Quintinshill Junction is/was a railway switch point just outside Gretna, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. There were two main through-tracks and, above and below the main lines, two sidings (passing loops.) Shortly after 6 a.m. that morning, due to railway workers negligence, there was a terrible train crash which involved five trains. 226 people lost their lives, the worst UK train disaster in history, in terms of loss of life.
Due to wartime censorship, the event was not widely reported at the time. Click here to view a diagram of the railway switch at that point.
On the top (up) running line was parked a local train waiting for an express train to pass on the other (down) running line. This was done because both sidings were already occupied: On the top siding was parked an empty coal train returning to Wales, and on the bottom siding was a waiting goods train.
It was during a shift change where replacement workers were arriving. The switch worker responsible "forgot" that he had just shunted the local train onto the upper main line and left it sitting there in the path of oncoming traffic. At approximately 6:47 a.m. the troop train arrived as expected and collided with the stationary local. Within seconds of the collision, the express arrived on the down main line from the other direction and collided with the wreckage which had blocked that track too.
The troop train carriages were obsolete wood ones. The lighting was gas. The oil-gas reservoirs were slung under the passenger cars and had just been charged (filled.) The wreckage began to burn with the troops still inside. Red hot coals from the crashed locomotive fire boxes ignited. The two trains on the sidings became involved in the fire and wreckage.
Of the 500 members of the 7th Battalion, only 60 were able to answer roll call the next day. 214 soldiers dead, 246 injured. Certainly the fires caused more deaths than the crash. Due to the remoteness of the crash site, it took four hours for the fire engines to arrive, traveling the last mile over an open field. The bodies of three children were found burned in the wreckage, presumed stowaways on the train. The rest of the dead were engineers and other train employees.
See an animation of the crash on Wikipedia.