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quintinshill rail disaster



At 6.38 the first of the late running, north–bound expresses ran past.

At 6.42,Tinsley, who had now taken over duty, with no formal handover

from Meakin who had simply moved back to read the paper Tinsley had

brought with him with the latestWar news,forgot the local on the wrong

line, and changed the signal to allow a south-bound special, the troop

train, to continue towards Quintinshill.

The troop train itself was running late and making best speed to catch

up its timetable. At 6.50 it thundered under Blacksike Bridge, some

200 yards before the Quintinshill Signal Box, and only then could the

driver see the local train halted on the line in front, giving him no time

to apply the brakes; the troop train ploughed into the local. Less than

a minute later, the second express from Carlisle, whose driver’s sightline

was affected by the long left-handed curve as he approached Quintinshill,

ran,with its brakes full on, having been alerted to the crash by the quick

response of the Guard from the local train running back down the track

waving his arms, but still at high speed, into the wreckage of the two

trains which now blocked both main lines.

The troop train was made up mainly of older wooden six-wheeled

coaches, many lit with gas oil lamps with the fuel stored in tanks under

the carriages. The wood of the coaches, combined with escaping gas, led

to fire spreading very quickly and fiercely, killing many who had not died

in the crash itself.The express,being mainly steel coaches lit by electricity,

suffered relatively few casualties.

At the subsequent Board of Enquiry blame was laid on the

signalmen,Meakin andTinsley, since they had been making irregular,and

unauthorised,hand-overs of duties to suit themselves – at around 6.30am

rather than at the correct time of 6 o’clock. Meakin kept a pencil note

of the train movements that took place after 6.00 am until the arrival

of Tinsley, who then copied the notes into the train register in his own

handwriting – otherwise the railway authorities would have noticed the

irregular practice when they checked the record.