The 08:44 passenger service from Glasgow Queen Street to Dundee, despite running late and experiencing technical difficulties, left Invergowrie station without incident. However, the brake on the leading bogie of the Class 25 locomotive was binding, although the driver carried on as Dundee was only a few miles away. As the train was running along Invergowrie Bay, a traction motor caught fire and the train (with five carriages) was stopped.
Approximately ten minutes later, the stationary train was run into at around 60 mph by the Class 47 hauled 09:35 express from Glasgow to Aberdeen. The impact threw the last two coaches of the Dundee train over the sea wall and into the Firth of Tay, though fortunately the tide was out. Both passengers in the rear carriage and the driver and secondman of the Aberdeen train were killed instantly. A further passenger died later and a total of 51 people were injured.