Quintinshill - 100th anniversary

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by matchmaker, 16 May 2015.

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  1. matchmaker

    matchmaker Member

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    Lest we forget, Friday 22nd May is the 100th anniversary of Britain's worst railway disaster. There is a tv programme "Britains deadliest rail disaster - Quintinshill" on BBC2 Scotland on Wednesday 20th May at 9pm and this is repeated on BBC4 on Thursday at 9pm.
     
  2. w0033944

    w0033944 Member

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    Had I not gone down with a bad cold which has left me rather muddled, I'd have posted about the anniversary myself, though I didn't know about the programme. Thanks for reminding us of this, though - it was a truly dreadful crash, and was always overshadowed by the Tay Bridge disaster.
     
  3. MidnightFlyer

    MidnightFlyer Veteran Member

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    One of the darkest days of Britain's railways ever; any fatal accident is sad but Quintinshill was something else. I always have a quiet minute when passing there on a train (and probably will do on Friday morning), to think if either signalman had actually looked up from the desk then the whole thing could have been avoided is heartbreaking. If we can take one positive from it though it should be realising just how crucial, and how hard-working, rail staff past and present have been for ensuring the safety of it all for the rest of us.
     
  4. Elecman

    Elecman Established Member

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    I'm going to be there at 06.30 on Friday morning.
     
  5. Ianigsy

    Ianigsy Member

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    I was reading about the disaster a few months ago.

    One interesting thing in terms of the current tensions between the UK and Scotland- most of the fatalities who didn't die at the scene were taken to hospitals in Carlisle and Penrith, so there was a short turf war between the English and Scottish legal establishments as to the correct way to proceed before it was eventually conceded that as the actual collisions happened in Scotland and the majority of victims were Scots, the proceedings should all be concluded in the Scottish courts.
     
  6. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    A nice gesture - good workmate of mine was Operations supervisor for a deep dig track replacement job at the location a good few years ago -say 198x - and being bored and mooching around found a WW1 bayonet in the spoilt ballast dug out. Obviously a hangover from the day.

    Far worse than Hawes Junction or Ais Gill - almost unbelievable that a signalman could cause a train to go right into a local he had not long ago stepped off , - but then , people make mistakes. Some worse than others.
     
  7. Elecman

    Elecman Established Member

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    Interesting that modern evidence interpretation supports the view that the day shift signalman was epileptic and had probably had a seizure that morning before work and also probably had a catatonic episode immediately after the first collision
     
  8. Western Lord

    Western Lord Member

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    This kind of historic revisionism is all too prevalent today, with "experts" believing that they can make sound judgements from (probably) incomplete records from 100 years ago. The fact is that the signalman was busily engaged in faking the train register to cover up his unauthorised late arrival for his shift. There were also unauthorised personnel in the box to add to his distraction from his duties. I believe that the TV programme will be suggesting some kind of cover up of bad practices by the company which were "responsible" for the accident. In fact it was caused by the gross negligence of the personnel involved. Both signalmen failed to engage the locking collars on the relevant levers and the fireman of the local train failed to check that the collars were in place when he visited the box to carry out rule 55. Sometimes the answer is simply the failure of people to do their job properly.
     
  9. Elecman

    Elecman Established Member

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    You have fallen into the hype trap, the brakes men were in the box quite legitimately carrying out their duties. Try reading the Quintinshill Conspiracy book which from your assertions is probably what the TV production company have done.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 19 May 2015
  10. St Rollox

    St Rollox Member

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    I doubt the story of shooting the badly injured at the spot will go down well in Scotland.
     
    Last edited: 18 May 2015
  11. Clarence Yard

    Clarence Yard Member

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    I was quite keen to read the "conspiracy" book and although eagerly anticipated, it came as a bit of a disappointment to me.

    I feel the author misled himself down a path of conspiracy though assumption rather than factual evidence. I was particularly disappointed that "Human Factors", so important these days, were not examined more.

    To give an example, much play is made in the book of the fact that the Inspector wrote his report up on railway company paper. It ignores the fact that an Inspector far from home would expect secretarial services to be provided for him by the company concerned. An unacceptable practise nowadays but not then.

    I cannot see the evidence for any epileptic seizure on duty - it has been presumed, possibly wrongly. I feel the balance of probability is that he became distracted because he was late and simply forgot the train was there. Personally I have had to deal with staff who, through distraction or in attention have done something stupid on the railway but never did the consequences of their actions result in anything like this incident.

    I get the feeling the definitive book on this accident has yet to be written, possibly by someone who has recent experience of railway accident investigation.
     
  12. MidnightFlyer

    MidnightFlyer Veteran Member

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    I purchased Richards / Searle book today on Amazon (oddly enough there was a 2013 hardback with 224 pages and a 2015 paperback with 280 pages, I went with the latter, but I'm presuming it's just a reprint). It's quite disappointing to read that it heads off on odd tangents but I still look forward to receiving it. There is a slightly surprising lack of literature on it: the most I have ever found anywhere else is a few pages in Rolt's Red for Danger...
     
  13. Clarence Yard

    Clarence Yard Member

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    Don't let me put you off - it is well worth a read and there is plenty of interest there. It just needs looking at with a slightly sceptical mind when you come to some of the conclusions.
     
  14. mbreckers

    mbreckers Member

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    (Mods, sorry if this is wrong board)

    Just noticed advertised on TV.

    Quintinshill - Britain's Deadliest Rail Disaster

    BBC Two Scotland, Wednesday 20th May at 2100

    From the Sky EPG:

    "Neil Oliver investigates the 1915 Quintinshill rail disaster. Was there a cover-up?"
     
  15. Hyphen

    Hyphen Member

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    For those outside Scotland who don't have Sky/Virgin (for the Nations feeds), my DVR reports to me that this is showing on BBC Four and BBC Four HD (both available on Freeview) on Thursday at 9pm.

    If anybody can't wait until then, it's possible to tune into the live BBC Two Scotland feed on iPlayer - change your location to Scotland at the bottom of the page, select Channels > BBC Two, then 'Watch live'.

    Otherwise, I'm sure the programme will be available as a standard catch up show shortly after airing.
     
    Last edited: 18 May 2015
  16. Western Lord

    Western Lord Member

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    The revisionism I am talking about is people believing that they can determine what happened by re-examining the records made at the time. I have not fallen into any hype trap, whatever you believe that to be, the accident was caused by human negligence, like many others before and since.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 19 May 2015
  17. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    If you read other accounts of railway operation in WW1 you find repeatedly that many of the good staff had volunteered for the military, and much of the notably increased operation was being carried out by those who were older or unfit for military service, yet working much longer shifts than normal (was the Quintinshill box being operated in 2 x 12 hour shifts?).

    Apart from the signalman who had just come on duty, everyone else in the box had probably been on duty all night and was pretty tired. Many people had deep family concerns about relatives at The Front. It's even more surprising that the army records were so sparse that with the loss of the documents in the train, nobody seemed to know who had been in it, but presumably army clerical staff were pretty non-existent as well.
     
  18. St Rollox

    St Rollox Member

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    Strange of all was the three children killed.
    Yet nobody came forward to claim them.
     
  19. Tracked

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    It was alright, not sure about the epilepsy explanation either, remember reading the O.S Nock book Historic Railway Disasters and there were a couple of things in there I don't think were mentioned;

    - the engine of the local train being larger than the usual ones on that service, Cardean class number '907' recently refurbed & scrapped with reluctance
    - he mentioned about how no-one seemed to have questioned the expresses from Euston being late
    - the coal train obscured the view of the local service, which if seen could've given the 1st trains driver time to pull up (though I get the feeling he doesn't think it would've likely have been the case)
    - Can't remember the mention of the driver of the local train going into the signalbox to remind them he was on the wrong line, and failing to check the lock was on the signal
     
    Last edited: 22 May 2015
  20. khib70

    khib70 Member

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    Thought it was pretty par for the course for Neil Oliver. Shallow, shouty and sensational in places, with some good eyewitness accounts. Too much foil hat speculation and the reconstructions were overly melodramatic. Little evidence to suggest anything other than catastrophic human error as the cause.

    Most of the dead came from my local area, and the coverage of that part was moving and respectful.

    On today's anniversary, may the soldiers, railwaymen and civilians who died so tragically rest in peace.
     
  21. MidnightFlyer

    MidnightFlyer Veteran Member

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    Indeed, an occurrence sadly echoed 13 years later at Charfield.

    I watched Neil Oliver's documentary on Wednesday night. It was a fairly solid effort but not as great as it could have been: the reconstruction I thought was too heavily relied on, and indeed cut back to, and at some points the tin foil hat game became a bit too strong. Still worth the watch though.

    It should also be noted Hibernian are to have a minute's silence before their match against Rangers tomorrow in commemoration, which I thought was a very nice touch. Hibs are of course based in Leith, and Easter Road is very close to the mass grave at Rosebank Cemetery.
     
  22. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    The express from Euston being late was pretty standard, due to the disorganisation of the line with excessive wartime traffic. At least two of the trains involved, the troop special and the "Jellicoe" coal train, were extras specifically for war traffic, and the down express had run 300 miles through the night through all of this. It was so normal for the local, which should have left Carlisle after the express, to be crossed to the opposite road to let it pass that the day signalman's practice had developed to take advantage of it.

    I was always surprised the local was sent off ahead, through, as there must have been connecting passengers from the overnight for it, whose connections were lost, and it can't have gained much ground out to Quintinshill, being shunted there, compared to following immediately behind from Carlisle.
     
  23. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

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    Although the collision was very serious, it is probable that most of the fatalities were caused by the consequential fire, arising from the use of gas for train lighting, and spreading rapidly through wooden coach bodywork.
     
  24. Tracked

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    Absolutely, can say that the willingness of CR to overlook the rule-bending and the extra wartime traffic played a part, but at the end of it all was a few people in a signalbox not paying attention.

    The epilepsy thing seems an extra "ooh, weren't the managers bad" which leaves out the fact that there were 3 or 4 other people in the signal box without epilepsy who were not paying attention (I'll say 4 if we take the OS Nock version: off-duty signalman, 2 freight train guardsmen, plus the guard of the local train)

    Also, the only mentions of epilepsy seem to be from after the accident ... :|
     
    Last edited: 23 May 2015
  25. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    According to either Rolt or Nock's books, it carried on to form an important business train into Glasgow and keeping this on time was considered preferable to holding the connetion at Carlisle.
     
  26. MidnightFlyer

    MidnightFlyer Veteran Member

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    Yes, I seem to recall reading that it tied into a lot of connections further on up towards Glasgow.
     
  27. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    I had always understood that the great fatality rate arose from the soldiers from other than the first one or two telescoped carriages (doubtless killed by the initial collision) who all bailed out on the only side available, the Down Main, a canyon between the wrecked troop train on the Up Main and the down goods in its loop, as the up goods in the loop gave no room on that side, and these men were then run down en masse with no warning and nowhere to go by the derailing down express. The whole collision site was then destroyed by fire.
     
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