Railway disaster in the snow

Liverpool Mercury, January 5th 1907

Railway disaster in the snow

Terrible death toll.

The Scotch Express had left Kings Cross at 11-30 on Thursday evening bound for Aberdeen and reached Arbroath shortly before eleven on Friday morning.

Like other north bound trains it could not proceed any further on account of the snow. Passengers became impatient after a time, and it was resolved to make up an express of five coaches to return to Dundee or Edinburgh.

This was one of the largest engines of the North British Railway Co. So large that, as it had been going north, it had to return to tender for lack of a turntable at Arbroath to accommodate it.

The express had proceeded only 2 miles outward, at a speed of 20mph when it dashed into a Caledonian local train, brought up from Elliott Junction, which was waiting a signal to proceed on its journey.

A blinding snowstorm prevailed, the express driver was unable to see the local train until practically upon it.

The full force of the collision fell with horrifying effect on the occupants of the stationary local train. Soon the air was filled with shrieks and groans of the injured and dying.

The railway servants hastened to the spot, with such surgeons that were available and the rescue began. Those showing signs of life were given immediate aid and removed as speedily as possible to the Infirmary at Arbroath.

The loss of life occurred on the local train with the exception of the stoker, Robert IRVINE, who, pinned beneath his upturned engine, lived for 7hrs in a position of torture. It was 10pm when he was rescued, only to survive but a few hours more in Arbroath Infirmary.

The driver of the North British Train, George GOURLAY stated he left Waverley station at 7-55 am on Friday. The journey to Arbroath was made without incident, but both the North British and Caledonian lines were blocked at some point beyond, making it useless to proceed.

“We waited, he continued, “till well into the afternoon when it was decided we should return. My engine is the biggest in the North British system, there being no turntable at Arbroath large enough, we had to couple the engine to our carriages with tender first. With some of our passengers still on the train we started back to Dundee between 3 or 4pm.

All went smoothly at first we were not going particularly fast when we approached Elliott Junction. I saw nothing to indicate danger ahead, before I had time to realise we dashed into a local train standing at the platform. I was thrown down on my engine and injured my head and left wrist. My right ear was split in two, and I was taken to the Doctor in Dundee and had it stitched, before being sent home to Edinburgh.

“Before leaving the scene I saw my tender, with its mass of coals lying on its side. My first thought were to the safety of my fireman who had disappeared. I searched for him up and down, and sometime afterwards heard he was lying beneath the tender apparently dead. My engine kept the rails.”

The six injured persons in the infirmary are doing well

George GOURLAY, driver of the express, left Edinburgh on Tuesday morning for Dundee in charge of two policemen, to answer the accusation of driving the express in a reckless and culpable manner. GOURLAY had his head bandaged and was still suffering from his injuries.

The police have found the man, alleged to have given GOURLAY a tumbler of brandy after the accident, which would explain his condition when Doctors examined him.

Major PRINGLE on Tuesday opened his inquiry on behalf of the Board of Trade, accompanied by Mr JACKSON manager of the North British Railway Co, and other officials.

They took a special train down the Dundee and Arbroath joint line as far as Elliot. Here a minute inspection was made of the scene, then returning to Dundee, went to Taybridge Station where private statements were taken from several persons in a position to give statements.

Death toll

A. W. BLACK, M.P, for Banffshire

William. STEELE, Commercial Traveller, connected to the “Dundee Courier”

Alexander SHAND. M.A, Journalist, connected to the “Dundee Courier”

James CATHRO, Ironmonger, Arbroath

John GOW, Railway employee, Edinburgh

F. R. WHITFIELD, Traveller for George ANDERSON and Co, Taymouth works, Carnoustie

James JAMIESON, Traveller, Sinclair St, Glasgow

Adam HUNTER, Hawick

Frank NORRIE, Park Ave, Dundee

A. B. EWART, Glasgow

Charles WOOD, Storekeeper, Carnoustie

Tom -------? No name given, letter found in his possession from his brother, Charles, Meadow Row, New Kent Rd, London

Robert COATS, Railway employee, Edinburgh

Alexander COATS, Dalmeny St, Edinburgh [son of above]

James CHRISTIE, Grocer, Arbroath

William MCFARLANE, of Messers Jno GRAY and Co, Glasgow

R. LESLIE, Railway guard, Edinburgh

Hugh W. OWEN, Traveller, OGDENS Tobacco Co

Robert IRVINE, Fireman of the express

John WOOD, aged 18, newsboy, Arbroath

John YOUNGWOOD, Storekeeper, Guthrie Port, Arbroath


Copyright 2002 / To date