Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for Quintinshill Rail Disaster

On May 22, 1915 an error with the Quintinshill signal box (pink) near Gretna Green in Dumfriesshire, Scotland caused a southbound troop train (green) to smash into a stationary train (orange) and then a northbound sleeper train (purple) to hit the southbound one. Trains holding goods (grey and blue) were also nearby. Gas from the lighting system of the troop train ignited and set all the trains on fire. Around two hundred died, mostly men in the troop train. It was the worst rail disaster in British history at the time.

Image: Gif from By Emoscopes, Tevildo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

So what's the conspiracy angle? The signalmen present that day were tried and convicted for culpable homicide, released from jail the following year, and re-employed by the same railway company (though not as signalmen). This led to speculation that the railway company and the government (who was running the railways in war time) used the signalmen as scapegoats, letting them take the fall for what was actually the rail company and government's responsibility. (Wikipedia)

Another controversy was that some of the troops trapped in the blaze were either shot (mercy killings) and/or committed suicide. A BBC documentary was released that confirmed the mercy killings in 2015. 

Quite a sad story, no matter who was responsible.

Q is one of the hardest letters during the A to Z challenge. What's your Q today?


  1. Interesting story. I was wondering if the guy in the signal box might have been a spy. I know that there was a German spy discovered in the lighthouse service along Lake Superior, supposedly trying to lure iron freighters to their demise, but I suppose a German speaker would stick out more in Scotland than in Northern Michigan.

    I had to do some finagling to get my Q! (the same will go for W, X, and Y.

  2. Oh wow. That does sounds sad indeed. I can't even imagine being responsible for something like that. I hadn't ever heard of it, so thanks for bringing that bit of history to my attention.

    My "Q" letter is "Questions" (I know, so original....) You can see my "Q" post here:

  3. That is really saddening! The conspiracy theory is interesting, though!

  4. Terribly sad story. But, yup, yup, yup, they were scapegoats for sure. No theory in my opinion, just human nature wanting to escape the responsibility for the havoc they created.

  5. Very tragic. The BBC documentary would be interesting.

    I'm reading the tragic story of 'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer, about the 1996 Mount Everest climbing disaster. Some pretty awful things happen while people are going about their daily lives...

  6. Interesting. I'm not sure I'd call scapegoating 'conspiracy,' but we'll let it pass, given how hard Q is to fill :)

    I got mine courtesy of Jemima Pett, and her Queen Kira of the Princelings books.

  7. i'm sad for the troops on the train. i wonder what they wanted destroyed if it was a govenrment conpiracy.

  8. Very interesting. Sadly, events like these are probably pretty common throughout history. But it makes for a good story, regardless.

  9. So sad. Hope such accidents or disasters never happen.
    When we board a train, we should reach our destination safely.
    Wikimedia Commons Gif is too good.

  10. Terrible story. Sounds like a horrible accident. Considering the circumstances, I can understand mercy killings. I guess people will find conspiracies in anything.

    (Today I was able to take a conversation and pull quinceanera for Q.)

  11. Horrible so many died. Sounds like a ghastly accident. Why would the government want to kill its own troops? Or was it something else that was the target and it went terribly wrong? Either ways, saddening.

    No problems with Q - poetry has Quatrains, Arabic has loads of words...mish mushkila as they would say :) it's X that gets me everytime, shudder.


  12. It sounds horrific. I can't believe I never heard of it, even despite it's date. It's almost a wonder this doesn't happen more often.

  13. That's a sad story. I can't believe they were able to confirm that mercy killings happened. :(

    With Love,

  14. That's such a sad event. I don't recall ever hearing about it before.

    For my main blog, I did Quilting, and on my names blog, I did Quirinus and Quiritis.


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