Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Quintinshill Rail Disaster, 1915

Yesterday saw the 97th anniversary of Britain's worst rail disaster, which happened at Quintinshill, near Gretna Green, Scotland, on 22nd May 1915, resulting in the deaths of around 226, injuring 246 and involving five seperate trains.


The crash occured on a set of four tracks - the two main line railway tracks, and a siding off each main line track. At the time of the crash, there was a goods train in one siding, an empty coal train in another, and a local passenger train was stationary on the up mainline to Carlisle. The signalmen in the Quintinshill Signal Box did not make the other signal boxes aware of this, or make indications on the railway signals that the line was blocked, and so there was no warning to the troop train carrying the 1/7th Battalion Royal Scots of the stationary train in it's path. At 0649 the troop train collided head on with the stationary local passenger train. Just as those not already killed by the first collision were escaping from the wreckage, an express train powered by two steam locomotives ploughed into the wreckage which was strewn across the previously clear down mainline to Glasgow, killing and maiming those that were on the railway line, and causing the express train to crash to, the two crashes subsequent damage also extending to the goods train and empty coal train. The fires from the steam locomotives involved caused a fire, and leakages from the gas powered lighting system used on the wooden carriages ignited, resulting in a very large fire spreading to the crash wreckage.


Despite the best efforts of local fire brigades, the fire wasn't completely put out until the next day. Two were killed on the local passenger train which was struck by the troop train in the first collision but none were injured,  and also the engine crew of the troop train were killed, and seven were killed and fifty-four injured from the express train. The vast majority of the deaths and injuries were from the troop train - the exact figures are not known as the Regiment's roll list was destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire. Many bodies were either unrecogniseable or completely destroyed by the fire. Four children's bodies were found but they were not identified or claimed, possibly stow aways on the troop train. The two signalmen were convicted for their role in the disaster, however both returned to work for the Caledonian Railway after release.


  1. Hi Richard I have been researching Quintinshill for over two years now for a new book.

    Interested in one little known fact that you have correctly recorded here. The two passenger deaths on the local train.

    First time I have seen it on a public page - did you research for that one?

    Jack Richards

    1. Hi Jack, Wikipedia mentions the two passengers on the local - although I think I may have got it from the official report, viewable here;

  2. Hi Richard its not in the B.o.T. report but I understand its on the memorial

    New research on the accident would suggest the stow away story is complete nonsense. But it would appear that there were four unidentified corpses. They were not on the troop train though.

    Best wishes,


  3. I have post cards sent to my grandfather from his mother depicting the Gretna Green Rail Disaster. My grandfather had emigrated from Scotland to Australia in 1912. My great grandfather was the driver of the local train and my great grandmother was informing my grandfather of the accident. On the post card with the two girls on bicycles looking at the telescoped engines great grandmother states "This is old Jocks engine telescoped and your Fathers buried underneath, cant see it very well, Mother" On the burning train post card "This was fire all around it was terrible, from Mother" on the wrecked carriages post card with the three men looking at the destroyed carriage "Do you see Tom Tervit on here, Mother" I am trying to find out more about the driver of the local train, named as Frank Scott but I have not been able to find out any infomation on him at all. Any assistance would be greatfully accepted. contact