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quintinshill rail disaster



The lack of a proper handover, the pressure of writing up the register,

while operating the signals

(minus the key safety collar)

and points levers on

what was an excessively busy section of line at that time,and the continuing

presence of Meakin, together with the brakemen of the two goods trains

in the passing loops, who were also, wrongly, hanging about in the signal

box until slightly before the crash, must all have contributed to Tinsley

forgetting the local on the wrong line, despite the fact that he had just

travelled to work on the footplate and it was parked only some 65 yards to

his left and below where he was in the signal box.

Certainly the combination of irregularities would not have helped in

creating the calm and professional attitude that should have prevailed

in a signal box on such a busy main line. One further contributory factor

may have been the design of the signal box. It was old and lower in height

than the newer ones and, unlike the majority of signal boxes, the‘frame’ of

signal levers was set back in the centre of the box rather than immediately

behind the front window. This window in turn, and unusually, did not run

the full length of the box.Part of it was a wall with a desk against it on which

the train register was kept. Thus Tinsley, concentrating on writing up the

late entries into the Register, could not see immediately to his front and,

in turning to change the unguarded up signal would not have looked down

onto the track as he would have on the more conventional layout with the

frame at the front. Additionally, due to the lower height of the box, the line

of quite high empty coal wagons parked in the up loop may well have at least

partially hidden the local train on the main line if he had indeed glanced to

his left.

Both Meakin and Tinsley were subsequently tried in the High Court in

Edinburgh in September. It was a short trial and the jury took only eight

minutes to reach a unanimous finding of Guilty of culpable homicide. The

Judge, Lord Strathcyde, Lord Justice-General of Scotland, saw room for

drawing a distinction in the case and sentenced Meakin to eighteen months’

imprisonment whilstTinsley went down for three years hard labour.

In the event Tinsley, after public pressure, was released at the same time

as Meakin and both were immediately re-employed by the railway, though in

lower grade non-signalling jobs.