It was one of Scotland's worst rail disasters, which claimed the lives of 35 passengers and injured 179 more.

Two trains collided at the village of Castlecary near Cumbernauld one December afternoon in 1937. It happened as temperatures dropped to minus seven and the skies were thick with snow due to some of the heaviest storms on record.

Now, more than 70 years on, a memorial commemorating the disaster is to be unveiled on Saturday . There is no-one left in Castlecary to recall the tragedy but residents felt strongly that it should not be forgotten.

Albert MacBeath, of Castlecary Community Council, said: "We set up the group 14 years ago and asked people in the village what they wanted us to do. We were surprised that a memorial came top of the list.

"We have had a plaque in our memorial garden for a couple of years but we knew we wanted to build a bit more of a fitting tribute.

"People have got really involved in this. There is a story to every part of the memorial. It is this kind of thing which brings the community together."

Both the manpower and the money has come from Castlecary residents, who have hammered and dug the ground where the memorial stands.

It is made from two railway sleepers, two short lengths of track and a two-tonne locomotive wheel.

The crash took place when an Edinburgh to Glasgow commuter express, travelling at 70mph, crashed into the back of a Dundee to Glasgow train, which had been halted at a signal at Castlecary Station.

A error by the signalman meant that the Edinburgh train's driver had been led to believe that the route forward was clear and he was not aware that the Dundee train had stopped in front of him. The Dundee train was "reduced to matchwood" by the impact, the then Glasgow Herald reported the day after the accident, with most of the fatalities coming from its stationary carriages.

Many passengers on the express from Edinburgh stepped from their train after the impact, unaware of the enormity of the tragedy in which they had been involved.

The Glasgow Herald reported: "The locomotive tore through the rear portion of the stationary train, crumbling the carriages to matchwood and throwing the rear coach into the air. It landed broadside across the track.

"With the impetus of the train the foremost carriages of the Edinburgh train reared high in the air, and rode up over the engine. The two following carriages heaved themselves partially on top of each other."

The report went on: "Early eyewitnesses could hardly make out what was carriage and what was engine. The locomotive had been turned into a mass of twisted iron, its bogie sundered, and its wheels buckled almost beyond recognition."

Rescuers worked through the night in the freezing conditions and bonfires were lit on the track using wood from the devastated railway carriages.

A soldier of the 1st Batallion of the Cameron Highlanders was reported to have crawled on his hands and knees and smashed into the wooden compartments to give aid to his fellow passengers.

Henry Knox, of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, said yesterday that the Castlecary crash should be remembered alongside the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879 and the Quintinshill tragedy of 1915.

It claimed the lives of 227 passengers, the majority of them soldiers of the 7th Royal Scots Battalion who were buried in a common grave, the accident said to have remained a secret until the end of the First World War.

Mr Knox, who worked on Scotland's railways for 50 years, said he had worked with David Anderson, the driver of the Edinburgh to Glasgow train at Castlecary. Mr Anderson was thrown on to the track by the impact but returned to his locomotive to shut off steam Mr Knox said: "The crash had a terrible effect on him. He was quite unfairly held in custody after being charged with manslaughter and it wasn't at all fair. The charges were eventually dropped by the Lord Advocate.

"The crash was certainly the worst in the history of the London and North Eastern Railway. Both drivers were found guilty, at the Department of Transport inquiry, of travelling at high speed in adverse weather conditions.

"The signalman was also severely criticised. I do feel that commemorating the people who died at Castlecary is appropriate. It was a very significant railway accident and, in my view, one of the worst that Scotland has ever seen."