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Railroad Accidents – History

Author / Coordinator: Eric Johnson
March 2007

NOTE: Very few passengers were killed in a single U.S. train wreck up until 1853. These early trains ran slowly and made short trips, night travel was rare, and there were not many of them in operation.


June 17, nr. Charleston, S.C.: boiler exploded on America’s first passenger locomotive, The Best Friend of Charleston, injuring the fireman and the engineer.


Nov. 8, nr. Heightstown, N.J.: world’s first train wreck and first passenger fatalities recorded. A 24-passenger Camden & Amboy train derailed due to a broken axle, killing 2 passengers and injuring all others. Former President John Quincy Adams and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who later made a fortune in railroads, were aboard the train.


May 6, Norwalk, Conn.: New Haven Railroad train ran through an open drawbridge and plunged into the Norwalk River. Forty-six passengers were crushed to death or drowned. This was the first major drawbridge accident.


July 17, Camp Hill, nr. Ft. Washington, Pa.: two Northern Penn trains crashed head-on. Approximately 50–60 people died, mostly children on their way to a Sunday school picnic.


Dec. 29, Ashtabula, Ohio: Lake Shore train fell into the Ashtabula River when the bridge it was crossing collapsedduring a snowstorm; 92 people were killed.


Aug. 10, nr. Chatsworth, Ill.: a burning railroad trestle collapsed while a Toledo, Peoria & Western train was crossing, killing 81 and injuring 372.


Aug. 7, Eden, Colo.: train derailed on bridge during flash flood; 96 killed.


March 1, Wellington, Wash.: two trains swept into canyon by avalanche; 96 dead.


May 22, Gretna, Scotland: two passenger trains and troop train collided; 227 killed.


Dec. 12, Modane, France: nearly 550 killed in derailment of troop train near mouth of Mt. Cenis tunnel.


July 9, Nashville, Tenn.: 101 killed in a 2-train collision near Nashville.
Nov. 1, New York City: derailment of subway train in Malbone St. tunnel in Brooklyn left 92 dead.


March 14, Virilla River Canyon, Costa Rica: an overcrowded train carrying pilgrims derailed while crossing the Colima Bridge, killing over 300 people and injuring hundreds more.


Dec. 22, nr. Magdeburg, Germany: more than 125 killed in collision; 99 killed in another wreck near Friedrichshafen.


Dec. 16, nr. Rennert, N.C.: 72 killed in derailment and collision of 2 Atlantic Coast Line trains.


March 2, nr. Salerno, Italy: 521 suffocated when Italian train stalled in tunnel.


Oct. 22, nr. Nowy Dwor, Poland: more than 200 reported killed in derailment of Danzig-Warsaw express.


Nov. 22, Richmond Hill, N.Y.: 79 died when one Long Island Railroad commuter train crashed into rear of another.


Feb. 6, Woodbridge, N.J.: 85 died when Pennsylvania Railroad commuter train plunged through temporary overpass.


Oct. 8, Harrow-Wealdstone, England: two express trains crashed into commuter train; 112 dead.


Sept. 1, nr. Kendal, Jamaica: about 175 killed when train plunged into ravine.
Sept. 29, nr. Montgomery, West Pakistan: express train crashed into standing oil train; nearly 300 killed.
Dec. 4, St. John’s, England: 92 killed and 187 injured as one commuter train crashed into another in fog.


Nov. 14, Pardubice, Czechoslovakia: two trains collided; 110 dead, 106 injured.


May 3, nr. Tokyo: 163 killed and 400 injured when train crashed into wreckage of collision between inbound freight train and outbound commuter train.


Nov. 9, nr. Yokohama, Japan: two passenger trains crashed into derailed freight train, killing 162.


July 26, Custoias, Portugal: passenger train derailed; 94 dead.


Feb. 4, nr. Buenos Aires: 236 killed when express train crashed into standing commuter train.


July 21, Seville, Spain: head-on crash of two passenger trains killed 76.

Oct. 6, nr. Saltillo, Mexico: train carrying religious pilgrims derailed and caught fire, killing 204 and injuring over 1,000.
Oct. 30, Chicago: two Illinois Central commuter trains collided during morning rush hour; 45 dead and over 200 injured.


Aug. 30, Zagreb, Yugoslavia: train entering station derailed, killing 153 and injuring over 60.


June 6, nr. Mansi, India: driver of train carrying over 500 passengers braked to avoid hitting a cow, causing train to plunge off a bridge into the Baghmati River; 268 passengers were reported killed, but at least 300 more were missing.


July 11, Tepic, Mexico: Nogales-Guadalajara train plunged down mountain gorge, killing 120.


Jan. 15, Maizdi Khan, Bangladesh: train carrying Muslim pilgrims crashed head-on with a mail train, killing at least 110 people and injuring as many as 1,000. Many people were riding on the roof of the trains and between the cars.
Aug. 10, nr. Los Mochis, Mexico: a second-class passenger train traveling from Mazatlán to Mexicali, plunged off a bridge at Puente del Rio Bamoa into the river and killed an estimated 85 people and injured 107.


Jan. 4, Sangi village, Sindh province, Pakistan: overcrowded 16-car passenger train rammed into a standing freight train. At least 210 people were killed and 700 were believed injured in what is said to be Pakistan’s worst train disaster.


Sept. 22, nr. Mobile, Ala.: Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, en route to Miami, jumped rails on weakened bridge and plunged in Big Bayou Canot, killing 47 people.


Aug. 20, Firozabad, northern India: a speeding passenger train rammed another train that was stalled after hitting a cow. About 300 people were killed and over 400 injured.


March 3, Punjab province, Pakistan: passenger train crashed due to failed brakes, killing 119 and injuring at least 80 people.


June 3, nr. Eschede, Germany: Inter City Express passenger train traveling at 125 mph crashed into support pier of overpass, killing 98. Is nation’s worst postwar train accident. Crash may have been caused by a defective wheel.


Oct. 5, London: out-bound Thames commuter train passed a red signal near Paddington Station and collided with London-bound Great Western express, killing 30 people and injuring 245.


Feb. 20, nr. Ayyat, Egypt: 361 killed in fire after gas cylinder used for cooking exploded aboard crowded passenger train. Egypt’s worst train disaster.
May 25, Muamba, Mozambique: 192 died and dozens more injured when passenger cars rolled for several miles at top speed into freight cars from which they had been disconnected because of mechanical problems.
June 24, nr. Msagali, central Tanzania: runaway passenger train collided with freight train on same track, leaving 200 dead.

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