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Railroad Accidents – History

Author / Coordinator: Eric Johnson
USA
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.

1831  

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.

1833  

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.

1853  

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.

1856  

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.

1876  

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.

1887  

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

1904  

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

1910  

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

1915  

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

1917  

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

1918  

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.

1926  

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.

1939  

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

1943  

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

1944  

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

1949  

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

1950  

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

1951  

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

1952  

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

1957  

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.

1960  

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

1962  

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

1963  

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

1964  

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

1970  

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

1972  

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.

1974  

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

1981  

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.

1982  

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

1989  

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.

1990  

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.

1993  

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.

1995  

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.

1997  

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

1998  

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.

1999  

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.

2002  

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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