Auchinraith Railway Accident, 1880

Here’s a little known story you may not have heard about.

On Saturday 17th July 1880, some 142 years ago, a railway accident of alarming character happened near High Blantyre Station on the Strathaven branch of the Caledonian Railway.

The train was timed to leave Hamilton Central at 1.55pm for Strathaven and at that time it consisted of 6 vehicles extra well filled with passengers owing to the Glasgow Fair holidays. There was over 100 passengers on board.

All went well until the train came to Auchinraith, a short distance on the Hamilton side of High Blantyre and when going slowly up the hill, (which is now the sliproad on to the Expressway across from Lidl), the engine suddenly left the rails, crashed down the embankment which then was about 10 feet deep.

Despite the fact the train had only been going at around 15 miles an hour, the engine turned over on its side. Along with the derailed engine, there was dragged down, also a large composite carriage which also toppled on to its side.

The third carriage, still coupled was partially drawn also over the bank, the back of it somehow staying on the rails.

The engine driver extricated himself by one side of the engine, and the fireman had leapt off at the other, but both were scalded by the steam issuing from the disabled locomotive. One of the compartments of the composite carriage next to the engine was occupied. It had contained three gentlemen. Dr Lennox of Hamilton, Mr Gebbie an advocate from Edinburgh and Mr Leadbetter of Jedburgh. They were all considerably stunned but little injured otherwise. The engineman was taken to Strathaven and the fireman to Mothwell, to which places they each belonged. No serious consequence of the scalding was anticipated.

The Auchinraith railway accident was at once telegraphed to Mr Kirkpatrick, station superintendent of Hamilton Central who proceeded to the scene with an engine and further set of carriages, to which the Strathaven passengers were at once transferred.

The upline only being blocked, they were with comparatively trifling delay conveyed to their destination, each with a tale to tell. As the down line was clear, the traffic suffered little disruption that day.

The Auchinraith Railway accident was attributed to the bulging out of the rails at that point owing to extreme summer heat, causing the metal rails to expand. The rails were steel of the heaviest weight. Experienced railwaymen present, while saying they had seen rails twisted by the sun, were unaware of any previous accident of this cause. On examination of the downline it was discovered at a point forty yards distant from where the accident occurred that the rails were bulged out 8 inches from their original position and had carried the sleepers with them. The bent rails were laid aside for examination of the Government Inspector. Before the accident, the engine driver although on the outlook saw nothing wrong ahead. The guard says that the train was not going more than 10 miles per hour and the belief is that had the speed been double, as it might have been, the results would have been appalling for the carriages behind. Work commenced the very next day to lift up the engine and restore the railway, concluding that task the same day.

List of 11 people injured –
1. Jas G Leadbetter of Wester House Edinbugh shaken and ankle sprained.
2. Francis Gebbie, advocate Edinburgh shaken.
3. Dr Lennox of Hamilton shaken and slightly cut on left arm.
4. Archibald Millar, child son of Agnes Millar Carmunock slightly cut.
5. Peter Hill, collier of Dick’s Land Bellshill, shaken and leg sprained.
6. Clark of Stonefield Blantyre , head cut.
7. Anne Reid, girl of 15 bruised on back and shaken.
8. Christina Park, Factory Lane Rutherglen slight bruise of knee.
9. George Johnstone, engine driver scalded on face and back,
10. Chas. Stevenson, scalded on face and hands and bruised on back.
11. A young man who left before his name was ascertained had both eyes injured.

Auchinraith Junction, is pictured 80 years later during the 1960’s.

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