Segments in this Video

Quintinshill Rail Disaster (02:59)


On May 22, 1915, multiple trains, including one carrying soldiers to the front, crashed near the border between Scotland and England. Though the railway workers were imprisoned for causing the accident, historian Neil Oliver investigates claims of a cover up.

Morning of the Crash (03:18)

Signalman George Meakin's shift at Quintinshill station ended and James Tinsley took his place. Tinsley had to monitor the mainline from London to Glasgow and multiple local lines. The government-commissioned train carrying 500 soldiers was behind schedule.

Quintinshill Crash (09:03)

Tinsley made a series of mistakes that allowed the mainline train to crash into the local train. Many of the wooden coaches near the impact shattered and caught fire. A minute after the first crash, an overnight train from London hit the wreckage.

Royal Scots Battalion (03:22)

Of the 498 soldiers aboard the train, only 62 were fit enough to continue. They were initially sent to Liverpool to join troops heading to the front, but the war office changed its mind. Most of the dead soldiers were buried at a mass grave at the Rosebank Cemetery in Leith.

Board of Trade's Investigation (02:20)

The inquiry into the accident uncovered that Meakin and Tinsley frequently disregarded rules and made errors at the signal station. At the time of the crash, there were too many men in the brake car. Tinsley was arrested a few days after the crash, ending the investigation.

Oliver's Investigation (03:30)

Oliver examines facts to see if he can uncover new information. He goes to a similar signal station and speaks with Simon Cummins, who performs the same tasks as Tinsley. Shift change is the most distracted time; the late train would have made the situation worse for Tinsley.

Accident Explanations (01:28)

Though the blame for Quintinshill is placed on Tinsley and Meakin's errors, modern railway accidents rarely have simple causes. Modern investigations look at a series of events over long periods of time, instead of just a single day.

Late Trains (02:34)

The Quintinshill station had two lines for faster mainline trains and two passing lanes. On the day of the crash, the overnight sleeper from London and the train carrying the soldiers were behind schedule. The passing lanes stored trains of wartime goods, leaving nowhere to move local trains.

Priority Trains (02:36)

The sleeper trains and the soldiers' train had priority status. Meakin was forced to move a local train to the wrong side of the tracks to allow a train to pass. The local train was in the path of the approaching soldiers' train but Meakin changed shifts with Tinsley, who had forgotten.

Caledonian Railway Company (04:38)

Contemporary newspapers began questioning if the railway company should be blamed for not enforcing safety regulations. The company knew signalmen rarely used lever collars, which would have prevented the soldiers' train from hitting the local train.

Train Design (03:57)

The carriages in the Quintinshill crash were made of wood, which broke apart easily on impact. The trains were lit by gas, which ignited a fire. The design was outdated even by 1915 standards.

Neglected Evidence (07:48)

The railway company provided most of the evidence for subsequent investigations into the Quintinshill crash, but always put the blame on Meakin and Tinsley. They were convicted of breach of duty and manslaughter. All the witnesses called, except one, were Caledonian Railway Company employees.

Signalmen's Circumstances (04:46)

A modern investigation of Quintinshill would look closer at Meakin and Tinsley's state of mind. Theories point to Tinsley having a seizure before his shift, causing distraction and forgetfulness. Some believe Tinsley and Meakin took the blame as part of a deal from the railway company.

Quintinshill's Aftermath (06:10)

Tinsley and Meakin's treatment became politicized as part of the labor movement in Great Britain. Rail union leaders threatened a strike. The disaster was quickly overshadowed by the number of causalities in World War I.

Credits: The Quintinshill Rail Disaster (00:33)

Credits: The Quintinshill Rail Disaster

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The Quintinshill Rail Disaster

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Britain’s worst rail disaster happened on May 22, 1915 when two collisions and a devastating fire engulfed five trains, killing around 230 people including at least 200 soldiers destined for Gallipoli. The massive crash not only shook the nation but in smoke-filled rooms far away from the crash site, the terrible tragedy and full investigation into what caused it, was also viewed as a potential disaster for the railway company and a real threat to government. In a documentary that for the first time recreates the awful events of the day, historian Neil Oliver examines the crash and the series of bizarre investigations and trials that ensured the two signalmen on duty were blamed for the entire catastrophe.

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: FPT188012

ISBN: 978-1-64867-235-4

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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