While trains are convenient for travel and for transporting goods, they have become a greater danger over the years as their speed has increased. Sometimes railroad accidents are caused by human error, but other causes include derailment, explosions on board, and bridge collapses.
NOTE: Very few passengers were killed in a single U.S. train wreck up until 1853. The 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.
- May 6, Norwalk, Conn.: New Haven Railroad train ran through an open drawbridge and plunged into the Norwalk River. 46 passengers were crushed to death or drowned. This was the first major drawbridge accident.
- July 17, Camp Hill, nr. Ft. Washington, Pa.: 2 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.
- May 22, Quintinshill, Scotland: 2 passenger trains and troop train collided at Quintinshill near Gretna Green; 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: 2 passenger trains crashed into derailed freight train, killing 162.
- Oct. 6, nr. Saltillo, Mexico: train carrying religious pilgrims derailed and caught fire, killing 204 and injuring over 1,000.
- Oct. 30, Chicago: 2 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.
- 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.
- June 3, Ural Mountains: gas exploded beneath 2 trains, killing 575.
- Aug. 10, nr. Los Mochis, Mexico: a passenger train traveling from Mazatlán to Mexicali plunged off a bridge at Puente del Rio Bamoa, killing an estimated 85 people and injuring 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 into Big Bayou Canot, killing 47 people.
- Aug. 20, Firozabad, northern India: a speeding passenger train rammed another train that was stalled, killing 358.
- 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. It is nation’s worst train accident since WWII.Crash may have been caused by a defective wheel.
- Oct. 5, London: outbound Thames commuter train passed a red signal near Paddington Station and collided with London-bound Great Western express, killing 31 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.
- Feb. 18, Neishabour, Iran: runaway rail cars, loaded with fertilizer, petrol, and sulfur products, rolled 31 mi down the rails, caught fire, and exploded, killing more than 320 and devastating 5 villages.
- Mar, 11, Madrid, Spain: Spain’s most horrific terrorist attack: 191 people were killed and 1,400 were injured in bombings at Madrid’s railway station. A Moroccan affiliate of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.
- April 22, Ryongchon, North Korea: 2 trains carrying flammable liquids collided, causing a huge explosion near the Chinese border, killing at least 161 and injuring more than 1,300.
- April 25, Osaka, Japan: commuter train derailed and hit an apartment building near Osaka, killing at least 107 and injuring 460. It was the worst Japanese train accident since 1963. The accident was allegedly caused by the driver trying to get the train back on schedule.
- July 13, Ghotki, Pakistan: 3 trains collided near Ghotki as the Karachi Express driver misread a signal and rammed the Quetta Express. Derailed carriages were then hit by a third train. At least 133 are killed.
- Jan. 23, Bioce, Montenegro: a train derailed and plunged into the Moraca canyon, killing 46 and injuring 19.
- July 11, Mumbai, India: a series of bombs exploded on commuter trains in Mumbai during the evening rush hour, killing at least 200 people.
- Aug. 1, Benaleka, Congo: a passenger train running between Ilebo and Kananga derailed after the brakes failed, killing about 100 people.
Here are pictures of some historical train wrecks in black and white. These are from the turn of the century and look pretty sick
Some more Black and white old time train wrecks, this one took out the bridge
1889 train accident on a bridge
Marlborough Junc Mass on the New Haven dated Feb 4th 1898. The collision happened on the Clinton and Fitchborough branch. A milk train hauled by 4-4-0 #234 hit head on with a snowplough pushed by two locos (one of which was 823). The 4-4-0 rode up the sloping snowplough blade and perched on the boiler of 823
Northern Pacific rotary February 11, 1903
On February 10, 1903, betwen Saltese, Montana, and Wallace, Idaho, one Northern Pacific rotary met the full onslaught of the winter snows. A breakdown had trapped them in the deep snow and the crew worked by hand to dig
out the train. Inching their way along the tracks in the middle of the night, they halted the train at the “S” Bridge, an 839 foot sinuous trestle on the Coeur d’ Alene branch about 7 miles from Mullan ID, that offered them respite while the snow accumulated in the gulch. A pusher engine and a caboose were left in the open while the remainder rested on solid ground. At seven in the morning a massive snowslide raced down the gulch and ripped out a portion of the bridge. The rear engine and the caboose plunged into the gorge, burying the engine in the deep snow while the caboose and its seven sleeping occupants lay shattered on top. A passenger car, with eight aboard, hung off the end of the broken trestle, dangling from the coupler. Although no-one was killed, it took doctors eleven hours to get the shocked and dazed survivors to the hospital at Wallace.
This turn of the century train derailment happened when the train got snowed in, stopped along a bridge, and the bridge got washed away by snow as the train was on it… talk about bad luck
Marlborough train wreck, another pick of the train accident from above
1903 train derails, this looks like one sick accident