Hey readers! I thought I’d try something new and random. The internet is a treasure trove of crazy, random, and wild stuff and I thought it would be fun to try sharing some of it. I stumbled upon this photo one day which piqued my interest and got me researching it.
Ok, so this is the Montparnasse derailment incident. It involved the Granville-Paris Express train and occurred in France on October 22, 1895. According to website Vintage Everyday (noted as VE hereafter) the train started out of Granville on the west coast of the country that morning with a 400 km (249 miles) trip to Paris ahead of it. The steam locomotive engine was pulling a postal car, three baggage cars and six passenger cars with 131 people aboard. Engineer Guillaume-Marie Pellerin, a man with nineteen years experience in the railroad industry was at the helm along with Conductor Albert Mariette. The trip had been business as usual up until it entered Paris and closed in on the train station.
The problem was that it was running a few minutes behind that day and Pellerin was speeding to make up for the tardiness. But as they approached the station, it was clear they were going way too fast. He applied the brakes, but they failed. Mariette then tried the emergency brakes, but by that time they were too close to the end of their track and hurtled over the safety bumper, lifted up onto a platform and went hurtling through the window and wall ahead of it. Luckily after the engine car hit the ground below, the train stopped, leaving all of its cars safely behind inside the station. (VE)
So how do you clean clean up a big accident like this in 1895? There were no modern cranes to pull this giant engine from its odd resting place at this time. History Daily (noted here as HD hereafter) said officials left the train in its precarious position for two days while trying to figure out how to move it. They tried a team of 14 horses first, but when that didn’t work, they used a 250 ton winch instead. (HD) A winch is a giant metallic drum that has a length of chain or rope around it and is cranked for leverage (Google) The other cars were still inside the station and so they were simply dethatched, repaired as needed and put into use with other engines. The engine itself also had minimal damage amazingly and was also repaired and put back to use as well. (HD)
For the most part, there were only minor injuries to all people involved- except one woman. Marie Augustine-Aguillard had been watching her husband’s newspaper stand that day. The stand was right below the site of the accident and she was fatally hit by falling debris when it barreled through the station wall. She was a mother of two and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The French government provided financially for both children for many years after the event. (VE & HD)
Most people involved walked away from the event with only minor injuries and a unique story to tell, but not the two men helming the train. For his reckless choice, Pellerin was fined 50 francs, the equivalent of €228 Euros or $1,500 today. Marietta was fined 25 francs, the equivalent of €128 or $840 in today’s money. (VE) ( not sure if those Euro exchange rates are completely accurate, though)
The event has since made its way into pop culture ending up in memes, on T-shirts, posters, websites and even being re-created for a 2011 Martin Scorsese film (“Hugo”). There’s also a replica of it on display at a museum in Brazil dedicated to the railway industry.
This photo is credited to Levi and Sons
Information about this incident found via:
Vintage Everyday https://www.vintag.es/2018/01/montparnasse-derailment.html