Tuesday, 31 January 2012

An Accident on the Tay Bridge - 1850

I was recently contacted by Eleanor Harris (@eleanormharris) who is doing her PhD thesis identifying all the people listed in the baptism, wedding and funeral registers of Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh, in the early 1800s. In the course of her research she came across the following story of a railway accident on the Tay Bridge in 1850. In the accident the son of two congregation members, Harriett and Laurence Craigie, was killed. He held the position of the 'manager of passenger traffic' at Perth Station and was in the fateful passenger train crossing the bridge. Eleanor has kindly allowed me to reproduce her transcription of a report of the accident from the Glasgow Herald on 25 January 1850. You can read more about Eleanor's very interesting work at her website.

"On Saturday forenoon a shocking occurrence took place upon the Dundee and Perth Railway... It appears that, after the arrival of a passenger train from Dundee at the company's station in Prince's Street, Perth, upon the south side of the river, Mr Craigie, manager of the passenger traffic, and Major Dreghorn, of St Alban's Cottage, which after depositng their passengers, are generally pushe back across the river to the company's station at Barnhill -- for the purpose of proceeding to the north side of the Tay. After the carriages had cleared the bridge, and were nearing Barnhill, the engine driver found that a goods train was coming upon them in the opposite direction, and immediately reversed the engin. As the curve upon the line, however, is very sharp, and prevents a person seeing far before him, he was too late, and the engine of the goods train ran into one of the passenger carriages, which was smashed to pieces. Mr Craigie, who is supposed to have been looking out at the window to see what was wrong, was so much hurt about the head that he only survived, in an insensible state, till Sunday evening, when he died. Major Dreghorn, although much bruised and cut, is understood not to be dangerously injured. After the collision the engine-driver either leaped or was thrown from the engine, which, with its steam reversed, and freed from all encumbrances by the snapping of the coupling train, rushed away across the railway bridge at a velocity of thirty or forty miles an hour, and dashed through the passenger station in the direction of the general railway terminus, which is about the quarter of a mie distant. Close beside the terminus the Dundee line crosses the main entrance upon the level, and at this place there is a gate upon the road, where a man is in constant attendance... This man, seeing the runaway train approach, had only time to open the half of the gate and escape out of the way, when the engine drove through the other half of it, and ran with tremendous velocity into a goods train, which was standing upon a side line of rails. Here it wrought terrible havoc, smashing the trucks and scattering about the goods and grain, with which the train was loaded in all directions. Yet great as the damage was which it did here, it was a providential circumstance that the goods train was in the way, for had the road been clear, from the way in which the points were placed, the engine would have ran [sic] into a passenger train from Edinburgh, which had drawn up at a wooden platform for the purpose of taking the passengers' tickets. The primary cause of the disaster is said to be that the driver of the goods train either did not see, or did not pay any attention to, a danger signal which was hoisted to warn him against crossing the bridge over the river. This man, it is said, has since absconded. Mr Craigie, who has met such an untimely fate, was a young man -- a son of Laurence Craigie, Esq. of Glendoich [sic], Carse of Gowrie. He was universally esteemed, and his death has caused a very general feeling of regret in the public mind."[1]


[1] "Harriet Wright" in Eleanor Harris, The Episcopal Congregation of Charlotte Chapel Website (online, archive.stjohns- edinburgh.org.uk, 2011)

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