A runaway train is one of various types of incident in which unattended rolling stock is allowed to accidentally roll onto the main line, a moving train loses enough braking power to be unable to stop in safety or a train operates at unsafe speeds due to loss of operator control. If the uncontrolled rolling stock derails or hits another train, a train wreck may result.
A railway air brake can fail if valves on the pipe between each wagon are accidentally closed; the 1953 Pennsylvania Railroad train wreck and the 1988 Gare de Lyon train accident were results of a valve accidentally closed by the crew, reducing braking power.
A parked train or cut of cars may also run away if not properly tied down with a sufficient number of hand brakes.
Accidents and incidents involving defective or improperly-set railway brakes include:
- Lac-Mégantic derailment, Quebec (2013), brakes were improperly set on unattended parked crude oil train, runaway tank cars derailed on a curve in the centre of town, spilling five million litres of oil and causing fires which killed forty-seven people.
- Congo-Kinshasa west of Kananga (2007) - 100 killed.
- Igandu train disaster, Tanzania (2002) – runaway backwards - 281 killed.
- Tenga rail disaster, Mozambique (2002) – runaway backwards - 192 killed.
- CSX 8888 incident, United States (2001) - freight train ran away under power without a crew after engineer incorrectly set the locomotive's dynamic brake. The incident inspired the 2010 motion picture Unstoppable.
- San Bernardino train disaster, California (1989) - brakes failed on freight train which crashed into houses
- Chester General rail crash, UK (1972) - brakes failed on fuel train which collided with parked DMU
- Chapel-en-le-Frith, Great Britain (1957) – broken steam pipe made it impossible for crew to apply brakes.
- Federal Express train wreck, Union station, Washington, DC, (1953) - valve closed by badly designed bufferplate.
- Torre del Bierzo rail disaster, Spain (1944) - brakes failed on overloaded passenger train which collided with another in a tunnel; a third train was unaware and also crashed into it.
- Armagh rail disaster, Northern Ireland (1889) – runaway backwards led to change in law.
- Shipton-on-Cherwell train crash, Oxford (1874) - caused by fracture of a carriage wheel.
- Huffstutter, P.J. (8 July 2013). "Insight: How a train ran away and devastated a Canadian town". Reuters. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- "DR Congo crash toll 'passes 100'". BBC News. August 2, 2007. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- David Patch (November 12, 2010). "At times, 'Unstoppable' goes off track from reality". Toledo Blade.
- Dark territory
- Positive train control
- Railroad Safety Appliance Act
- Category:Runaway train disasters
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