The Glasgow Herald, Thursday, January 8, 1891
Disastrous Collision on Caledonian Railway
"A disastrous collision, attended by circumstances of a peculiarly distressing charter, occurred last night in the St. Rollex tunnel of the Caledonian Railway between a goods and a mineral train, whereby one man was very seriously injured and large damage was done to plant and property. The train in which the accident occurred was the 5:45 pm from Edinburgh, which contained 39 wagons and a van of mixed goods, and a mineral train made up of 40 wagons of coal, which had come from Ross Junction in the Monkland District. The mineral train was in charge of Andrew Agnew, the engine driver; T. Tommer, fireman; and William Hunter, stationmaster at Bishopton, formerly a relieving signalman in the service of the company, who was acting as conductor of the train, the fireman and driver being new men. There was also a brakeman. The goods train had also a full staff. The cause of the disaster has not yet been clearly ascertained, but it is said that the mineral train, which was destined for Sighthill Station, was "belled" down the line as a passenger train, and, therefore, instead of being turned off at Milton Junction, about a mile beyond St. Rollex Station, it was continued on the main line to Buchanan Street Station. The line from Milton Junction to Sighthill is on a slightly rising, and the main line on a falling, gradient, and the driver, understanding that he was proceeding to Sighthill, had kept up sufficient speed to carry him to his destination. The result was that going down hill he lost control of the engine and dashed past St. Rollex Station at a high speed. At the moment the goods train was starting from the goods shed in Buchanan Street and the signal at the eastern end of the tunnel was standing at danger. The brakes on the engine and guard's van were hard up, and the wheels were skidding the rails as the train rushed through St. Rollex Station. But every effort to bring up the train was unavailing. It dashed through the tunnel and came into collision with the fourth wagon in the goods train at the crossing point at the west end of the tunnel. The engine was traveling tender first, and by the force of the collision it was overturned, a number of the wagons were completely smashed and their contents strewn across the line. The crash of the collision was heard in the station and all over the neighbourhood, and a large staff of officials were quickly on the spot. On an examination of the wreckage Mr. Hunter was discovered lying on his back under the engine of the mineral train. To add to the distressing character of the situation, the embers from the engine had set on fire the signal box by the side of which the unfortunate man lay. The engine had leaped from the train while it was passing through the tunnel; but the fireman who with Hunter had stuck to his post, escaped unhurt. Measures were at once taken to extinguish the fire in the signal box, for which purpose the fire brigade were summoned, but their services were not required.
Taking place as it did after dark, the accident, unfortunately, occurred at a point of the line which is unlighted. A hundred yards nearer Buchanan Street great bursts of gas shoot into the air and light up a considerable area underneath, but at the mouth of the tunnel, where work cannot be carried on, illumination after dark is unnecessary. Making the best of the situation, torches were got, and oil lamps and railway lanterns were freely relinquished, and darkness thus being partially banished by shifting and stationary lights, it was possible to see what fell to be done. The first and most obvious duty, of course, was to get at William Hunter, the conductor of the train, who lay under the mineral engine. But a great deal required to be done in the way of clearing the line before the work of relief could be entered upon. A breakdown squad was hastily summoned from the adjoining goods yard, and the requisite appliances for dealing with such as accident as had occurred were brought together. These appliances did not appear to be readily got at, so far as one was able to judge. The first thing to be done was the removal of the rear van of the goods train, which had not been seriously damaged, and which partially prevented access to the mineral engine, beneath which poor Hunter lay. Its removal was effected by means of a powerful locomotive in the yard. A still more serious difficulty had now to be faced, that of removing the tender of the mineral train, which lay overturned on its side between the two tracks. A couple of engines were brought forward on parallel lines, and by connecting ropes the tender was removed. Free access to the mineral engine was not yet secured, but a sufficient clearance had been effected to proceed the work of rescue.
How fared it meanwhile with the imprisoned conductor? There were two medical men on the ground, Drs. Grieve and Kennedy. Dr. Grieve's consulting room is near the Buchanan Street Station, and immediately on the occurrence of the accident, a message was sent requesting his attendance. Dr. Kennedy happened to call about this time, and the two gentlemen hurried to the scene of the accident. The investigation they were able to make, showed, as we have already indicated, that Mr. Hunter lay under the train. One leg protruded and was caught in the spoke of the wheel. It was seen at once that the limb had been nearly as possible amputated at the power part. The other leg which lay under, was believed to be unfractured. Hunter lay free both at the head and chest, and he was quite conscious and capable of speech. This was before 8 o'clock. Brandy was got, and a little spirits and water which were handed to him he was able to swallow. It was seen to be impossible to effect a rescue without slightly raising the engine. The undergear of the train presented entanglements which rendered it hopeless to seek to get him out without doing so. When this could be accomplished it was hoped that the poor imprisoned limb would be released by slipping out of the spoke of the wheel, and the man himself lifted. But this was a work of difficulty and of time. The night was bitterly cold, and if the work of rescue should occupy a couple of hours (unfortunately longer time was found to be required) it appeared to be unlikely that the poor sufferer could survive. He had however, many willing workers and sympathizers. The leading officials of the Caledonian Company were on the ground and the operations in connection with the rescue party were conducted by practical men. Overhead in streets adjoining the railway, crowds of spectators hung on the high wall and looked down on the work proceeding amid flickering lights, and with, for the most part, silent energy.. Jack-screws, with which to left the engine, were brought forward and laid by ready for use. That a basis might be paid for them, timbers were laid across and secured to the rails. Then the jack-screws were laid on the timbers, one at each end of the front of the engine. Jack-screws are of variable extension, and some time appeared to be lost, which probably could not be avoided, in getting forward those of requisite length. When all was ready to apply the screws, it was found necessary to remove an overturned tender which still lay across the rails, and this was speedily done by means of a locomotive. It was now half-past nine o'clock, and Mr. Hunter had been stretched on the cold ground for more than two hours. He was still quite able to make himself heard, and was doubtless conscious of all that passed around. From time to time his piteous cries were heard, and when neat ten o'clock the impediment in front had all been removed, came an anguished cry, "Oh, let me out!" twice or thrice repeated. Then the screws were applied and slowly the engine was seen to move upward. It was a tedious, and remembering that a life depended on it, a painful process, both to the men at work and the spectators. At length, the engine was raised about four or five inches, and blocks of woods were placed under the wheels. Next jack-screws were employed at the side of the engine by way of tilting it slightly over, and still further relieving the imprisoned man. In this way poor Hunter was got at and extricated from his terrible position. Am ambulance stretcher being at hand, he was carefully paid on it and a hasty examined by the medical men in attendance showed that he had sustained a compound fracture of the lower part of the left leg, which hung by a mere thread, and will require to be removed. Two of the fingers of the right hand were also torn away. He was found to be in a very feeble state, partly from his injuries and partly from the lengthened exposure. His pulse was very low. Indeed the marvel is that life has been so long sustained. His relief was affected about half-past ten o'clock, fully three hours from the occurrence of the accident. Being carried out of the station he was removed by a cab to the Royal infirmary.
The occurrence of the accident was telegraphed along the lines, and the 4.4 pm express from Perth was stopped at St. Rollex, and the passengers conveyed into the city in cabs. The inbound trains were sent into St. Rollex Station, the outbound trains being also dispatched from St. Rollex. The trains from Coatbridge were continued as far as Stepps Road for local traffic, returning from Stepps Road again to the central.
The work of clearing the line occupied the whole night, but it was expected that one of the lines would be open for traffic this morning. Altogether seven or eight of the wagons were seriously damaged. The collision will be made the subject of investigation.
At 2:15 this morning, Mr. Hunter succumbed to his injuries. Dr. Brown, who attended to the man, states that he was too weak to undergo an operation. The left leg was almost severed, both hands were injured, and there were also injuries on other parts of the body. Mr. Hunter has left a widow and five young children."
A serious collision, unhappily attended-------- of life to one of the Caledonian Company ---- occurred shortly after seven o'clock---within sight of Buchanan Street Station ----passenger traffic was being conducted as ---- a goods train, timed to leave for Edinburgh ---- 5.45 pm, which had been delayed for ---an hour, left the goods station, and proceeded --- the direction of St. Rollox. The train - fully passed into the tunnel, when a mining---was observed rushing down the gradient - great speed. Before the goods train --- the crossing the engine of the mineral train-the hindmost wagons of the goods train - opposite the signal box. The tender was-and the engine was knocked right across - and the wheels jerked off by the force-shock. The permanent way was also to---. All this was apparent at a glance, but tho--- at once ran to the spot were horrified to find
A MAN LAY UNDER THE ENGINE
See the article from the Dumfries and Galloway Saturday Standard, January 10, 1891 (pdf).