List of rail accidents (before 1880)
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- 1650, April and July[clarification needed] – England – Whickham, County Durham. Two boys die when they are run down by a wagon on a wooden coal tramway. While such tramway accidents are not generally listed as rail accidents (note the lack of accidents listed for the next 150 years) this is sometimes cited as the earliest known railway accident.
- 1815, July 15 – United Kingdom – Thirteen or sixteen people, mainly spectators, are killed by the boiler explosion of the experimental locomotive "Brunton's Mechanical Traveller" at Philadelphia, County Durham.
- December 5, 1821 – United Kingdom – David Brook, a carpenter, is walking home from Leeds, Yorkshire along the Middleton Railway in a sleet storm when he is run over, with fatal results, by the steam engine of a coal train. This is the first case of a person being killed in a railway collision.
- 1827 – United Kingdom – An unnamed woman from Eaglescliffe, County Durham, England (believed to have been a blind beggar woman) is "killed by the steam machine on the railway". This is also said to be the first case of a person being killed in a railway collision, and the first case of a woman being killed.
- September 15, 1830 – United Kingdom – William Huskisson becomes the first widely reported passenger train death. He is killed by loomotive Rocket at Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire during the opening ceremony of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
- June 17, 1831 – United States – After the pressure safety valve is tied down by the train's fireman, the locomotive Best Friend of Charleston suffers a boiler explosion at Charleston, South Carolina, killing him, scalding the engineer, and injuring three others. The locomotive was the first engine of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company.
- November 8, 1833 – United States – The carriages of a Camden & Amboy passenger train derail in the New Jersey countryside between Spotswood and Hightstown when an axle breaks on a car due to an overheated journal. One car overturns, killing two people and injuring fifteen. Among the injured is Cornelius Vanderbilt who will later head the New York Central Railroad. Uninjured in the coach ahead is former U.S. President John Quincy Adams, who continues on to the nation's capital the next day.
- August 11, 1837 – United States – The first head-on collision to result in passenger fatalities occurs on the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad near Suffolk, Virginia when an eastbound lumber train coming down a grade at speed rounds a sharp curve and smashes into the morning passenger train from Portsmouth, Virginia. The first three of the thirteen stagecoach-style cars are smashed, killing three daughters of the prominent Ely family and injuring dozens of the 200 on board. They are returning from a steamboat cruise when the accident happened. An engraving depicting the moment of impact was published in Howland's Steamboat Disasters and Railroad Accidents in 1840.
- August 7, 1838 – United Kingdom – A ticket inspector falls from a moving London and Birmingham Railway passenger train at Harrow, Middlesex. Both his legs are amputated following the accident, but he later dies.
- August 7, 1840 – United Kingdom – Four passengers are killed when a casting falls from a wagon and derails the carriages of a Hull and Selby Railway passenger train.
- September 1840 – United Kingdom – A North Midland Railway passenger train is derailed between South Wingfield and Ambergate, Derbyshire. Two passengers are killed.
- September 1840 – United Kingdom – An Eastern Counties Railway passenger train is in a rear-end collision with another at Old Ford, Essex. One person is killed.
- November 10, 1840 – United Kingdom – Two employees of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway lose their lives when the boiler on 2-2-0 steam locomotive Surprise explodes at Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.
- November 11, 1840 – United Kingdom – A York and North Midland Railway luggage train is in a rear-end collision with a passenger train at Taylor's Junction, Yorkshire. Two passengers are killed.
- October 5, 1841, – United States – Two Western Railroad passenger trains are in a head-on collision between Worcester, Massachusetts and Albany, New York. A conductor and a passenger are killed and seventeen passengers are injured.
- December 24, 1841 – United Kingdom – Nine passengers are killed and seventeen are injured when a Great Western Railway Paddington to Bristol train runs into a landslide in Sonning Cutting. The extent of the casualties in this accident calls into question the practice of mixing passenger and freight wagons in fast trains. The dead are stonemasons travelling in open wagons; they have no protection from either accidents or the weather, and the accident leads to a public outcry, and new legislation which insists on better carriages for passengers.
- May 8, 1842 – France – (Versailles rail accident): Following the King's fete celebrations at the Palace of Versailles, a train returning to Gare Montparnasse, Paris derails at Meudon, Hauts-de-Seine due to a broken axle on the leading locomotive. The wreckage catches fire, killing between 52 and 200 people, including the explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville.
- 1843 – United Kingdom – A collision between two North Midland Railway trains at Barnsley, Yorkshire killed one person. The only passenger to be killed travelling by train in the United Kingdom that year.
- July 28, 1845 – United Kingdom – A passenger train is run into by a steam locomotive at Penshurst, Kent, injuring about 30 people.
- January 20, 1846 – United Kingdom – A bridge over the River Medway between Tunbridge and Penshurst, Kent, England, collapses while a freight train is passing over it. The driver is killed.
- May 24, 1847 – United Kingdom – Five passengers are killed and nine are injured when the carriages of a Chester to Ruabon train falls 50 feet (15 m) into the River Dee following the collapse of a bridge. One of the supporting cast-iron girders had cracked in the centre and given way. The locomotive and tender manage to reach the other side of the bridge, which was engineered by Robert Stephenson. The accident causes his reputation to be questioned. The collapse leads to a re-evaluation of the use of cast-iron in railway bridges; many bridges have to be demolished or reinforced.
- May 10, 1848 – United Kingdom – Six passengers are killed and thirteen are injured at Shrivenham, Berkshire when a Great Western Railway express train runs into two wagons on the line. The horse-box and cattle van had been pushed onto the main line by two porters to free a wagon turntable. Although the locomotive was undamaged, the side of the leading carriage was torn out.
- Whitsuntide 1849 United Kingdom – An East Lancashire Railway passenger train is in a rear-end collision with an excursion train. Despite efforts to protect its rear, another excursion train is in a rear-end collision with the passenger train.
- 1850 – United Kingdom – A Great Western Railway excursion train collides with a horsebox that had escaped from a siding at Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire. Following this accident, The Great Western Railray provides trap points and scotch blocks at all sidings exiting on to main lines.
- 1850 – United Kingdom – A Midland Railway train is in a rear-end collision with an excursion train at Woodlesford station, Yorkshire due to a signal not being lit at night.
- 1850 – United Kingdom – A train is in a rear-end collision with an excursion train at Cowlairs, Lanarkshire. Five people are killed.
- April 30, 1851 – United Kingdom – A Birkenhead, Lancashire and Cheshire Junction Railway passenger train runs into the rear of another inside Sutton Tunnel, Cheshire. The train that was run into was pushing another in front of it; both had stalled. Nine people are killed and more than 30 are injured.
- October 4, 1852 – United Kingdom – A South Eastern Railway passenger train is derailed between Ticehurst Road and Etchingham, East Sussex, England when the formation is flooded and washed away. Both engine crew are injured.
- November 25, 1852 – United Kingdom – A Great Western Railway train hauled by locomotive Lynx is derailed at Gatcombe, Gloucestershire.
- May 6, 1853 – United States – The first major American railroad bridge disaster occurs when a New Haven Railroad engineer neglects to check for an open drawbridge signal. The locomotive and four and one half cars run through the open drawbridge and plunge into the Norwalk River, Connecticut. Forty-six passengers are crushed to death or drowned and about 30 others are severely injured.
- August 12, 1853 – United States – Two Providence and Worcester Railroad passenger trains are in a head-on collision at Valley Falls, Rhode Island. Thirteen people are killed and 50 are injured. This is believed to be the earliest wreck photographed, with the daguerreotype taken by a Mr. L. Wright of Pawtucket forming the basis for an engraving a fortnight later in the New York Illustrated News.
- September 1853 – United Kingdom – An Eastern Counties Railway freight train comes to a halt near Brandon, Suffolk due to a locomotive failure. The driver of another freight train deliberately ignores a red signal and consequently his train is in a rear-end collision with the first train.
- October 5, 1853 – United Kingdom – A Great Southern and Western Railway express passenger train fails south of Straffan, County Clare due to a broken piston rod on the locomotive. The train is run into by a following freight train due to the failure of the guard to act to protect the line to the rear of the broken-down train. Eighteen people are killed.
- October 27, 1854: – United Province of Canada – A Great Western Railway passenger train runs into the rear of a gravel train at Baptiste Creek, Ontario. Fifty-two people are killed and at least 48 people are injured.
- August 29, 1855 – United States – A southbound Camden and Amboy Rail Road passenger train, backing up on a single track near Burlington, New Jersey, to make room for a northbound express, hit a horse-drawn carriage. The rearmost passenger car derailed, and the succeeding cars crashed into hit, derailed, and plunged into a ditch. All four passengers cars were demolished. Twenty-four people died, and between 65 and 100 were injured.
- November 1, 1855 – United States – A bridge over the Gasconade River at Gasconade, Missouri collapses under a Pacific Railroad excursion train during the celebrations of the line's opening. Thirty-one people are killed and hundreds are seriously injured.
- December 15, 1855 – United States – The boiler of the New York Central Railroad locomotive Dewitt Clinton explodes, killing the engineer and fireman.
- June 21, 1856 – United Kingdom – A South Eastern Railway passenger train derails between Tunbridge Wells and Tunbridge Junction, Kent, killing the driver and injuring the fireman and a passenger.
- July 17, 1856 – United States – Two North Pennsylvania Railroad passenger trains are in a head-on collision at Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Fifty-nine people are killed in the crash and subsequent fire, with over 100 people injured, some of whom consequently die. The conductor of one of the trains commits suicide the same day, although he is later absolved of any responsibility.
- March 12, 1857 – United Province of Canada – A bridge over the Desjardins Canal collapses when the axle of a Great Western Railway passenger train from Toronto to Hamilton breaks as the train is passing across it. Fifty-nine people are killed by trauma or drowning after being thrown into the frozen canal.
- June 27, 1857 – United Kingdom – A South Eastern Railway passenger train runs into the rear of another at Lewisham, Surrey due to an error by the signalman at Blackheath, Kent. Eleven people are killed and 30 are injured.
- August 23, 1858 – United Kingdom – An Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway passenger train becomes divided following a coupling failure. The rear portion runs away and collides with a following passenger train at Round Oak station, Stourbridge, Worcestershire. Fourteen people are killed. There are 50 serious injuries and 170 minor injuries.
- June 28, 1859 – United States – At South Bend, Indiana, the Springbrook Bridge collapses as a Michigan Southern Railroad express passenger train passes over it. The locomotive and two carriages smash into the mudbank 30 feet (9 m) below. Forty-two people are killed and 50 are injured
- February 20 – United Kingdom – The tyre of an Eastern Counties Railway locomotive breaks as it hauls a passenger train through Tottenham station. The train is derailed, killing seven people.
- September 6, 1860 – United Kingdom – A Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway excursion train becomes divided at Helmshore, Lancashire. Sixteen carriages run away and crash into the following train. Eleven people are killed.
- September 26, 1860 – United Kingdom – A cast iron bridge collapses under a Midland Railway freight train at Bullbridge, Derbyshire.
- November 16, 1860 – United Kingdom – A London and North Western Railway mail train overruns signals and crashes into the rear of a cattle train at Atherstone, Warwickshire. Ten people are killed; mostly Irish drovers asleep in the brake van at the rear of the cattle train.
- June 11, 1861 – United Kingdom – A cast iron bridge near Kenilworth, Warwickshire collapses under a London and North Western Railway freight train. Both crew of the locomotive are killed.
- August 25, 1861 – United Kingdom – A London, Brighton and South Coast Railway excursion train crashes into the rear of another inside Clayton Tunnel, West Sussex due to a combination of driver, signalman's and operating errors. Twenty-three people are killed and 176 are injured in what was then the deadliest railway accident in the United Kingdom.
- September 2, 1861 – United Kingdom – A North London Railway excursion train collides with a London and North Western Railway freight train at Kentish Town, Middlesex due to a signalman's error. Sixteen people are killed and 317 are injured.
- September 3, 1861 – United States – A Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad train is wrecked after bushwhackers sabotage the supports of a bridge over the Platte River in Missouri. At least seventeen people are killed and about 100 are injured.
- October 13, 1862 – United Kingdom – Two Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway passenger trains are in a head-on collision at Winchburgh, Linlithgowshire due to a pointsman's error. Fifteen people are killed and 35 are injured.
- February 19, 1863 – United States – A Mississippi Southern train headed for the battlefield at Vicksburg, where the Confederate forces are in desperate need of reinforcements in the defence of the city against the assault of Sherman and the Union Army, derails on a damaged bridge and falls into an icy creek. At least 40 passengers killed, others drowned, some rescued from the water by soldiers of the First Battalion of Choctaw Indians, stationed nearby.
- June 29, 1864 – United Province of Canada – An immigrant train failed to stop at a danger signal and attempts to cross an open swing bridge and falls into the Richelieu River at Beloeil, Quebec. Ninety-nine people are killed and 100 are injured. As of 2014[update] this still stands as the rail accident with the largest death toll in Canada.
- July 15, 1864 – United States – An Erie Railroad passenger train carrying Confederate prisoners-of-war is in a head-on collision with a coal train near Shohola, Pennsylvania due to a dispatcher's error. Between 60 and 72 people are killed (official toll is 65 killed).
- August 16, 1864 – United States – An Erie Railroad freight train runs into the rear of a passenger train between Turner's Station and Sloatsburg, New York. A third train runs into the wreckage. Seven people are killed.
- September 21, 1864 – United States – A Pennsylvania Railroad passsenger train runs into the rear of a stopped freight train at Thompsontown, Pennsylvania. The wreckage then catches fire. At least six people are killed and thirteen are injured.
- June 7, 1865 – United Kingdom – A Great Western Railway excursion train is derailed at Rednal, Shropshire due to excessive speed on track under maintenance. Thirteen people are killed and 30 are injured.
- June 9, 1865 – United Kingdom – A South Eastern Railway boat train is derailed on a bridge over the River Beult at Staplehurst, Kent after track workers misread a timetable and remove a rail. Ten people are killed and 49 are injured. Charles Dickens is amongst the survivors.
- August 27, 1866 – United States – A boiler explosion on the Petaluma and Haystack Railroad at Petaluma Station kills the engineer and three others, and wrecks the railroad's only locomotive.
- December 19, 1866 – United Kingdom – During the construction of the new Smithfield Market building adjacent to an open-air section of the Metropolitan Railway in London, a girder falls onto a passing train and 3 passengers are killed. This is the first fatal accident to an underground train.
- June 29, 1867 – United Kingdom – A London and North Western Railway passenger train is in collision with a freight train at Walton Junction, Warrington, Cheshire due to a signalman's error. Eight people are killed and 70 are injured. Lack of interlocking between signals and points is a major contributory factor in the accident.
- December 18, 1867 – United States – The Buffalo-bound New York Express of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern derails its last coach, and it plunges off a truss bridge into Big Sister Creek just after passing Angola, New York. The next car is also pulled from the track and rolls down the far embankment. Stoves set both coaches on fire and 49 are killed.
- In 1867 – United Kingdom – A bridge collapses under a passenger train at Bray, County Wicklow.
- August 20, 1868 – United Kingdom – A London and North Western Railway freight train is being shunted at Llandulas, Denbighshire. During shunting operations, six wagons run away downhill towards Abergele, where they collide with an express passenger train. five of the wagons are carrying paraffin, which explodes and sets the wreck of the passenger train on fire. Thirty-three people are killed, the driver of the express is severely burned.
- November 5 1868 – United Kingdom – Great Western Railway locomotive Rob Roy crashes into the rear of a cattle train at Awse Junction, near Newnham, Gloucestershire and is derailed.
- April 23, 1869 – United States – Hollis, New York, United States: A Long Island Rail Road passenger train is derailed by a broken rail. The rail curls into a "snakehead" and rips out the bottom of one of the cars. Six people are killed and fourteen injured.
- June 21, 1870 – United Kingdom – The axle of a wagon of a Midland Railway freight train breaks at Newark, Nottinghamshire, derailing the train. The derailed wagons foul an adjacent line. An excursion train collides with the debris. Eighteen people are killed and 40 are injured.
- September 12, 1870 – United Kingdom – A Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway freight train runs away and collides with a passenger train at Stairfoot, Yorkshire. Fifteen people are killed and 59 are injured.
- September 14, 1870 – United Kingdom – A London and North Western Railway mail train is diverted into a siding at Tamworth station, Staffordshire due to a signalman's error. The train crashes through the buffers and ends up in the River Anker. Three people are killed.
- December 6, 1870 – United Kingdom – A collision between two North Eastern Railway trains at Brockley Whins, County Durham claims five lives. Lack of interlocking between points and signals is the cause.
- December 12, 1870 – United Kingdom – Part of a Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway freight train runs away and crashes into a passenger train at Stairfoot station, Yorkshire. Fifteen people are killed and 59 are injured.
- 1870 – United Kingdom – A North Eastern Railway freight train overruns signals and is in collision with a London and North Western Railway mail train at St. Nicholas Crossing, Carlisle, Cumberland. Five people are killed, many more are injured. The driver of the North Eastern Railway train was intoxicated.
- 1870 – United Kingdom – A London and North Western Railway mail train is in a rear-end collision with a freight train at Harrow station, Middlesex. Eight people are killed.
- February 6, 1871 – United States – Wappinger Creek, New Hamburg, New York, United States: A passenger train strikes the rear of a stalled oil train on a drawbridge. Twenty-two people are killed.
- August 9, 1871 – United States – A bridge collapses under a Maine Central Railway passenger train at Bangor, Maine. One person is killed and 30 are injured.
- August 26, 1871 – United States – A series of dispatching errors allow the Eastern Railroad's Portland Express to run into the rear of a stalled local train at Revere, Massachusetts. The wreckage catches fire; 29 people are killed and 57 are injured. Several prominent Boston citizens are killed bringing much national publicity to the accident.
- October 2, 1872 – United Kingdom – A Caledonian Railway express passenger train collides with a freight train performing shunting operations at Kirtlebridge, Dumfriesshire. Twelve people are killed and fifteen are injured.
- March 30, 1873 – United Kingdom – A Great Northern Railway excursion train collides with two carriages at Bourne, Lincolnshire. No-one was seriously injured but the carriages and crossing-gates were destroyed.
- April 19, 1873 – United States – A passenger train is derailed at Wood River Junction, Meadow Brook, Rhode Island.
- August 2, 1873 – United Kingdom – A London and North Western Railway passenger train derails at Wigan North Western station due to excessive speed. Thirteen people are killed and 30 are injured.
- January 27, 1874 – United Kingdom – A North British Railway express passenger train collides with a freight train at Bo'ness Junction, Stirlingshire. Sixteen people are killed and 28 are injured.
- September 10, 1874 – United Kingdom – Two Great Eastern Railway passenger trains are in a head-on collision at Thorpe St. Andrew, Norfolk. due to irregular dispatching preocedures. Twenty-five people are killed and more than 100 injured. The accident leads directly to the introduction of automatic control systems to manage traffic on single-track railways.
- December 24, 1874 – United Kingdom – A Great Western Railway passenger train is derailed by a fractured wheel at Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire. Thirty-four poople are killed and 69 are injured. The lack of continuous brakes and poor communications exacerbates the disaster.
- July 6, 1875 – Chile – A bridge collapses beneath the overnight train between Valparaíso and Santiago in Chile, killing nine people.
- August 28, 1875 – United Kingdom – A passenger train overruns signals and is in a rear-end collision with an excursion train at Kildwick, Yorkshire. Seven people are killed and 39 are injured.
- November 15, 1875 – Sweden – Unclear signalling leads to a head-on-collision between two passenger trains near Lagerlunda, Östergötland. Nine people are killed.
- January 21, 1876 – United Kingdom – A Great Northern Railway express passenger train passes a signal jammed in the clear position during a blizzard and is in a rear end collision with a freight train at Abbots Ripton, Huntingdonshire. Thirteen passengers are killed and 59 people are injured.
- April 14, 1876 – United Kingdom – A Great Northern Railway express train runs into a mail train at Corby, Northamptonshire due to signals being jammed in a clear position in a blizzard.
- June 16, 1876 – United States – A trestle bridge collapses under a Blue Ridge Railroad train bound from Belton, South Carolina to Anderson Court House, South Carolina. All five people on board are killed.
- August 7, 1876 – United Kingdom – A variety of errors lead to two Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway passenger trains being involved in a head-on collision at Radstock, Somerset. Fifteen passengers are killed.
- December 23, 1876 – United Kingdom – A Great Northern Railway express train overruns signals and crashes into a number of wagons at Arlesley Sidings, Bedfordshire. Six people are killed.
- December 29, 1876 – United States – A bridge collapses under a Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway passenger train at Ashtabula, Ohio. The train falls into the frozen creek 70 feet (21 m) below. A fire is started by the car stoves, and of the 159 people on board, 64 are injured and 92 are killed. The famous hymn-writer Philip Bliss and his wife are amongst the victims.
- March 25, 1877 – United Kingdom – An express passenger train is derailed at Morpeth, Northumberland due to faulty track.
- September 27, 1879 – United Kingdom – London, Brighton and South Coast Railway B1 class 2-4-0 locomotive 174 Fratton suffers a boiler explosion at Lewes, East Sussex whilst hauling a passenger train. The accident is due to the incorrect setting of its safety valves. One person is killed and two are injured.
- December 28, 1879 – United Kingdom – The Tay Rail Bridge collapses in a violent storm whilst a North British Railway passenger train is crossing it. There are no survivors, 60 people are known to have been killed, with the total estimated at 75 lives lost. The subsequent investigation concludes that "the bridge was badly designed, badly constructed and badly maintained" and lays the major blame on the designer, Sir Thomas Bouch. William McGonagall produces his epic poem The Tay Bridge Disaster to commemorate the event. The disaster shocks engineers into creating an improved crossing both on the Tay, as well as the famous Forth Bridge.
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