Normally the local train would have been held in one of the loops at Quintinshill but both of these were already occupied by goods trains. The troop train overturned, mostly onto the neighbouring north-bound mainline track and, a minute later, the Glasgow-bound express ploughed into the wreckage causing it to burst into flame. The ferocity of the fire, and consequent difficulty of rescuing those trapped in the overturned and mangled carriages, was compounded by the fact that most of the carriages were very old, made of wood and lit by gas which was stored in reservoirs slung under the carriages. These ruptured, the escaping gas igniting from the coal burning fires of the engines. The gas reservoirs of the troop train had been filled before leaving Larbert and this, and the lack of available water, meant it was not until the morning of the next day that the fire was extinguished — despite the best efforts of railway staff and the Carlisle fire brigade.
All four locomotives — the express was double headed — of the troop train, the local train and the express, were also badly damaged by fire and the intensity of the fire was so hot that all the coal in the tenders was burned.
Considering the double collision and the fire, casualties in the other trains were lighter than might have been expected.
On the local train two passengers died, with none seriously injured, while on the express seven passengers died, with a further 51 and three members of railway staff seriously injured.
On the express were Soldiers of the 9th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, travelling home on leave from the Battle of Ypres in Belgium. Home leave had only been granted to four officers and a number of other ranks. Having survived the Battle, they returned home only to die in this disaster.
Of the half-battalion (498 all ranks) on the train only sixty-two survived unscathed. These survivors, including the Commanding Officer, continued on to Liverpool where six officers embarked, and sailed on the Sunday on HMT Empress of Britain with the second half of the Battalion, while one officer and the 55 NCO and soldier survivors were sent back to Edinburgh.