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The Quintinshill Conspiracy: The Shocking True Story Behind Britain’s Worst Rail Disaster Hardcover – 30 Sep 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Books; First Edition edition (30 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781590990
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781590997
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Adrian Searle is a journalist and author who has written extensively on a range of historical topics. Born and raised on the Isle of Wight, he returned to the island in 1984 to edit a local newspaper and has worked in a freelance capacity since 1989. A keen student of railway history and operation, he has written widely on several related aspects. Prior to pursuing a career teaching music, Jack Richards was employed in the railway industry, working for a period in a train control centre. Maintaining a life-long interest in railway history and close links with the rail industry, he has chaired a rail user group and a community rail partnership and has served as a member of the Rail Passengers Council, on whose behalf he contributed to research and publications.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is certainly a need for a new book about Quintinshill; the standard reference sources have for many years been `Gretna: Britain's Worst Railway Disaster (1915)' by John Thomas and `Britain's Greatest Rail Disaster: The Quintinshill Blaze of 1915' by JAB Hamilton, both books published as long ago as 1969. In the forty-odd years since then a good deal of new material has come to light. This could well have been that book, but unfortunately it isn't. What is needed is a balanced account, taking account of the new material and using it to demonstrate that, although hard facts are sparse, there is a huge amount of circumstantial evidence to suggest that the Caledonian Railway manipulated the subsequent enquiries to direct attention away from the company's shortcomings and that in so doing it was in all probability supported by the government.

The book does indeed come to that conclusion, but its account is far from balanced. The clue may be in the title - advertised for pre-order as `Britain's Worst Rail Disaster: The Shocking Story of Quintinshill 1915', by the time of publication the title had been changed to `The Quintinshill Conspiracy: The Shocking True Story behind Britain's Worst Rail Disaster'. The authors adopt an approach taken by a long line of conspiracy theorists throughout history - cast as much doubt and dirt as possible upon the `official' version and repeat the elements of the conspiracy theory interminably until the general reader accepts them as fact. This is a great pity, because I already accept, and have long believed, that there was indeed serious impropriety - a `conspiracy', if you like - in the handling of the Quintinshill enquiries.
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By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is never too late, I would say, for a bit of whistleblowing where serious malpractice is being covered up. However when the incident in question occurred nearly 100 years ago it would take very good new evidence to present the matter in a significantly altered light. The authors have uncovered some new evidence certainly, but whether it is as good as they seem to think I take leave to doubt. Britain's worst railway accident was not the familiar Tay Bridge collapse in 1879 but a multiple pile-up in 1915 at an isolated signalbox named Quintinshill, just above the Scottish border on the west coast main line, that claimed 230 lives plus of course inflicting extensive serious injury. It involved five trains, two being rakes of freight wagons, two regular passenger trains and the fifth a troop carrier. The troop carrier was made up of antiquated 6-wheel carriages with gas lighting. It was travelling at express speed and was given clearance to enter a stretch of line (or `block') that was temporarily occupied by one of the passenger services. The resulting impact set the gas alight, and most of the fatalities were troops caught in the inferno that followed.

The authors contend that pinning the entire blame on two duty signalmen at Quintinshill was unjust. To some extent I have to agree, even from a strictly legal standpoint. The authors argue further that culpability on the part of the Caledonian Railway, the men's employers, was deliberately hushed up and that connivance in this injustice involved not just the highest levels of the railway company but His Majesty's government itself. We need to distinguish between what probably happened, what kind of support the evidence gives for it, and what its relevance is.
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Format: Hardcover
Quintinshill was a signal box on the west coast main line from London to Glasgow, located about 17 miles south-east of Lockerbie and half a mile north-west of Gretna. There was no station at Quintinshill; the only reason for the signal box being there was to control the passing loops and sidings, which allowed slower trains to be held up to allow fast trains to overtake them safely. Modern signalling methods employ a small number of large, regional signal boxes rather than the thousands of local boxes used in the old days, so Quintinshill became redundant long ago.

The crash was actually a double collision that involved five trains. It happened in 1915, when the railways were particularly busy due to the war effort, which used the railways to transport troops and supplies. One of the trains involved, and the worst affected, was carrying troops intended for the Gallipoli campaign in the Dardanelles, which was already in trouble and cost Churchill his job at the time.

May 1915 was a particularly bad month for Britain anyway, as the Germans had sunk the Lusitania for the loss of 1,198 lives. Also, although still run by private companies, the railways were officially under government control during the war. The Lusitannia, the Gallipoli / Dardanelles debacle and Quintinshill provided a triple blow for Asquith's government.

This book describes the events that led up to the crash, the double collision itself and the aftermath, complete with track and signalling arrangements, examining the evidence afresh.
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