Montparnasse derailment

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Montparnasse derailment
Photograph of the derailed locomotive
Photograph of the derailed locomotive
Date 22 October 1895
Time 4 pm
Location Paris Montparnasse
Country France
Operator Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest
Trains 1
Passengers 131
Deaths 1 (lady on the street)
Injuries 6

The Montparnasse derailment occurred at 4 pm on 22 October 1895 when the Granville–Paris Express overran the buffer stop at its Gare Montparnasse terminus. With the train several minutes late and the driver trying to make up for lost time, it entered the station too fast and the train air brake failed. After running through the buffer stop, the train crossed the station concourse and crashed through the station wall before falling onto the Place de Rennes below, where it stood on its nose. A woman in the street below was killed by falling masonry. The driver was fined 50 francs and one of the guards 25 francs.

The train was outside the station in this position for several days and a number of photographs were taken. The photograph at the top of this article has become iconic and widely reproduced. A replica of the crashed locomotive has been built in a theme park in Brazil.


On 22 October 1895 the Granville to Paris express was composed of steam locomotive No. 721 hauling three baggage vans, a post van, and six passenger carriages.[1] The train had left Granville on time at 8:45 am, but was several minutes late as it approached its Paris Montparnasse terminus with 131 passengers on board. Trying to make up lost time[2][1] the train entered the station too fast, at a speed of 40–60 kilometres per hour (25–37 mph), and the Westinghouse air brake failed.[3][1] Without sufficient braking the momentum of the train carried it slowly into the buffers, and the locomotive crossed the almost 30-metre (100 ft) wide station concourse, crashing through a 60-centimetre (2 ft) thick wall, before falling onto the Place de Rennes 10 metres (33 ft) below, where it stood on its nose. A woman in the street below was killed by falling masonry; and two passengers, the fireman, two guards and a passerby in the street sustained injuries.[2]

The woman, Marie-Augustine Aguilard, had been standing in for her husband, a newspaper vendor, while he went to collect the evening papers. The railway company paid for her funeral and provided a pension to care for their two children.


The locomotive driver was fined 50 francs for approaching the station too fast. One of the guards was fined 25 francs as he had been preoccupied with paperwork and failed to apply the handbrake.[2]

The passenger carriages were undamaged and removed easily. It took forty-eight hours before the legal process and investigation allowed the railway to start removing the locomotive and tender. An attempt was made to move the locomotive with fourteen horses, but this failed. A 250 tonne winch with ten men first lowered the locomotive to the ground and then lifted the tender back in to the station. When the locomotive reached the railway workshops it was found to have suffered little damage.[4]


Reconstruction at Mundo a Vapor theme park in Brazil

The train was outside the station for several days[3] and a number of photographs were taken, such as those attributed to Studio Lévy and Sons,[5] L. Mercier,[3] and Henri Roger-Viollet.[6]

The Lévy and Sons photograph at the top of the article has become one of the most famous in transportation history.[7] The photograph, which is out of copyright, is used as the cover page in the book An Introduction to Error Analysis by John Taylor.[8] The picture is also featured on the front cover of American hard rock band Mr. Big's 1991 album, Lean into It.

A similar train crash appears as a dream in the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret and its film adaptation, Hugo, and is depicted in the comic book The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.[9]

An imitation of the Montparnasse derailment has been built outside the Mundo a Vapor ("Steam World") museum theme park in Canela, Brazil.[10]

Gordon's crash at Kirk Ronan in the Thomas & Friends episode "A Better View for Gordon" was inspired by the Montparnasse derailment.



  1. ^ a b c Richou 1895, pp. 369–370.
  2. ^ a b c "Paris 1895". danger-ahead. Retrieved 24 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Accident at the Gare de l'Ouest". musee-orsay. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Richou 1895, p. 370.
  5. ^ "memorial". Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "L'accident a la Gare Montparnasse". Iconic Photos. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Zasky, Jason. "Let's Pause For a Station Break: The story behind the world's most famous train wreck photo". Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  8. ^ John Robert Taylor (1997). An Introduction to Error Analysis: The Study of Uncertainties in Physical Measurements. University Science Books. ISBN 978-0-935702-75-0. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Train". Tardi – Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "Mundo a Vapor". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 23 October 2012. 


  • Richou, G. (9 November 1895). "L'Accident de la Gare Montparnasse". La Nature (in French).  Scans available online at, p. 369, p. 370 and p. 371. Accessed 24 October 2012.

Coordinates: 48°50′37″N 2°19′25″E / 48.8435°N 2.3235°E / 48.8435; 2.3235