GLASGOW TRAMWAYS ACCIDENT.
REPORT TO THE BOARD OF TRADE By Major J. W. Pringle, R.E.
(The Tramway and Railway World 14th March 1918)
and at the bottom of the page
Andy Wilsons account of his accident in 1959
We give below the full text of Major Pringle's report to the Board of Trade with reference to the accident at Glasgow when a car was overturned :—
I have the honour to report tor the information of the Board of Trade the result of my inquiry into the circumstances attending the accident which took place, about 6 p.m. on December 5, on the Glasgow Corporation Tramways. Car No. 157, travelling from Netherlee to Kirklee, was turning into Victoria Road opposite Queen's Park Gate, when it left the rails and overturned. In addition to the driver (motorman James Carnegie) and two women conductors, the car carried 68 passengers. Three of the latter were unfortunately killed, and about 56 were more or less injured (21 requiring hospital treatment) ; both the women conductors also suffered from bruises and shock.
The car, after overturning, slid on its side for a short distance over the stone setts in the roadway. When it came to rest it was lying on its left side at an angle of 45 degrees with the centre line of Victoria Road, half on the pavement and half on the roadway. The top roof was almost detached, only one of the corner supports remaining unbroken ; the front vestibule was smashed in, and the left side scored and damaged. The under frame, wheels, axles, etc., were uninjured.
The car concerned has a single truck (7 ft. wheel base), and is of the double-deck, vestibule, covered type. Its weight unloaded is 13 tons 3 cwts., and its general dimensions are as follow :—
Over-all length 30 ft. 0 in.
Over-all height (excluding trolley pole attach
ment) 15 ft. 81/4 in.
Over-all width above upper deck 7 ft. 2 in.
The wheel gauge is 4 ft. 73/4 in.
The car is equipped with two Westinghouse No. 49B motors of 30 h.p. each, with B.T.H. controllers having four series and four parallel power notches. It is fitted with the latest pattern Newall magnetic brake, which comprises a track brake, in the shape of a metal shoe on each rail, and blocks on each wheel. There are six magnetic braking points. In connection with this brake there are four automatic sanders, one at each corner of the car. In addition, there are secondary brake blocks on each wheel, which are applied mechanically in the usual way, by spindle and hand crank, from the driver's platform.
Car No. 157 was first put into service in September, 1913. Its last yearly overhaul was in May, 1916, and the wheels of the car were turned up in August, 1917 The total mileage since May, 1916, has been 52,729. The car wheels were gauged and found to be standard on December 3, 1917. They had an original diameter of 31 3/4|in. The present diameters vary from 29 15/16 in. to 30 1/16 in. The flanges show a loss in depth of about one-tenth of an inch, and in width of about one-fifth of an inch.
The controllers were cleaned and examined on December 3, and the brake gear adjusted on December 4 The car shed return shows that no complaints with regard to brake equipment have been received during the past year. The last entry in the defect return is dated November 26, 1917, when the car was withdrawn from service on account of a broken pilot board and lifeguard.
The track in the vicinity is double. The approach to the
scene of the accident, along Langside Road and Queens Drive—
a distance of about 460 yards—is on a flat, left-handed curve with
a radius of 850 ft. A length of 40 ft. of tangent intervenes between
the termination of this easy curve and the right-hand curve into
Victoria Road. This latter curve has a total length of 120 ft., of
which 35 ft. length at each end is spiralised, and the radius of the
inner rail of the outer track over the centre portion of the curve is
57 ft. 71/2 in. The outer rail in the vicinity of the point of derailment
is super-elevated to the extent of 6 in. to 7 in.
The gradients over this section fall continuously at inclinations of from 1 in 60 to 1 in 70 over the first 350 yards, and then flatten out to from 1 in 100 to 1 in 190 over the remainder of the route.
The permanent way along the flat curve and tangent was laid in August, 1907, with B.S. rails weighing no lb. per yard, laid on cross sleepers at 3 ft. 6 in. intervals, resting on concrete. The curve leading into Victoria Road was relaid in April, 1912, with rails weighing 116 lb., with similar foundation. The curved rails were bent mechanically in the shops to the required template. The roadway is paved with 6 in. granite setts, 31/2in. wide, grouted with coal-tar pitch
Full scale sections of the rails on the curve have been prepared, and show that the width of the grooves at the point of derailment has increased from wear from 1 1/4in. to from 1 1/2 in. to 1 2/3 in.
The maximum speed authorised by the Board of Trade along
Langside Road and Queen's Drive is 16 miles per hour. On the
curve between Queen's Drive and Victoria Road the speed limit is
four miles per hour. There are no Board of Trade compulsory
stopping-places on this section. All cars, in accordance with theCorporation's rules, have to be stopped at the junction of Langside Road with Grange Road, also in Victoria Road after passing over the sharp curve from Queen's Drive.
Motorman Carnegie entered the. service of the tramways
department on September 4, 1917, at the age of sixteen years two
months. After leaving school, at the age of 14, he served as a clerk
for a year, and subsequently served a further year in electrical works,
He was employed until October 11 as conductor, when he began
a course of instruction in tramcar driving. The course comprised
four days' tuition in the Corporation Motor School, and eight days'
outdoor training on a passenger car under an experienced motorman.
On October 26 he passed his final individual examination, and
subsequently drove cars on service as a probationary driver for a
month's time. On December 1 he completed his probation, and
became a fully qualified motorman.
On December 5 he came on duty at 6.55 a.m., was off duty from 10.30 until 1 p.m., and would normally have completed his day's work about 7 p.m. At 1 p.m. he took over charge (for the first time) of car No. 157 at Kirklee, and was on his way home on his third trip when the accident occurred. He had driven over this (Kirklee and Netherlee) route on seven previous dates, including three or four occasions after dark. Carnegie explained that on the last outward journey he did not proceed to the fixed terminus at Netherlee. He was six minutes late and therefore turned the car at Cathcart, a stage short of the terminus. He left Cathcart at 5.50 p.m., two minutes before time. At the first stopping-place the car became so crowded with passengers, both inside and out, that he was obliged to turn a number of standing passengers off the top deck and platforms. He left the stopping-place with about half-a-dozen passengers standing inside the lower deck. He stopped the car at the halfpenny stage at the junction of Langside Road and Grange Road at 6 p.m., one minute before time. On re-starting, he fed the car to full power, and came along Langside Road and Queen's Drive at full speed. He then threw off power, and allowed the car to coast for some distance. He knew he was getting close to the curve in Victoria Road ; but, owing to the darkness, he could not tell exactly where the curve began. He had hold of the hand brake, keeping it slightly applied. Ten yards from the. curve, where his estimated speed was eight miles an hour, the light of the electric lamp at the corner of Victoria Road illuminated the rails on the curve, and he applied his hand brake fully. This did not check the speed ; he therefore released the hand brake and applied the magnetic brake, first to the extent of three notches, and then, finding this had no effect, with full force. He was on the point of applying the reverse when the car struck the curve so violently that he was thrown backwards against the stairs. As he regained his balance he noticed that the inner side of the car lifted. The outer wheels then left the rails, and the car overturned.
Carnegie agreed that the accident was caused by high speed, and thinks that he was taken by surprise by finding himself nearer to the curve than he had expected. It is possible that he applied the hand brake too powerfully, with the result that the wheels locked and skidded on the greasy rails.
The evidence of Messrs. Kennedy and Henderson (top deck passengers) and Mr. Macalister, a pedestrian, is to the effect that the speed of the car along Langside Road was not higher than usual. The first-named was descending the stairs, not realising there was any danger, when the trolley-pole came off the overhead wire, and the lights of the car went out. A more violent jolt than usual was immediately followed by the overturning of the car.
Motor Inspector McCaskill arrived at the scene of the accident at 6.10 p.m. He found the dog of the hand brake in position, and the brake blocks hard on. The power handle was at the second notch of the magnetic brake, the reversing lever in the forward position.
Mr. David Brown, rolling stock superintendent, arrived at the scene of the accident about 6.45 p.m. His opinion, based on the position of the car, is that overturning took place on the roadway, and was not the result of the left-hand wheels of the car coming into contact with the kerb. He examined both brakes, and found them in good order. It is not the practice to apply both the mechanical and magnetic brakes at the same time. The latter brake is inoperative unless the wheels are revolving.
After the accident the car was pulled up on to its wheels, and drawn on the rails into the depot. The wheels were tested and found to gauge, with the flanges uninjured. After a new trolley standard had been fitted on to the roof of the car, as I found by personal inspection, it was possible both to drive and control the car without any alteration to the controller or brake equipment.
Mr. James Grierson, permanent way engineer, gave evidence that the only wheelmark found was on the roadway, outside the outer rail of the curve. It commenced about 57 1/2 feet from the tangent point and extended for 6 or 8 ft , but not continuously. Other not well-defined marks of scraping were subsequently found, evidently not caused by wheel flanges. There were no marks on the setts, or rail-guard, of any inside wheels.
On a curve of 60 ft. radius, assuming the centre of gravity of
the loaded car to have been 6 ft. above ground level, overturning,
due to the effect of centrifugal force, will theoretically take place at a speed of about to miles an hour. The safe limit of speed, beyond which danger of derailment or overturning may be anticipated, is five to six miles an hour. With worn rails a speed of more than four miles an hour is inadvisable. The general evidence on the point of speed does not warrant the conclusion that the car was travelling at 19 miles an hour when the accident took place. But curve resistance rapidly increases as rails and flanges become worn, making " slippage " more difficult. In this case also the wheels appear to have been locked by an over-powerful application of the hand-brake. There would arise a tendency of the front wheels to bind—particularly on a track with a guard to the inner rail, and of the rear wheels to lift—in the case especially of a tramcar with long overhanging platforms in front and rear of a single truck. That such a lift took place is, I think, clearly proved by the fact that only one left-hand wheelmark could be found outside the rail. The violent jolt resulting from the momentary check so caused would allow of time for the centre of gravity of the car to swing outwards, owing to the load of passengers shifting in that direction. In combination with the action of centrifugal force at the same moment, overturning would result at a lower speed than theoretically required.
There are now two further points for consideration :—(a) The sufficiency of the lighting in Queen's Drive, (b) the suitability of lads between the ages of 16 and 18 as tramcar drivers. (a) The Corporation have furnished a plan showing the positions
of the lighted and unlighted street lamps in the neighbourhood of
the site of this accident. In Queen's Drive two gas lamps are kept
lighted, 220 yards apart. One indicating a " stop if required "
point, is on the north side of the roadway, 150 yards from the curve.
The second is on the south side, about 70 yards beyond the curve.
A third (electric) lamp is lighted on the east side of Victoria Road,
opposite the centre of the curve. The overturned car lay on the west
side of Victoria Road, nearly opposite this electric lamp. Along
the same stretch of roadway there are nine unlighted gas lamps.
Motorman Carnegie stated that the lighting was insufficient, that the whole of Queen's Drive was dark, and that the light at the corner of Victoria Road could not be seen until the car was practically on the curve. I think his complaint is justifiable, and that darkness was a factor of importance in this case.
As regards general illumination, there is no lighting on the south side of Queen's Drive along the side of the Park for a length of 250 yards of tramway track preceding the curve. If similar lighting restrictions obtain over the whole of this tramway system, I am not surprised to hear from the traffic superintendent that darkness of the roads is a distinct deterrent to women offering themselves for training as motor drivers, and accounts in part for the Corporation losing the services of many capable women already trained as drivers.
Moreover, sharp curves, where speed or stop regulations have been imposed in the interests of safety, require to be clearly defined in both directions by special lighting during the hours of darkness. War has brought in its train unavoidable handicaps to safety conditions in several directions. But I cannot agree that a policy of over-darkened streets, and reduction in tramcar lighting, dictated mainly by nervousness in connection with possible air raids, is unavoidable. Public safety will be best served by a greater degree of diffused light in the streets than has so far been permitted in many districts.
(b) Men over 21 years of age were alone employed on the Glasgow
tramways as motormen in pre-war times. The normal number
required to carry on the service is 1,700. The staff now consists
of a total of 1,558, comprising :—
46 lads between the ages of 16 and 21
578 men between the ages of 21 and 41
511 men between the ages of 41and 51
157 men over the age of 51
10 women between the ages of 19 and 21
241 women between the ages of 21 and 31
15 women between the ages of 31 and 41
The position with regard to the staff of motormen (compared with 1914) is that the Corporation have replaced 302 motormen over 21 years old by 266 women and 46 lads, and have been unable to fill up vacancies to the number of 106.
Mr. Lachlan McKinnon, traffic superintendent, gave evidence that about three months ago the experiment of training and employing boys as motormen was started. One of the reasons which led to this decision was the failure of an arrangement made with the military authorities in June last, whereby, under a scheme of substitution, the Corporation were entitled to have returned to them about 100 of their emoloyees, men of low medical category, and enlisted for home service, many of whom were capable motor-men. Another reason was the number of resignations of trained women drivers, who found themselves incapable of standing the strain of responsibility, and the physical effort involved. Out of a total of 800 women who have been trained as tramcar drivers the Corporation have succeeded in retaining 266. I have referred to the special difficulty during the winter months of the darkness in the streets, which prevents women from offering themselves for training. Since the abolition of the leaving certificate the Corporation have moreover lost in trained drivers—64 men and 47 women—who have left their service to obtain higher wages. They now have employed 146 lads under the age of 18, of whom 39 are qualified motormen, 51 are being trained as such, and 56 are doing conductors' work.
Mr. McKinnon pointed out that discipline is not so good as before the war, owing partly to the ease with which other employment is obtainable, and partly because the staff for inspection and supervision has been unavoidably reduced by more than a half. He thought that the necessity for discipline is as well understood by lads as it is by men, and better understood than by women. In his view the three essentials for a motorman are physique, intelligence, and temperament. The second quality is the easiest, while the last is the most difficult to find in a boy. Very careful selection is therefore necessary in the case of lads. So far these boy drivers have not proved reckless or over-confident. In Carnegie's case, Mr. McKinnon thought he was a solid, sensible lad, unlikely to lack caution.
In my opinion, boys at the age of 16 will not be found to have reached their full growth, either physically or mentally. In the growing stage they will tire more rapidly, with the result that their power of concentration will flag. They are less fully developed in comparison with girls of 19. The reduction in the age of men, employed in the very responsible position of tramcar driver, from 21 to 16, entails too great a sacrifice of necessary qualities for the policy to prove acceptable, with due regard to public safety. Further, even when lads of the necessary physique, intelligence, and temperament have been trained, and have proved capable drivers, the majority become eligible at the age of 18 for military service, and are consequently enlisted. From this point of view therefore the policy is of questionable value.
My conclusions on this case are as follows :—
(a) That the accident was caused by too high speed on a sharp curve, and that the misapplication of the mechanical brake was a factor.
(b) That there is direct evidence to show that Carnegie was not driving at a reckless speed whilst approaching the curve, and I therefore consider that his failure to reduce speed within safe limits before entering the curve was due to the lighting in Queen's Drive being insufficient to enable him to gauge its real position, and possibly also to some want of concentration on his own part.
I make the following recommendations :—
(a) That all cars should be brought to a standstill in Queen's Drive and Victoria Road before entering the sharp curve connecting these thoroughfares ;
That Queen's Drive be better illuminated by night, and that in particular a street lamp be kept lighted on the south side, opposite the tangent of the curve, as a special indication of the stopping-place. These compulsory stopping-places, imposed by safety requirements, are commonly marked by day by distinctive colouring of a standard. By night the necessity for marking is even greater. The use of a coloured lamp would seem to be appropriate.
That lads shall not be appointed as drivers under the age of 18. Those now so employed should be kept on probation for at least three months ; their hours of duty should be shortened, and more frequent holidays granted, until they attain the age of 18.
It is certainly desirable, since substitution by arrangement
appears to have proved no success, that women should receive all
possible encouragement to undertake the duties of driver, and thus
relieve men for military service. Perhaps something can be done
to reduce the strain and physical effort involved in tramcar driving—by shortening the hours of duty, by giving longer intervals of rest,
by minimising the effects of exposure to weather, by better illumination of the streets and thereby to induce them to undertake
the responsibilities in larger numbers.
Andy Wilsons account of his Accident in 1959 (email 25th June 2009)
With regard to your excellent site,it brought back memories of my childhood in Townhead Glasgow-Parliamentary road to be precise or in the vernacular of the times "the caur lines"!-I probably am now a holder of a rare distinction-I was run over by a Tram!-when I was about 5 or 6 years old I was forbidden to cross the road due to the volume of traffic-quite a thing for 1959-but decided one day to cross to the Chippie over the road,on my return I performed the usual Glasgow habit of walking out into the middle of the road and getting a better view of oncoming traffic to cross over,however a bus was coming and without glancing behind me I stepped back-right in front of an oncoming number 8 (I think) tram heading for the city centre-last thing I remember was hearing (A) screams from the wee glasgow wummen who seen me,and (B) a very loud rattling noise-which incidentially was to save my life-the infamous "coo catcher" had been banged in by the tram driver when he seen me.I was catapulted towards the pavement but unfortunately hit a McKellar Watts butchers van parked at the kerb head first,right on the front wing,which by divine machination on that specific type of Austin van was made of -Rubber!-on coming to lying at the side of the road being cuddled by a tearful clippie I amazed everyone by standing up and bolting up the close to my house-swiftly followed by the clippie,tram driver,polis and sightseers as well.Total injuries?-a big scratch on my face,a dirty jumper and an egg on my head which took a fortnight to go away.My mother reckoned I was never right after it though and used to explain my wrongdoings with "Aye but he goat hit by a tram as a wee boy!"