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Quintinshill: Britain's Deadliest Rail Disaster (2015)

Neil Oliver describes the worst ever railway accident in the UK, which happened a hundred years ago on 22 May 1915, in which three trains collided at Quintinshill near Gretna Green. One of ... See full summary »


Ian Lilley
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Neil Oliver ... Himself - Presenter
Mat Urey Mat Urey ... James Tinsley
Steve Pearson Steve Pearson ... George Meakin
Lorne MacFadyen ... James Arnott
Alasdair Hankinson Alasdair Hankinson ... Peter Cumming
Robert Watson Robert Watson ... Himself - The Royal Scots (as Colonel Robert Watson)
David Howell David Howell ... Himself - University of York (as Professor David Howell)
Archie Tassell Archie Tassell ... Himself - Son of Frederick Tassell, Photographer - Recorded in 1984 (voice) (archive footage)
Simon Cummins Simon Cummins ... Himself - Signalman, Network Rail
Anson Jack Anson Jack ... Himself - Railway Safety and Standards Board
Adrian Quine Adrian Quine ... Himself - Railway Journalist
Adrian Searle Adrian Searle ... Himself - Co-Author, 'The Quintinshill Conspiracy'
Pat Sumner Pat Sumner ... Himself - Volunteer, Great Central Railway
Lindsay Farmer Lindsay Farmer ... Himself - University of Glasgow (as Professor Lindsay Farmer)
James Chalmers James Chalmers ... Himself - University of Glasgow (as Professor James Chalmers)


Neil Oliver describes the worst ever railway accident in the UK, which happened a hundred years ago on 22 May 1915, in which three trains collided at Quintinshill near Gretna Green. One of the trains was a troop train taking soldiers to fight in World War I at the Battle of Gallipoli: many of the dead were in this train which caught fire due to escaped gas from the archaic gas lighting in the carriages. The cause of the crash was attributed to a catastrophic signalman's error, but Neil examines whether there were other contributory factors and whether there was a cover-up to prevent investigation of them, making convenient scapegoats of the signalmen. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

20 May 2015 (UK) See more »

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Did You Know?


Neil Oliver - Presenter: Wartime pressure on the rail system, causing the passing loops to be used as sidings, left Meakin with little choice of what to do with the local train, but use the most risky option.
Adrian Quine - Railway Journalist: That essentially is the cause of what led to the disaster at Quintinshill. It was too many trains piled into a small area with simply nowhere to put them, and huge pressure put on the signalmen to find a solution.
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User Reviews

Lest We Forget.
11 December 2015 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

On 22nd May 1915, Quintinshill, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, over 200 people were killed in what is still today the severest loss of life due to a rail disaster in the UK. This BBC documentary brings the tragedy back in the open and opens up a can of worms.

First off the bat the BBC are to be congratulated on what is a fascinatingly put together production. The period detail is superb, as is the staging of the crash via models, the interviews and the extensive narration about the workings of the railway at that time.

It's a documentary that comes at the disaster, and the subsequent enquiry and criminal prosecutions, on today's terms. There's much intrigue here because the makers are very much putting forward conspiracy theories, whilst simultaneously casting a savage eye over the government run railway of the time. Corner cutting, cost grabbing etc.

Were the two convicted signalmen who were culpable of the crash actually patsies? Who each only served a year in prison for the deaths of over 200 people, and who upon release then found jobs back on the railway! Was one of them suffering from an illness? It's potent and pertinent stuff that asks the viewers to in fact be a jury of sorts.

It obviously is a benefit to have some knowledge of the railway et al, but it isn't essential here. This is well worth checking out if you get the chance. 8/10

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