Unholy Cow: The 1984 Polmont (Scotland) Train Derailment


The location of Polmont in Europe.
The site of the accident photographed from above in 2005. The train approached from the right (east). The developments in the area were largely the same at the time of the accident.

The train involved

An ScR DBSO cab-car identical with the one involved in the accident, photographed in 1981.
BR Class 47 #47707, the locomotive pushing the train at the time of the accident, photographed in 1982.

The accident

An overview of the wreckage, car 2 is sitting on the left side and the DBSO on the far right.


The leading car’s front end facing the rear of the train as it sits adjacent to car 3 during recovery.
The locomotive sitting at the back of the wreckage, derailed but otherwise unharmed.
A recent digital recreation of the impact suggesting how the train might have hit the cow, an exact position could not be determined.
  • Fencing along livestock-pastures adjacent to rail lines was to be improved to make them harder to collapse on purpose or by accident
  • Object deflectors capable of pushing smaller obstacles out of the way were to be fitted to any leading rail vehicle with an axle load below 16 metric tons. Had the train involved in the accident been fitted with those it may have been able to shove the cow’s remains aside.
The object-deflector on a British Mark 3 cab-car (DVT)
The memorial-plaque at Polmont station.
Looking at the approximate site of the accident in 2021, the road and houses were built in 2008.



Train crash reports and analysis, published weekly.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store