before the arrival of the express noticed the hawker make his way from the station towards the bridge in order to cross the railway at the down platform. Evidently mistaking the fast express for a slow train he failed to get out of its way, and he was mutilated almost beyond recognition. Part of the hawker’s belongings, in the shape of a parcel of linen, became mixed up in the works of the engine, the forepart of which was all bespattered with blood. 

   The driver of the express saw what had occurred, but the train had proceeded for a considerable distance before it could be pulled up. 

   The scattered remains of the unfortunate man were found lying about the permanent way, and were conveyed by the local constable to one of the waiting-rooms of the station. Up to a late hour last night they had not been identified. The unfortunate victim was seen in the village of Forgandenny throughout the day. 

– Dundee Courier, Friday 22nd April, 1904, p.7. 

   A DARING EXCUSIONIST. – On Monday an Edinburgh holiday-maker on his way south from Aberdeen, where he had been spending the holiday, caused considerable alarm to the signalman at the north cabin of the North British Railway. The excursionist left his compartment at Hillside, and when the train was approaching Montrose the signalman noticed the man seated on a buffer of the engine. The signalman immediately stopped the train, and the young man was smartly ordered by the officials to resume his seat. 

– Montrose Standard, Friday 22nd April, 1904, p.5. 

   ACCIDENT TO A WOMAN ON THE RAILWAY. – About four o’clock on Wednesday morning a woman named Jeannie Logan or Watt, 34 years of age, wife of and residing with Archibald Watt, gratefitter, Muirhill, Larbert, and who has, it is stated, been in a weak state of health for some time, wandering from her house, got on to the railway near the Stenhousemuir signal-cabin, about half a mile north from Larbert Station, and was struck by the engine of a mineral train coming from Striling. The engine-driver, no arriving at Larbert Station, informed the railway officials. Dr Jeffrey was sent for, and, going along the railway, found the woman lying on the four-foot way with her right foot severely lacerated. Dr Jeffrey dressed her injury, and ordered her removal to the Stirling Infirmary. 

– Falkirk Herald, Saturday 23rd April, 1904, p.5. 


  Yesterday evening a fatal accident of a very sad kind occurred on the railway at Greenock. It appears that a foreman platelayer named Patrick Dolan was walking eastwards along the railway line between Ann Street and the Central Station, and when about seventy yards from the mouth of the tunnel he was caught and knocked down by the 4.40 express from Gourock. Both of his legs were cut off, and death was instantaneous. He was walking between the rails, and the fact that both of his limbs were severed would seem to show that he had tried to get clear of the approaching train, but had failed to do so. Deceased, who was about 55 years of age, resided at 1 Lauriston Street, and has left a widow and family. It is stated that a few minutes previous to the occurrence he had warned the gang he was in charge of to be careful of passing trains. He was much respected by the men under his charge. 

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Saturday 23rd April, 1904, p.2. 

   HERMAN DOW, fireman on a pilot engine, was on Friday run over by an engine at Perth Central Station. He was removed to the Infirmary, but died about an hour afterwards. 

– Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser, Tuesday 26th April, 1904, p.7. 

Platelayer Injured

   Robert Orr, 50 years of age, a platelayer, residing at Old Station, Overtoun, was severely injured on the Caledonian Railway at Overtoun on Monday morning. He was walking along the line, and made to get clear of a mineral train which was approaching, when he was struck on the back by the engine of a passenger train and thrown on to the embankment. Several ribs were broken, and he sustained a severe shock to his system. 

Motherwell Times, Friday 29th April, 1904, p.2. 

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