January 1907

[Scottish Railway Incidents (1907) Contents]







   As will be seen from a telegram which came to hand early this morning, the number of victims of the terrible railway disaster at Elliot Junction has been increased to 21. 



   The following telegram was received by Provost Alexander, dated from Sandringham yesterday morning:- 

   “I am commanded by the King and Queen to say how greatly they have been shocked and distressed by the recent terrible railway accident at Arbroath. Their Majesties would be glad if you would express to the relatives of those who have lost their lives on this sad occasion the sincere condolence of the King and Queen in their sorrow, and to the injured the deep sympathy of their Majesties in their sufferings. 

   “Their Majesties also wish inquiries to be made as to the condition of these, and be informed how they are progressing. 


   The Provost also received the following telegram from the Secretary for Scotland, dated from Cambridge Street, London, W.:- 

   “Deeply grieved by the terrible disaster, and the loss and suffering hit has brought. Trust Mr Black and others are progressing favourably.” 

   Telegrams of sympathy have also been received from the Prime MInister, Lord Rosebery, and Mr Morely. 



   Last night another death occurred in Arbroath Infirmary, bringing up the death-roll to twenty-one. The latest victim is Mr J. M. Mitchell, traveller, 5 Panmure Place, Broughty Ferry. He was the representative in the East of Scotland of the Craighall Milling Company, Glasgow. As the result of the crash he had both his legs fractured, but in the early stages he made a wonderful rally, and on Saturday morning his case was not considered very serious. He was able to converse, and in a statement to a Press representative he gave an opinion as to the cause of the accident. On Saturday evening he was not so well, and his condition distinctly changed for the worse on Sunday night, the report then being that he was critically ill. At seven o’clock last night it was seen that the case was a hopeless one, and death occurred at eight o’clock. Mr Mitchell was a married man, and in his closing hours he was attended by his wife. 

   Last night McCarron and Allan, two of the injured, were reported to be poorly, while the five others are getting on favourably. 



   Acting on a warrant issued by the authorities at Dundee, the Edinburgh police yesterday arrested George Gourlay, 7 Royal Park Terrace, Edinburgh, the driver of the express which ran into the local train at Elliot Junction. The action of the police came somewhat as a surprise, because it was understood that Gourlay was still under medical supervision, and not in a condition physically to be interfered with. The police, however, after securing medical authority for their action, had the unfortunate driver quietly removed in the custody of Sub-Inspector Grant and Detective William Stewart, to the Central Police Station, whence it is expected he will be conveyed to Dundee this forenoon. Gourlay’s head was swathed in bandages, but he appeared to be well otherwise. It is understood that the charge bears that accused drove the train in “a reckless and culpable manner,” whereby it collided with the other train, and caused the death of certain persons and injury to others. Although Gourlay was lodged in the cells like any other prisoner, the police, as is usual in similar cases, did their best to make him as comfortable as the untoward circumstances permitted. In regard to the question of bail, that procedure, presuming it were considered proper to adopt it, was not possible at yesterday’s stage of the proceedings. The Edinburgh police were in a sense acting merely as agents for the Dundee authorities. When Gourlay is placed in the custody of the police at Dundee the propriety of releasing him on bail becomes open to consideration. 

   Our Dundee correspondent writes:- The charge to be preferred against George Gourlay, the engine-driver of the express, is one of culpable homicide. The departure yesterday for Arbroath of Mr Al. Agnew, Procurator-Fiscal of Forfarshire, was considered significant. Communications had been passing between him and the Crown authorities, and it is understood that the latter issued the warrant as the result of a telegram received from the Fiscal. Two members of the Forfar county authorities will leave for Edinburgh this forenoon, and bring Gourlay to Dundee. 





   The remains of the late Mr Alexander W. Black, M.P. for Banffshire, were removed from Arbroath to Edinburgh yesterday, and the funeral will take place to-morrow afternoon from St George’s United Free Church to the Dean Cemetery. From Arbroath to Dundee the coffin was conveyed by one of the ordinary forenoon trains, and at Dundee a special train was in readiness to continue the sad journey to Edinburgh. Haymarket Station was reached about half-past twelve o’clock, and thence the coffin was taken in a hearse to Mr Black’s house at 5 Learmonth Terrace. In the train there travelled from Arbroath Mrs Black, Mr James Buyers Black (brother), and Mr W. B. Wilson, W.S. (brother-in-law.) The Rev. William Fairweather (brother-in-law) joined the special train at Kirkcaldy. 

   The funeral to-morrow will be of a public character. The service in St George’s United Free Church will be attended by Mr Black’s relatives, representatives of Liberal and other organisations, and members of the congregation and of the general public. It will be conducted by the Rev. Dr Whyte, minister of the church, assisted by the Rev. John Kelman, junior, Edinburgh, and other ministers. After the service the cortege will be formed, and will proceed to the Dean Cemetery. 

   Since the announcement of Mr Black’s fatal injuries Mrs Black has received a large number of telegrams and letters of sympathy from parts of the country where the communication is not at present interrupted. These include a kindly message from the Princess Royal and the Duke of Fife, and communications from Mr Black’s Parliamentary colleagues. 



   The bodies of the fireman, Robert Irvine, William A. Paterson, Alexander Coats, and Robert Coats, along with that of the guard, Lesslie, whose funeral took place yesterday, have also been removed to Edinburgh, and the body of Adam T. Hunter to Hawick. 



   In the Police Court yesterday forenoon, Provost Alexander, having exhibited the Royal message before the ordinary business was proceeded with, said:- I should like in a sentence to allude to this great calamity which has befallen the town and district. We are all very much shocked at the great number of deaths that have occurred through this railway disaster, and we, as Magistrates and representatives of the community, deeply sympathise with all the relatives of those who have died, and those who are injured. I think it quite unnecessary to say anything with regard to the cause of the accident. No doubt investigation will be made, so that I will not say one word in regard to that; but we earnestly hope that the accident may be a warning to the railway companies to try and guard against anything like this in the future. No doubt the railway employees and the railway managers have very great difficulty in coping with the traffic in weather such as this, and I think we should be very chary in blaming them in the very slightest. The work they have to do, and the conditions under which it is done, would tax the strongest of men, both physically and mentally. I don’t think I need say more. We deeply sympathise with the relatives of those who have lost their lives. Most of them were men mainly in the prime of life, and were heads of families, and, of course, their wives and families depended upon them. We deeply deplore the loss of life. All lives are valuable, but we specially deplore the loss of such a man as Mr Black, M.P., a man who was at the beginning of what promised to be a very useful political career. 

   Bailie Thomson said – I agree with every word the Provost has said. We are exceedingly sorry that such a calamity should have occurred near our good old town. We send our heartfelt sympathy to the relatives of the dead and injured. 

   Bailie Robertson – I don’t know that it is necessary to say more. I thoroughly agree with everything that the Provost has said. I wish publicly to thank the sergeant at the Drill Hall for his prompt attention in arranging to receive the dead bodies there. The community are indebted to him for what he has done in that matter, and for the arrangements he made to exclude the crowd. 

– Scotsman, Tuesday 1st January, 1907, p.5. 



   I enclose copy of supplement to the Railway Supplies Journal containing a short article on my patent appliance for stopping trains should they over-run a signal set at “danger” during fog, darkness, falling snow, or at any time. 

   The report just issued about a week ago by Lieutenant-Colonel Von Donop, R.E., of the Board of Trade, states that the primary cause of the disaster to the Scottish express at Grantham on September 19 was the over-running of signals set at “danger.” That being so, I have no hesitation in saying that had my appliance been fitted on the engine that disaster would have been averted. 

   In the case of the smash at Elliot Junction, had my appliance been fitted, and the signal set against the N.B. train (as it probably was, but was not visible on account of the snow-storm) it would have been impossible for the N.B. train to have got past the signal protecting the junction. 

   I have brought this appliance to the notice of several railway companies, the officials of which have all admitted the reliability of it to prevent accidents, but they seem to think more of the £ s d side of the question than the safety of their employees and passengers’ lives. 


   Mayfield, St Meddan Street, 

Troon, 29th Dec., 1906. 

   [The patent, says the Railway Supplies Journal, is No. 2298, of 1905, and in accordance therewith the vacuum or compressed air pipes on a train are provided with a glass or other easily-broken ball or tube (but strong enough to stand the normal brake pressure) arranged to strike against a track lever which is raised by the signal wires when the signal is at danger. The obstacle is mounted on a rocking lever carrying a counterweight on a bell crank. The brake pipe is fitted with a T-piece, connected to a valve (or the valve may be dispensed with), and a tube, to which is joined the glass or other breakable tube. In an alternative arrangement the tube is carried at the end of a flexible pipe to facilitate renewal after breakage. The engine-driver can replace a broken tube and put it in position in thirty seconds without leaving the footplate of his engine.] 

– Dundee Courier, Tuesday 1st January, 1907, p.4. 







   In the opinion of railway experts the disaster near Arbroath was due, if not solely, at least to a great extent, to the fact that the express which crashed into the stationary train was being driven with the tender foremost. The driver, Gourlay, states that he drove the engine backwards because there was no turntable near Arbroath large enough to reverse it. 

   If the Board of Trade inquiry confirms this theory a situation will arise calling for a change in the running methods of practically every railway company with a terminus in London. Almost every suburban service that runs to and from the Metropolis adopts the tender-first system on either the up or down journeys. 

   An Evening News representative gathered the opinions of a number of engineering experts and railway authorities on the dangers of this system yesterday, In unbiassed quarters the general impression prevailed that trains thus driven are more liable to meet with accidents than trains run in the usual manner. The system was denounced on the following grounds:- 

   That rain or snow is blown into the driver’s face, obscuring his view of the line and signals. 

   That dust from the coal in the tender is driven into his eyes with the same result. 

   That the tender obstructs the driver’s outlook for some considerable distance ahead. 

   That he has to turn his back on the controlling appliances of the engine. 

   “It’s enough to kill a man to ask him to drive his engine tender first when snow or rain is falling.” This was the remark made by a driver of wide experience upon one of the principal lines running out of London. “It is like this. Just think for yourself what a speed of 40 miles an hour means when you have to face the wind with no protection. Motor car drivers did not take long to discover that glasses were absolutely necessary, but did you ever see an engine driver with glasses? 

   “The driver of even a suburban train, however, has to contend against far worse atmospheric conditions than a driver of anything off the metals. When driving head on it is bad enough, for the glass in our cabs quickly becomes obscured by steam. But even in snow or rain we can always peep round the corner and so see the signals. Tender first, though, means quite another thing. Facing a rain-storm is just like looking into a sheet of water. 

   “It fills your eyes as soon as you turn your head, and it’s a difficult thing to see anything clearly ahead. Snow naturally is worse, for you are blinded when you try to peer into the mass through which your engine is rushing. Then there is the wind. It strikes the coal, and the dust is carried right into the face of the man who is trying to catch sight of the signals. With everything open, as is frequently seen on some of the suburban lines, the particles of coal sting your face like bullets. Get one of these in your eye and it is easy to understand what happens, and how you feel for the next few minutes. 

   “Even when his cab is covered, as is the case with the larger engines, a driver is placed at a very considerable disadvantage when running tender first. The wind cuts into the tender, and the coal dust comes whirling out of the shovel-hole with blinding frequency. But to drive tender first unprotected – well, it’s cruel. It is not fair to ask a man to do such a thing.” 

   “No engine should be driven backward except those of the ‘tank’ type,” observed a locomotive engineer. “These, as a rule, are provided with double cabs and duplicate weather glasses. But the vast majority of the engines on the London suburban lines have only small single cabs, that afford the drivers very little protection. In many cases they have no cabs at all, only weather glasses. It is a singular fact that the engine in the Tay Bridge disaster, which belonged to the same Company as that involved in the Arbroath disaster, was not provided with a fully-protected cab. The driver was exposed to the fierce elements.” 

   The case of the Companies is that a quick suburban traffic renders it necessary that trains should be run with the tender first. 

– Dundee Courier, Wednesday 2nd January, 1907, p.5. 

   RAILWAY FATALITY. – A porter-signalman named Walter McAndrew was accidentally killed on Friday on the Caledonian Railway. McAndrew had gone to see to the south distant signals, and was evidently returning to the station when he was run down by a train that left Stanley Junction at 1.24. The accident happened in the deep cutting near the railway bridge over the main road at Stanley Feus, and it is conjectured that driving snow prevented deceased from seeing the approaching train. The barking of a dog drew the attention of a lad named Brown to the sad mishap, and he at once gave the alarm. The remains, which were terribly mutilated, were conveyed to the house of Mr Winton, stationmaster. McAndrew, who came to Stanley Junction in June last, was a quiet, respectable, well-liked young man of about 24 years of age. His parents live in Kirkbuddo, and deceased spent a holiday with them a few days ago. 

– Perthshire Advertiser, Wednesday 2nd January, 1907, p.8. 




   ON Thursday evening the accommodation at the White Hart Hotel and the Imperial Hotel was entirely taken up by travellers from all parts of the country who were unable to get either north or south, or who were too ill to move. Every room of the White Hart was taken, 50 persons in all finding accommodation. Thirteen others spent the evening in the smoking room, huddled round a roaring fire, until news reached them of a train going south at 11.20 p.m., when they took advantage of the opportunity to get to Dundee. Amongst the number who spent the night in the hotel was Captain V. D. Pirie, M.P., who was suffering from a severe attack of lumbago. 

   Captain Pirie left Edinburgh on Thursday forenoon with the 11 o’clock express for Aberdeen, the new North British railway fast train which on its journey north to the Granite City only stops at Dundee. Very slow progress was made across Fife and up the east coast, and when nearing Arbroath speed was further reduced. The schedule time for the whole journey is three hours, but already four hours had elapsed when St Thomas was passed. 

   The train then consisted of five carriages, a number of them the latest pattern corridors, and there were in all only about twenty passengers aboard. After passing Arbroath the train continued to steam slowly until near Lunan Bay when two trains were passed which had just come from the north. A few hundred yards beyond Lunan Bay station the express came to a standstill. It was unable to climb up the incline towards the narrow cutting which leads on to Montrose, and again and again the train was backed and set forward but without appreciable result. 

   The engine was not of the most powerful on the N.B. system; it was ranked as second class; and what made matters worse was that the engine ultimately became entangled in fallen telegraph wires, and in addition one of the stays of the engine broke. The wires were eventually cleared away, and the stay temporarily repaired, and once more an effort was made to make headway. 

   Progress, however, against the enveloping snow drifts was impossible. Effort after effort was made, and in backing one of the carriages was derailed. Fortunately no one was injured, and the passengers were sent forward to the other carriages. Eventually towards 11 o’clock at night it was decided to allow the train to remain where it stood. 

   The plight of the passengers was beyond description. They were without food; it was impossible to remove to any other shelter or to get assistance from anywhere; the travellers might equally as well have been within the Arctic circle, for the night was an extremely wild one, and in the exposed position they occupied they experienced the fearful blizzard at its worst, with the snow driving down the gully on to the train without the slightest intermission all the night through. Sleep, too, was out of the question as the train became intensely cold through the failure of the heating apparatus. 

   With the approach of dawn the train, composed now of only three carriages, one being left behind in addition to the vehicle derailed, was started for Arbroath, which was reached about seven o’clock on Friday morning. No word of the failure of the express to pass Lunan Bay the previous afternoon had reached Arbroath in consequence of the break-down of the wires, and when the train came in the passengers were chagrined to find no responsible official about, and no attempt made to provide for their comfort one way or another. 

   The weary hours dragged on, and at nine o’clock the intimation went along the line that an attempt would be made to reach Aberdeen by way of the Caledonian Railway line. Then only, stated some of the passengers, was any official recognition taken on them; and (the absurdity of it!) the official was a C.R. ticket-collector, who laboriously and obsequiously took the numbers of the passengers’ tickets. 

   With different train officials, and another engine, the north express once more began its round-about journey for Aberdeen. The journey was extremely tedious and wearisome, and the foolishness of making the experiment without knowing if trains could get through was quickly discovered. 

   The train got no further than Leysmill when there was a block, and a stoppage of several hours. Then on again it went and at last, sometime in the afternoon Friockheim was reached. Here it was compelled to take another breathing space, and most of the passengers went to the local hotel. They remained there until word was sent over that the train was to return to Arbroath, and again they boarded the carriages they had occupied for now twenty-six hours. 

   Their discomforts, however, were not yet at an end. In a blinding snow-storm they re-entered their compartments, thinking that in an hour or less they would be comfortably housed. Their hopes were doomed to bitter disappointment, for on the return journey the train was again stuck at Leysmill, the lights all went out, and the heating apparatus gave way so that the last state of the travellers seemed to be ten times worse than the first. At least three hours’ delay occurred at Leysmill, but at last the train succeeded in steaming into Arbroath after seven o’clock on Friday night, the passengers from Edinburgh having been “cribbed, cabined, and confined” no less than thirty hours. 

   The disaster at Elliot had already occurred, and at Arbroath when the belated express arrived all was confusion and excitement. The public thronged the station; the officials were disorganised and powerless; all seemed to be awaiting for information and instructions; and in the circumstances the passengers were forced to fend for themselves. 

   The majority decided to spend the night in Arbroath, and at the hotels of the town they found hosts who spared no effort to ameliorate their sorry and miserable condition. 

– Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs, Thursday 3rd January, 1907, p.4. 




   The six injured in the Arbroath disaster are doing well. 

   The Procurator-Fiscal, conducting inquiries yesterday, stated that the police had been able to trace the man who supplied the better part of half a glass of brandy to Driver Gourlay by way of a restorative after the disaster occurred. 

   Major Pringle visited Dundee Prison yesterday, and received from Gourlay a frank and full statement of the whole of the circumstances of the disaster. Gourlay was given a high character by the locomotive superintendent for capacity and sobriety. 

   A Dundee correspondent telegraphs – The engine-driver, Gourlay, was visited in prison yesterday by Major Pringle, and examined as to the circumstances attending the Elliot accident. Afterwards the enquiry was resumed in the offices of the Dundee and Arbroath Joint Railways, and about half-a-dozen witnesses, mostly railway servants, were examined, for the most part, with reference to the circumstances which led to the blocking of the line by the derailment of the goods train, the impediment caused to traffic by the snow-fall, the hours of duty of employees at Arbroath and Elliot, and in verification or otherwise of the statements made as to the signalling arrangements and precautions taken to ensure safe running and the like. 

   Mr George Harcourt, art master, Hospitalfield, gave evidence which is regarded as of great moment. He stated that from Hospitalfield he saw the train approach a few minutes before the collision took place. He arrived at Elliot within a quarter-of-an-hour of the smash, and saw the driver walking about the platform out and bleeding, and in a dazed condition, owing to the results of the accident. Witness saw a passenger give Gourlay a quantity of brandy, and he heard the driver say that he would only take a little. The brandy was given previous to the arrival of the doctors. 

   The inquiry is expected to conclude to-day. 

– Inverness Courier, Friday 4th January, 1907, p.5. 

   FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT PORTOBELLO. – A miner’s hutch drawer named Bernard Gallagher, who resided in lodgings at 170 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, sustained injuries on the railway at Portobello Station about 8.45 P.M. on Saturday which resulted in his death in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary two hours later. Gallagher had been down at Niddrie inquiring about the resumption of work after the New Year holidays, and was returning home. He was observed entering the station, and a quarter of an hour later a ticket collector noticed an object lying on the main down line to Edinburgh, opposite the middle of the station buildings. This proved to be Gallagher lying on his back between the rails, with both legs severed below the knee. A train from Dalkeith had passed shortly before. He was conveyed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary by rail and ambulance. In that institution he died at 10.45 P.M. Some ten years ago Gallagher lost his right hand and several fingers of his left by being run over at Roslin. He was between thirty and forty years of age, and unmarried. 


   FATALITY ON THE RAILWAY AT GLASGOW. – Between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday evening there was found on the Glasgow and South-Western Railway, at Shields Road, Glasgow, the body of James Gouldie (40), a widower, who resided at 89 Cathcart Street. Deceased was a foreman carriage washer at Bellahouston Railway Station, and was to take duty at seven o’clock. He lost the 6.55 P.M. train at Eglinton Street, and he must have got on to the line for the purpose of walking to his station. The driver of an engine reported that it had knocked against something, and on investigation Gouldie’s body was found. 

– Scotsman, Monday 7th January, 1907, p.6. 

   On Thursday evening, while George Marshall, fireman, who resides in Galashiels, was reaching over to the water-box on the tender of an engine at Hawick Railway Station, he slipped and fell, sustaining severe wounds on the back of the head and over the left eye. He was taken to the Hawick Cottage Hospital. 

– Southern Reporter, Thursday 10th January, 1907, p.1. 



How Disasters Are Prevented. 


(Special to the Courier.) 


   Perhaps no official of any organisation in the kingdom has more rules to obey than the man employed on the railway; indeed, when one begins to study the rule-book of one of our railway concerns one is forced to ask whether the regulations are not so numerous as to become confusing. As in the Post Office, there is much red tape in the service, and it would seem as if the day had come when the working of the whole railway system should be simplified. Again, a glance at the rules which must be obeyed by some branches of the railway service demonstrates the fact that the railway employee has responsibilities attached to his office which are far from being recognised by the miserable monetary remuneration he receives from his employers. The signalman, with his long hours and small pay, has the making of disasters in his hands. Engine-drivers, whose responsibilities are even greater, are still working under conditions that are not the best to secure the public safety, so that a good deal has yet to be done before railway directors can console themselves with the reflection that the working of our railways can be safely left to the employees and the rule-book. 

From Layman’s Point of View. 

   In these days of Board of Trade inquiries, and with the opening of the public investigation at Arbroath so near at hand, it is essential that something should be known regarding the rules under which railway servants work. And at the very outset let it be said that, so far as a layman can judge, a railway company’s regulations are calculated to afford the public a very high degree of protection; indeed, were the rules always adhered to, accidents, humanly speaking, would be impossible. 

    These regulations, which every railwayman carries with him, do not refer merely to the plain, matter-of-fact working of the system. They conceive every kind of emergency and difficulty. The weather may be fickle, but, no matter what the conditions are, the railway company will refer you to the rule-book, and regulation No. —— will be found to meet the difficulty. 

In Fog or Snow. 

   For fog or snow, when one is inclined to believe that the whole system is dislocated and out of gear, the rule-book contains a prescription. There need be no working by “feel,” no haphazard despatch of trains, and no risks. Even if signals are broken down there are such things as detonators and hand signals, to say nothing of the pilot. Rule 78, which is headed “Signalling in foggy weather or during falling snow,” is very explicit on these points. It tells us, for instance, that it is the duty of the stationmaster or other appointed person to take care that fog signalmen ae employed at all the places where their services are required; and, where platelayers are employed for the purpose, to arrange beforehand with the inspector of the permanent way the platelayers who are to act as fog signalmen at the various posts. The foreman ganger, or leading man, must not be assigned a fixed post, but must be left free to examine his road. He may, however, when no other competent man is available, be employed to call the fog signalmen, to visit them at their posts, and distribute detonators and refreshments. Further, according to the rule the fog signalman must see that the distant signal which has been taken off for a train to pass is placed at danger after the passing of such train. If, after a reasonable time has elapsed, the signal is not placed at danger, the fog signalman must go back yo protect the train. The next following train must be stopped and the enginedriver instructed to proceed cautiously, and to inform the signalman at the box in advance of the circumstances. 

When Line is Blocked. 

   Very stringent are the rules for a line on which a train has been stopped by accident, failure, or obstruction. Rule 217 says:- 

   When a train is stopped by an accident or from any cause (unless it has arrived at pr passed the home signal) the guard, if there be only one, or the rear guard, if there be more than one, must immediately go back at least three-quarters of a mile, unless he arrives at a signal-box within that distance, plainly exhibiting his hand danger signal to stop any following train, and, in addition to his hand signals, he must take detonators to be used by day as well as by night, which must be placed upon the line on which the stoppage has happened as follows:- 

   One detonator a quarter of a mile from his train, 

   One detonator half a mile from his train, and  

   Three detonators, ten yards apart, not less than three-quarters of a mile from his train. 

   And must also exhibit his hand danger signal to stop any coming train. 

   If the guard arrive at a signal-box within or at about three quarters of a mile from his train he must place three detonators on the line opposite the box, and must also instruct the signalman to keep his signals at danger to protect the line which is obstructed. He must then return to his train, or take such other steps as may be necessary to deal with the obstruction. 

   The detonators must not, according to the rules, be taken up until intimation has been received that the obstruction has been removed, and when the “Is line clear” signal for the next train which has to pass through the section has been accepted by the signal-box in advance the train must be stopped, and the enginedriver must be advised of the circumstances and instructed to travel cautiously through the section. 

The Pilot Man. 

   Where the traffic of a double line has, on account of repairs or obstruction, to be conducted over a single line of rails, extraordinary precautions are prescribed. For instance, the Railway Company lays it down that a competent person must be appointed as pilot man, who must wear on his left arm above the elbow a distinctive badge. Until the regular badge can be obtained, the pilot man must wear a red flag tied round his left arm. 

   No engine must enter upon any portion of the single line without the pilot man being present and riding upon the said engine unless two or more trains are required to follow in the same direction, in which case the pilot man must order all trains to proceed, except the last, upon the engine of which he must ride. 

   Another rule under the same head says before single line working is put in operation the signalman at each end of the single line must, when practicable, advise the signalman at the box in the rear, and the latter must stop each train proceeding in the direction of the single line working, inform the enginedriver of the circumstances, and instruct him to proceed cautiously. 

   When two or more trains are allowed to follow in the same direction, and block telegraph working is suspended, the engine-driver of each following train must be told by the pilot man what interval of time has elapsed since the preceding train left. 

   Such are the rules by which Railway Companies seek to guard against disaster. At a time when the public has constituted itself a jury sitting to try not merely railway officials, but the whole system of working, it is essential that these rules should be kept in mind and closely studied. 

– Dundee Courier, Thursday 10th January, 1907, p.4. 





Disastrous Collision: Traffic Delayed. 

   A serious accident occurred on the railway at Cameron Bridge early this morning. The train which occasioned the smash was the 5.45 a.m. fish truck special loaded up with goods from Thornton to Anstruther. 

   Leaving Thornton there is a gradual decline for a considerable distance, and a train therefore soon gathers considerable way. Soon after leaving the Junction one of the waggon couplings must have broken, and the train now in two portions, must have raced thus to Cameron Bridge. The driver of the train had the impression that something was amiss, but in the darkness and gloom of the early morning he could make out nothing clearly. He had not long to wait, however, for in slowing down for the tablet at Cameron Bridge the runaway waggons crashed with tremendous force into the front portion. 

   The engine fortunately kept the metals, but the following seven or eight waggons were smashed to matchwood and thrown the one on the top of the other. Heavy waggon wheels and axles were thrown on end, brake blocks, broken railway chairs and goods, consisting of groceries, biscuit boxes, bales of cloth, butter, dishes, boots, and boot protectors, lay about a confused mass. 

   A huge wooden beam riding on three light waggons was thrown on to the side of the line, while a heavy lorry had been lifted bodily out of the waggon and thrown on to the embankment. 

   The permanent way also suffered considerably. A breakdown gang was soon on the spot, but the traffic, and especially the early morning passenger trains was delayed for over an hour. 

   The powerful steam crane was requisitioned from St Margaret’s, Edinburgh, and the line was cleared soon after midday, the traffic in the meantime having been worked round the loop. 

– Dundee Evening Telegraph, Friday 11th January, 1907, p.3. 


   A sad accident occurred on Thursday at Wardheads level crossing about 200 yards west of Errol Station. As the 4.10 p.m. train from Perth was passing the crossing the passengers felt a severe shock, which almost threw them from their seats. Those on the platform at the station were startled to hear a loud crash, and to see a shower of sparks fly from the engine, and on rushing to the spot were horrified to find the dead body of James Reid, foreman to Messrs Dalgetty Brothers, horsedealers, Wardheads. Some distance further on lay a dead horse. Reid had been at Errol Station in the afternoon with a horse and cart, and on his way home had apparently started to cross the rails without noticing the approach of the train. His body had been carried nearly a hundred yards from the scene, while the cart had become wedged in the front of the engine, and was dragged along to Errol Station. The train was delayed at the station for fully an hour while the iron rim of one of the wheels which had become entangled in the wheel of the locomotive was being removed. The force of the impact had also smashed one of the suffers of the engine. Reid leaves a widow and grown-up family. 

– Perthshire Advertiser – Wednesday 16 January 1907, p.9. 



   The inquiry into the circumstances of the Elliot railway disaster at Arbroath on Saturday was productive of some startling evidence. John Grant, the Stationmaster at Arbroath, was in the witness-box almost three hours, and stated that he instructed Gourlay, whom he considered to be perfectly fit for duty, to proceed with caution, and call at every station. The afternoon evidence related exclusively to the condition of the driver of the North British train. Several witnesses gave it as their opinion that he was the worse of liquor. One spoke to seeing a man mount the cab of the engine and give the driver and fireman what he inferred was liquor. Another who went for the driver at Elliot heard an intoxicated man say to Gourlay, “For Christ’s sake don’t come out and let the people see you,” and a third heard a train attendant say to Gourlay on the Arbroath platform, “Georgie, try to walk as steady as you can, because there is a number of folks on the platform.” Under cross-examination, however, none of the witnesses could be got to affirm that the driver was actually the worse for drink. 

– Stonehaven Journal, Thursday 17th January, 1907, p.4. 

   RAILWAY TRAGEDY IN MID-LOTHIAN. – A distressing accident, by which a discharged soldier named J. Girdwood lost his life, occurred on the North British Railway line between Stow and Heriot early yesterday morning. When the London express reached Abbeyhill Junction shortly before four-o’clock, the signalman stopped the train and informed the guard that a telegraph message had been received from Gorebridge to the effect that one of the carriage doors was open. An examination of the train was immediately made, and it was found that the door of a third class compartment was open. The guard remembered that when the train left Carlisle there were five passengers in the compartment, and he saw that one was now missing. The other occupants, including a man Murray, also a discharged soldier, when aroused could say nothing of what had happened to Girdwood. On the arrival of the express at the Waverley, Mr Deuchars, the superintendent of the line, wired all stations to Carlisle to have the line searched. Later in the morning Girdwood was found lying in a disabled condition on the track near Fountainhall by two surfacemen who were going to their work. He was unable to give any information further than an indication that he was going to Edinburgh. There was a long deep wound on the right side of his head almost immediately behind the ear, from which a considerable quantity of blood had flowed. No other injuries were noticeable on his person, but he appeared to be in a very exhausted state. A passing train was stopped, and the injured man was conveyed to Edinburgh, where he was taken in a railway ambulance to the Royal Infirmary. Life, however, was there pronounced to be extinct. Deceased was a private in the 1st Seaforth Highlanders, and was on his way home to Edinburgh. He was about thirty-two years of age and unmarried, and had served for eight years in the Seaforth Highlanders. He took part in the South African war. 

– Scotsman, Friday 18th January, 1907, p.8. 





   Before Sheriff Sym and a jury at Perth on Saturday an inquiry was held into the circumstances attending the death of James Reid, farm manager, Wardhead Farm, Errol, who was killed while driving a horse and cart across the level-crossing leading to the farm on 10th January. 

   An assistant at the farm named James Francis said that deceased had been carting manure from the station to a field the greater part of the day. About half-past four he left off work, and returned to the farm. At that time two trains passed – one from Dundee to Perth, and the other from Perth to Dundee. Witness heard a loud crash, and on going to the spot found Reid’s horse trying to get up. A little further up the line he saw Reid, who was badly injured at the back of the head, and was quite dead. Witness’ opinion of the accident was that the deceased had paid too much attention to the Dundee train and did not notice the train from Perth to Dundee coming up. 

   William Raeside, engine-driver on the train which dashed into the cart, said he was approaching Errol Station about 4.35, and was going at the rate of about forty miles an hour. He passed a train going from Dundee when about the private level crossing at Wardhead. He merely saw his engine strike the horse, which was hurled to the side of the hedge. At that time he did not notice the cart or the man. On proceeding up the line he heard a heavy crash, and immediately applied his brakes. On examining his engine he found a part of the cart jammed in front of the locomotive. He didn’t whistle while passing the crossing as it was not one of the regulations to do so. 

   The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the evidence. 

– Dundee Courier, Monday 21st January, 1907, p.7. 


   A sad railway accident was discovered in Dundee on Saturday morning, when the body of a schoolboy named George Wood (thirteen), residing in Lawrence Street, was found lying on the Caledonian Railway line a few yards west of the esplanade Bridge. The body was found shortly before eight o’clock, but as it was cold and stiff, it is thought that the accident must have happened on Friday night. One arm was severed from the body, and there was a wound on the forehead. He had left his home on Friday, and as he did not return his parents and friends had been making great efforts to obtain information respecting his whereabouts, but without result. No reason can be assigned for his presence on the railway. 

– Perthshire Advertiser, Wednesday 23rd January, 1907, p.3. 

   FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT. – On Saturday afternoon a young man named Alexander McDonald, about 28 years of age and unmarried, residing at 10 Old Forge, Calderbank, met with an accident which has resulted fatally. He had been at the Airdrieonians v. Rangers football match in Airdrie, and was returning home by the railway from Calderbank Station, when he had apparently fallen upon the line and lain there till the 9.10 p.m. train from Newhouse came along. The train struck him on the head and his left hand was run over and shattered. When found he was removed to the Alexander Hospital, after being attended by Dr Wilson, and it was found that he had sustained a compressed fracture of the skull and severe scalp wounds, besides the injury to the hand. Dr Wilson also attended him at the hospital, where he amputated the hand. The unfortunate man succumbed to hsi injuries about 2 o’clock on Monday morning. 

– Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, Saturday 26th January, 1907, p.5. 





   A serious accident happened at Nairn Station last night to the south-going train due at Nairn about 9 o’clock. Two waggons laden with wood were completely smashed, while four others and a luggage van went off the rails. The permanent way was badly cut up, and the guard in the rear portion of the train, named Peter Crow, was severely cut, his forehead having to be stitched. He was, however, able to proceed with the train. The accident was caused by a number of waggons breaking off from the end of the train, and, when the front portion stopped at Nairn station, the rear portion came crashing into it. By the impact one of the waggons was thrown on the top of another, and the load of wood was strewn about the platform and rails. A gang of men and the steam crane were summoned from Inverness. The traffic was not delayed in any way as the north rail was quite clear. 

– Aberdeen Press and Journal, Saturday 26th January, 1907, p.4. 

   Accident on Edinburgh Suburban Railway. – While walking along the Suburban line of the North British Railway to the east of Morningside Station, Edinburgh, on Saturday morning a railway employee found lying at the side of the rails under Woodburn Bridge a man unconscious from severe injuries. On examination, the railwayman found that the right arm was severed above the elbow, and severe injuries had been inflicted on the right leg, the foot having been cut off. The man, whose name is William Harkness, and who resided at 3 Bruce Street, is a dairyman. On Saturday morning, while walking along the line from Morningside, he was struck by a goods train. He had, it is stated, missed the suburban train to Newington, and intended to walk to that station along the line. He was promptly removed to the Royal Infirmary, where he now lies in a serious condition. 

– Aberdeen Press and Journal, Monday 28th January, 1907, p.9. 

   SHOCKING RAILWAY FATALITY. – On Sunday night about six o’clock a painful fatality occurred on the Caledonian Railway between Newton and Uddingston passenger station at a point near the east end of the viaduct which carried the railway across the Clyde. The victim was a young lad named James Green (16), miner, son of John Green, miner, Pitt Street, Newton. He, along with two companions named Donald McKinlay and Patrick McIvor, had been to Bellshill, visiting a young man Joseph Williamson, and were on their way home to Newton when the fatality occurred. The night was dark, and a strong gale of wind prevented them from hearing the approach of the 5.50 Glasgow express. McKinlay happened to turn round just as the train was upon them, but his warning cry came too late, and Green, who had been walking along the side of the down line, was struck on the head by the engine, and killed instantaneously. Thoroughly unnerved by the terrible nature of the accident, McIvor and McKinlay hurriedly proceeded to the miners’ rows at Caldervale, and obtained the assistance of a number of miners, who had the body conveyed to Uddingston Station. The body was removed to Newton the same night. A pathetic circumstance in connection with the sad occurrence is that deceased’s mother has been bed-ridden for some time past, and it is feared that the death of her son may seriously endanger the prospects of an early recovery. 

– Hamilton Heral and Lanarkshire Weekly News, Wednesday 30th January, 1907, p.3. 

2 thoughts on “January 1907

  1. Hi Jenny, I’m searching for stories about the Highland Line and have found your page very helpful, thank you so much. Reading about the trains/raliways it is well worth discovering about how vulnerable these arterial lines were across the country. Weather and accidents occuring due to the severity lead to alterations and engineering additions to the network. usually after fatalities and derailments. I wonder if we’ll ever go back to full capacity of the lines given climate change etc.

    1. Climate change would be a good excuse for trains to be utilised more, I’d think, being a fairly clean-running mode of transportation. If I can help with further information, at all, let me know and I’ll see what I can find. J x

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