Train wreck

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Versailles rail accident in 1842, 55 people were killed including the French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville.
Wheels from Engine Tender #013 which was destroyed in a wreck in 1907 on a bridge over Village Creek between Silsbee and Beaumont, Texas. The wheels are on display in the Arizona Railway Museum.

A train wreck or train crash is a type of disaster involving one or more trains. Train wrecks often occur as a result of miscommunication, as when a moving train meets another train on the same track; or an accident, such as when a train wheel jumps off a track in a derailment; or when a boiler explosion occurs. Train wrecks have often been widely covered in popular media and in folklore.

A head-on collision between two trains is colloquially called a "cornfield meet" in the US.[1]

Legal consequences[edit]

Because train wrecks usually cause widespread property damage as well as injury or death, the intentional wrecking of a train in regular service is often treated as an extremely serious crime. Intentionally causing a train wreck in most jurisdictions would be prosecuted as premeditated murder.

For example, in the U.S. state of California, the penalty for intentionally causing a non-fatal train wreck is life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.[2] For a fatal train wreck, there are only two sentences which the court may impose: either life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.[2] The willful wrecking of a train is punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole by the United States federal government.[3]

The unusual harshness of California's train wrecking statute has been expressly recognized by its appellate courts. The Supreme Court of California explained in 1972 that train wrecking is one of only eight crimes in the California Codes for which a capital sentence is authorized.[4] The California Court of Appeal pointed out the next year that (at that time) train wrecking was the only other crime besides aggravated kidnapping in the Penal Code for which the Legislature had expressly established the punishment of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Glossary of rail transport terms
  2. ^ a b California State Legislature. "Section 219". California Penal Code. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  3. ^ 18 U.S.C. § 1992.
  4. ^ People v. Anderson, 6 Cal. 3d 628, 652 (1972).
  5. ^ In re Maston, 33 Cal. App. 3d 559, 564 (1973).

Further reading[edit]

  • Aldrich, Mark. Death Rode the Rails: American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1828-1965 (2006) excerpt

External links[edit]