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1930s & Earlier / 1915 Scottish Railroad Disaster
The worst railroad disaster in history occurred on May 22, 1915 near Gretna Green, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It is commonly known as the Quintinshill Disaster, having been named for the location of a nearby intermediate signal box with passing loops on each side on the Caledonian Railway Main Line linking Glasgow and Carlisle. The crash, which involved five trains, killed a probable 226 people and injured 246 others. Those killed were mainly territorial soldiers from the Royal Scots heading for the Gallipoli front in the First World War. The precise number of dead was never established with certainty as the roll list of the regiment was destroyed by the fire. The crash occurred when a troop train travelling from Larbert, Stirlingshire to Liverpool, Lancashire collided with a local passenger train that had been shunted on to the main line, to then be hit by an express train to Glasgow which crashed into the wreckage a minute later. Gas from the lighting system of the old wooden carriages of the troop train ignited, starting a fire which soon engulfed the three passenger trains and also two goods trains standing on nearby passing loops. A number of bodies were never recovered, having been wholly consumed by the fire. The bodies that were recovered were buried together in a mass grave in Edinburgh's Rosebank Cemetery. Such was the scope of the disaster that many of the rescuers wrongly assumed the trains had been targets of German saboteurs. Four bodies, believed to be of children, were never identified or claimed and are buried in the Western Necropolis, Glasgow. The cause of the accident was poor working practices on the part of the two signalmen involved. It was discovered that the two men often colluded to falsify their records of when they relieved each other, routinely did not follow regulations properly, and engaged in other unsafe practices. The results of the official inquiry into the disaster led to their imprisonment for culpable homicide after legal proceedings in both Scotland and England. A memorial to the dead soldiers was erected soon after the accident. There are a number of more recent memorials at various locations. An annual remembrance service is held at Rosebank Cemetery.