On an island some 29km long and 8km wide, with its west side bordering the Caribbean Sea and its eastern side facing the Atlantic Ocean, history moves forward – albeit slowly and shakily – in the form of the Saint Kitts Scenic Railway.
Dubbed the “last railway in the West Indies” and one of the few of its kind, the narrow gauge railway loops travellers 29km through verdant jungles, over canyon-spanning steel bridges and along the island’s rocky coast.
Christopher Columbus discovered the islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis in 1493, during an exploration to the New World.
Some say he chose to simply name it after his likeness (the isle is more formally known as Saint Christopher Island).
Others maintain that he thought it resembled the shape of St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers, carrying the Christ child on his shoulder.
Whatever the case, the discovery spawned battle upon battle between the British and French over the colonisation of the islands, which were home to fresh water, large salt deposits and – above all – fertile soil.
Whilst taking my son to soccer at Castlemaine, we decided to avoid the well-worn Calder highway and return via the historic town of Maldon. With camera in hand, we decided to take 10 minutes to look at some historic sites around the town.
Whilst visiting a the ‘Beehive Chimney’, located in the old goldfields, we heard the steam whistle calling.
Dashing to the car, we found J549 switching ends in preparation for a tourist run along the Victorian Goldfields Railway (VGR).
Ffestiniog Railway, Snowdonia. The Ffestiniog winds its way from Porthmadog through more than 13 miles of stunning countryside.
Waterfalls cascade and streams froth down mossy rock sides. Swathes of deep green grass soar on one side while valleys dip spectacularly on the other, affording the chance to look down on treetops far below.
Sharp bends in the line offer splendid views of the engine as it chugs onward and upward to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where there’s a chance to travel on an even smaller train into a former slate mine.
The slate-waste landscape at the top of the line makes a fascinating contrast with the natural beauties below.
The worst railroad disaster in history occurred on 22 May, 1915 near Gretna Green, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
It is commonly known as the Quintinshill Disaster, having been named for the location of a nearby intermediate signal box with passing loops on each side on the Caledonian Railway Main Line linking Glasgow and Carlisle.
The crash, which involved five trains, killed a probable 226 people and injured 246 others. Those killed were mainly territorial soldiers from the Royal Scots heading for Gallipoli front in the First World War.
The precise number of dead was never established with certainty as the roll list of the regiment was destroyed by the fire. The crash occurred when a troop train travelling from Larbert, Stirlingshire to Liverpool, Lancashire collided with a local passenger train that had been shunted on to the main line, to then be hit by an express train to Glasgow which crashed into the wreckage a minute later.
Gas from the lighting system of the old wooden carriages of the troop train ignited, starting a fire which soon engulfed the three passenger trains and also two goods trains standing on nearby passing loops.
A number of bodies were never recovered, having been wholly consumed by the fire. The bodies that were recovered were buried together in a mass grave in Edinburgh’s Rosebank Cemetery.
Such was the scope of the disaster that many of the rescuers wrongly assumed the trains had been targets of German saboteurs. Four bodies, believed to be of children, were never identified or claimed and are buried in the Western Necropolis, Glasgow.
The cause of the accident was poor working practices on the part of the two signalmen involved. It was discovered that the two men often colluded to falsify their records of when they relieved each other, routinely did not follow regulations properly, and engaged in other unsafe practices.
The results of the official inquiry into the disaster led to their imprisonment for culpable homicide after legal proceedings in both Scotland and England.
A memorial to the dead soldiers was erected soon after the accident. There are a number of more recent memorials at various locations.
An annual remembrance service is held at Rosebank Cemetery.