Montparnasse derailment

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Montparnasse derailment
Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895.jpg
Date22 October 1895
LocationParis Montparnasse
OperatorChemins de fer de l'Ouest

The Montparnasse derailment occurred at 16:00 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 to stop it. After running through the buffer stop, the train crossed the station concourse and crashed through the station wall; the locomotive fell onto the Place de Rennes below, where it stood on its nose. A woman in the street below was killed by falling masonry.


On 22 October 1895, the Granville to Paris and Montparnasse express, operated by Chemins de fer de l'Ouest, was made up of steam locomotive No. 721 (a type 2-4-0, French notation 120) hauling three luggage vans, a post van, and six passenger coaches.[1] The train had left Granville on time at 08:45, but was several minutes late as it approached its Paris Montparnasse terminus with 131 passengers on board. In an effort to make up lost time,[1][2] the train entered the station too fast, at a speed of 40–60 km/h (25–37 mph), and the Westinghouse air brake failed to stop it.[1][3] Without sufficient braking, the momentum of the train carried it slowly into the buffers, and the locomotive crossed the almost 30-metre (98 ft) wide station concourse, crashing through a 60-centimetre (24 in) 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 newspapers.[4]


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 were easily removed. It took 48 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 14 horses, but this failed. A 250 tonne winch, with 10 men, first lowered the locomotive to the ground and then lifted the tender back into the station. When the locomotive reached the railway workshops it was found to have suffered little damage.[5]


Reconstruction at Mundo a Vapor theme park in Brazil

The wreckage remained outside the station for several days[3] and a number of photographs were taken, such as those attributed to Studio Lévy and Sons,[6] L. Mercier,[3] and Henri Roger-Viollet.[7]

The Lévy and Sons photograph (at the top of the article) has become one of the most famous in transportation history.[8] The photograph, which is now in the public domain, is used as the cover page in the book An Introduction to Error Analysis by John Taylor.[9] The photograph is featured on the album covers for Lean Into It by American rock band Mr. Big[10], as well as Scrabbling at the Lock by Dutch rock band The Ex with Tom Cora, both first released in 1991,[11] and, in 2019, for Warranty Void If Removed by French record producer Leon Inc.[12]

A near-identical train crash in the same location 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.[13] Gordon's crash at Kirk Ronan in the Thomas & Friends episode "A Better View for Gordon" was inspired by the Montparnasse derailment.[citation needed]

An imitation of the Montparnasse derailment has been built outside the Mundo a Vapor ("Steam World") museum theme park in Canela, and another one at the Shopping Serra Verde in Caldas Novas, both in Brazil.[14][15]

In the 2016 video game Human: Fall Flat, the second level in the game presents a similar scene to the derailment.[citation needed]


  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. ^ Jason Zasky: Let’s Pause For a Station Break: The story behind the world’s most famous train wreck photo Dated 4 Jan 2003, accessed 22 October 2018
  5. ^ Richou 1895, p. 370.
  6. ^ "memorial". Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  7. ^ "L'accident a la Gare Montparnasse". Iconic Photos. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  8. ^ Zasky, Jason. "Let's Pause For a Station Break: The story behind the world's most famous train wreck photo". Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Mr. Big: Lean Into It, accessed 23 October 2018
  11. ^ Scrabbling at the Lock, accessed 22 October 2018
  12. ^ Warranty Void If Removed, accessed 10 September 2019
  13. ^ "Train". Tardi – Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  14. ^ "Mundo a Vapor". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Shopping Serra Verde" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 July 2017.


External links[edit]