A restored train coach of the same type involved in the Quintinshill rail disaster in 1915 is set to go on display in Leith in November as part of a series of events in the area marking 100 years since the end of World War One.

The coach has been meticulously restored by The Great Central Railway Rolling Stock Trust, based in Nottingham, and dedicated to the 7th (Leith) Battalion, The Royal Scots, of which 498 members were on their way to Liverpool to embark for Gallipoli when their train was involved in a collision near Gretna.  The wooden carriages were lit by gas lamps, resulting in a fire which spread rapidly through the train, killing 216 soldiers. The incident remains the worst crash for fatalities in the history of Britain’s railway and was remembered as part of Scotland’s commemorative programme for the centenary of World War One.

Gretna Rail Disaster, Train Wreck, 1915
The Gretna rail disaster train wreck, 1915

The carriage will be on display on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November in front of The Malmaison Hotel on The Shore, and will be open to visitors from 10am to 4.00 pm. The visit from the carriage is among a series of events taking place in Leith to mark the Armistice Centenary.

Local historian Andrew Grant will put on an exhibition on ‘Leith’s War’ in Leith Public Library, including a lecture on Thursday 8th November at 2pm, with more information available by contacting the library.  Further lectures will take place in The Malmaison Hotel at 3.30pm on Saturday 10 November and at 3pm on Sunday 11 November, Armistice Day itself. Tickets for these lectures will be available from 9 November at the carriage display in Tower Plaza.

An open air Service of Commemoration of the Armistice for Leith, attended by The Lord Provost, will take place at 2pm on Saturday 10 November outside the Malmaison Hotel, conducted by The Revd Iain May, Minister of South Leith Parish Church, and supported by the church choir and the Lowland Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland. All Leithers and others are most welcome to attend.

The funeral procession following the Quintinshill rail disaster.
The funeral procession following the Quintinshill rail disaster.

By the end of the War it is estimated that 14,200 Leith men had joined the Services. Other men and women were engaged in war work, many of the latter replacing men in jobs formerly assumed not ‘women’s work’. Some 2,700 Leithers were killed and many, many more wounded, often very seriously with loss of limbs. By 11 November 1918 when the Armistice was declared and the guns fell silent, there was a mixture of sadness and relief in Leith, sadness for the loss of life but relief that the war was over and, whilst recognising that life could never go back to what it had been, there was also a sense of joy for the final victory despite all the odds.