30 June 2012

The train derailment on the West Highland line on Thursday

Posted by dr-dave

Yesterday more details emerged of the landslide incident on the West Highland line in Scotland that derailed a freight train.  The incident came during the exceptional rainfall associated with thunderstorms that passed across northern Britain – a final hurrah for the wettest second quarter of the year on record in the UK. The best source of images is the Daily Mail, which has a set of stills from the video taken from the search and rescue helicopter that attended the scene and recovered the driver.  It is clear that this was a serious accident, with the train being pushed off the track and the locomotive then falling down the embankment:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2166626/Rail-chaos-derailed-freight-train-blocks-line-West-Highlands-landslide.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Note the landslide scar on the upper right side of the image, the wagons from the train, some of which are obviously derailed, and the locomotive in the tress on the downslope side.  This image gives a better view of the relationship between the locomotive and the landslide:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2166626/Rail-chaos-derailed-freight-train-blocks-line-West-Highlands-landslide.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

An interesting aspect of both images is that this is a site that appears to have suffered previous landslide activity that has been mitigated by excavating the landslide and replacing with a boulder fill.  Based upon the images this may have been a comparatively recent maintenance activity as the stones look very unweathered.  Unfortunately the landslide did not occur in this location, which illustrates clearly one of the major challenges that the track operator faces in maintaining this old infrastructure.

The Mail also has some images of other landslides triggered by the rainfall:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2166626/Rail-chaos-derailed-freight-train-blocks-line-West-Highlands-landslide.html?ito=feeds-newsxml