Railway Accident

Musselburgh - 1941



Alan Grieve has emailed me asking for information about an accident on New Year's Day 1941, when a goods train crashed through the buffers at Musselburgh Station.

Alan wrote:

New Year's Day 1941

"I wonder if anyone has any information on the accident at Musselburgh Station on New Year's Day 1941,when a goods train, which appears to have been wrongly diverted onto the Musselburgh Branch at Newhailes Junction, crashed into the bufferstops practically demolishing the bookstall and ended up through  the wall of the station."


"According to a report in the Scotsman the following day the bookstall attendant, 19 year old Canadian Miss Helen Krause, was killed and part of the stationmaster's house collapsed on top of the engine. The heap of wrecked wagons was 30feet high and penetrated the station roof which was holed in two places."

Public Inquiry

"On 7th March 1941 the Scotsman carried a report of  the public inquiry held at Edinburgh Sheriff Court stating that Sheriff Brown had found it impossible to answer with complete clarity the cause of the accident and the persons at fault and he returned a formal verdict.

Accident Report

"I have been unable to find a formal Accident Report and cannot understand how neither the cause of the accident or the persons at fault had been established. The Musselburgh branch from Newhailes Junction was almost a mile long.  There was a strict speed limit on the sharp left hand curve leading onto the Branch and before crossing the river Esk there was a level crossing

When a fatality had occurred it would be expected that the Ministry of War Transport would have looked into the incident in great detail and established why the driver claimed to have seen signals for the main line and then was diverted onto the branch, and their report would have been produced and made public.

Does anyone have information about the accident or a copy of the report, if there was one produced?"

Alan Grieve Minehead, Somerset England:  January 23, 2009



Being wartime, perhaps the details published were rather limited.  However, please email me if you have any information for me to pass on to Alan.

Thank you.    -  Peter Stubbs:  January 24, 2009




Colin Miller

Thank you to Colin Miller who wrote:

Colin wrote:

Driver and Fireman

"I remember my father talking about the Musselburgh train crash in 1941, many years ago. The crew of the train that crashed were from Tweedmouth Sheds and the driver's name was John (Paddy) Hunter, I'm afraid I don't recall the name of the fireman. Both men were arrested after the accident and charged with manslaughter, or whatever it is referred to in Scotland. I don't think they were ever taken to court as the charges were dropped and both men returned to their duties.

I know that Paddy continued to drive up until the time he retired.  However, he died some time during the 1950s. I believe that he is survived by a daughter, who lives in Tweedmouth and a son who lives in the Darlington area."




Kevin Graham

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England

Thank you to Kevin Graham for providing the following accounts of the accident:

Kevin wrote:

Report in the Berwick Advertiser

January 9, 1941

"A bookstall attendant was killed on New Year's Day when the engine of a goods train, driven by a Tweedmouth driver and with a Berwick man as fireman, crashed through the buffers at Musselburgh Station, tore up part of the platform, and practically demolished the bookstall. ...

The major portion of the bookstall was crushed like matchwood and the engine careered onwards through a stone building containing the stationmaster's office and the porters' room - both, fortunately, unoccupied at the time.  The engine finally protruded into the street with a great heap of masonry in front of it.

Part of the stationmaster's house above was also damaged.  The bathroom collapsed and the bath lay on top of the wreckage. ...

The force of the crash caused some of the waggons of the train and their contents to come together in concertina fashion, and then shoot into the air.  A heap of wreckage amassed in this way reached a height of about 30 feet and penetrated the station roof, which was holed in two places.  Girders holding the roof fell across the platform and lines. ..."

Acknowledgement:  Kevin Graham, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England

Source:  Berwick Record Office



Kevin Graham

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England

Thank you to Kevin Graham who wrote again, giving further information about the accident.

Kevin wrote:

Report in the Berwick Advertiser

January 9, 1941

"The driver of the engine was Mr. John Hunter of Main Street, Tweedmouth, and the fireman was Mr. John Welsh, Foul Ford, Berwick.  Both escaped injury.

The attendant who lost her life, was Miss Ella Krause, aged 19, who lived with an aunt, Miss Pearson, at 2 South Street, Musselburgh.  Her parents live in Canada, and she came to live in this country little more than a year ago."

Kevin Graham, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England:  October 29, 2009



Johnny Montgomery

Thank you to Johnny Montgomery who wrote:


"I remember my mother, Susan McNab Montgomery (née McNab) telling me, years ago, that her sister was killed in this crash when the train mounted the platform.

I don't know the name of my mother's sister."

Johnny Montgomery:  November 13, 2010



George Moffat

Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England

Thank you to George  Moffat who wrote:


"I've seen pictures of the aftermath of the Musselburgh crash from an STV news item on YouTube, and can now identify the locomotive as a D11/3 class, 4-4-0, otherwise known as Scottish Directors.

The loco's individual identity is still unknown."

The Locomotive

"These locomotives were ordered for the Scottish Area of the LNER by Sir Nigel Gresley, Chief Mechanical Engineer.  There was a motive power shortage in Scotland at the time.

The originals had been designed by Robinson, CME of the Great Central Railway in England before the LNER was formed and it is a testament to the sound design that Gresley ordered more for Scotland.

An original D11 exists in the National Railway Museum, named Butler Henderson."

Further Research

"I am continuing my research and may be on to a breakthrough regarding the accident report which is not a Board of Trade Report as normal, but is one done under the auspices of the Ministry of War Transport."

George Moffat, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England:  May 22, 2011



David King

Trinity, Edinburgh

Thank you to David King who wrote:

The Railways Archive

"I've looked on The Railway Archive web site.  This is all they have on the Musselburgh Accident.

If anybody gets the accident report, it would be helpful if they could submit it to The Railway Archive site, which is building up a very useful record about railways in the UK."

David King, Trinity, Edinburgh:  May 24, 2011



Johnny Montgomery

Thank you to Johnny Montgomery who wrote:


"I remember my mother, Susan McNab Montgomery (née McNab) telling me, years ago, that her sister was killed in this crash when the train mounted the platform.

I don't know the name of my mother's sister."

Johnny Montgomery:  November 13, 2010



George Moffat

Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England

Thank you to George Moffat who wrote:

Sheriff's Inquiry

"Here is transcription of Sheriff's inquiry into the Musselburgh accident.. I will send more as I uncover it.

I am at present writing an article on the derailment of the 10a.m. Edinburgh-London train on August 10, 1880 at Marshall Meadows, Berwick, so Musselburgh is a little on the back burner, but when I'm at a place where there is likely to be more information, I will find and copy it to you."


Musselburgh Smash

Sheriff Unable to Find Cause

Bookstall Girl’s Death

A sequel to the tragedy at Musselburgh Railway Station, when a girl bookstall attendant lost her life, was heard at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday, when Sheriff Brown held a public enquiry into the death of Helen Currie Krause, bookstall attendant, in the employment of John Menzies & Company, Ltd.

It will be recalled that the accident occurred when a goods train crashed through the buffers at the station and into the bookstall.

At the close of the inquiry Sheriff Brown said:

“I have found it impossible to answer with complete clarity the cause of the disaster and the persons in fault. There is such a complexity of considerations that I really could not pronounce a confident finding of the cause of the accident, or the persons to blame. Therefore I refrain from doing so, as it might be dangerous and unjust."

“I venture to make this recommendation that it is the duty of the Railway Company, especially after this occurrence, to make certain as mortal man can that their safety regulations are obeyed in general and invariably”

He returned a formal verdict.

In giving evidence, John Hunter, station foreman at Musselburgh said he heard the alarm bell ring.  It was rung from Musselburgh signal cabin. He immediately phoned the cabin, and was told there was a runaway goods train on the branch line. He was in the act of replacing the telephone receiver when he heard the crash.

Walter Irvine, station master at Musselburgh, said he was in bed when he heard the crash. He asked the driver of the train what had happened. The driver said he saw the distance signal was off.  That added witness, was in the driver's favour. – The driver said he had not seen the Newhailes home signal.  He did not say why.

Brakes Fully On

Witness said he had inspected the brakes of the engine after the accident, and the brakes were fully on. It was a steep gradient from Newhailes to Musselburgh.

“The driver had no chance at all of avoiding the crash in the station without knowing he was going on the branch line?” asked the Fiscal.
“I don’t think so”
, was the reply.

Alexander Gray the guard on the train involved said there would be 550 tons weight in both the wagons and the engine of the goods train. At 7.17 a.m. they got a clear signal to proceed to Newhailes. The first indication he had that anything was wrong was just past Newhailes signal cabin, when he felt the train on a branch line he did not know, and which he did not think the driver knew.

He applied the handbrake in his van, but the train was skidding down a gradient, and his action had little effect. Shortly afterwards there was a terrific crash.

David Little Ramage, signalman, 17 Dean Street, Edinburgh, said when the engine passed his cabin on the branch line to Musselburgh he waved a red lamp and blew a whistle. He thought that the train was a runaway.

John Renton Hunter (43), 170 Main Street, Tweedmouth, the driver of the engine of the goods train, said he did not know the Musselburgh branch line. The Newhailes distance signal was in the clear position, but he could not see the home signal. When he felt the train lurch on to the branch line he applied his brakes. The engine skidded, and he released the brakes and sanded the rails. Then he reapplied the brakes. The weight of the train appeared to be too heavy for the engine.

 Note;- Distance signal referred to in text should read Distant.

Transcription by G. D. Moffat of an article that appeared in the Scotsman dated Friday, March 7th 1941.

 Provided by the British Newspaper Library, Colindale.

George Moffat:  May 29, 2011




George Moffat

Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England

Thank you to George Moffat for writing again.  George wrote:

Musselburgh Accident

"V3man, on this LNER web site, has located the following information which confirms the identity of the locomotive as being a Scottish Director:

The Locomotive

'Success re the locomotive involved! An enquiry to the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society has brought the following reply (together with a plug for the RCTS which I think is fair enough when he has been good enough to come up with the answer!)

The engine involved in the accident at Musselburgh on January 1, 1941 was indeed a D11/2.  It was 6390, later re-numbered 2683, re-numbered 62683 in 1948 on nationalisation, and withdrawn September 1958.'

V3 man (Source:  1941 RO CD-ROM Page 35.)


George Moffat, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England:  August 24, 2011




George Moffat

Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England

Thank you to George Moffat for writing again, after a gap of almost seven years,  to let me know about progress that he has made with his investigations. 

George wrote:


"An important breakthrough has been made today.  Here is what I believe to be a 'Scotsman' photograph of the railway accident at Musselburgh in 1941."


Musselburgh Railway Accident  -  1941

Railway Accident at Musselburgh, 1941

©  Scotsman Publications Ltd.   with acknowledgement to George Moffat for providing a copy of this photo.


George Moffat, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England:  1 April 2018




Andrew Coates


Thank you to Andrew Coates who wrote:

Video Clip

"I don't know whether or not anybody has already seen this footage of the railway accident in this short film from the National Library of Scotland Archive:

Moving Images  4497

It certainly looks like the same scene as in this Scotsman photograph. 

Railway Accident at Musselburgh, 1941 ©

Andrew Coates, Edinburgh:  12 April 2018


"I agree.  The moving images certainly seem to be of the 1941 Musselburgh accident.  The clip of the accident is near the start of the short NLS film.  It lasts for about 40 seconds."

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  12 April 2018



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