List of rail accidents (before 1880)

17th centuryEdit


  • 1650 – United KingdomWhickham, County Durham. Two boys die when they are run over by a wagon on a wooden coal train way. While such tramway accidents are not generally listed as rail accidents (note the lack of accidents listed for the next 163 years) this is sometimes cited as the earliest known railway accident.[1]



  • February 1813 – United Kingdom – A 13-year-old boy named Jeff Bruce is killed whilst running alongside the Middleton Railway tracks. The Leeds Mercury reports that this would "operate as a warning to others".[2]



  • February 28, 1818 – United Kingdom – The driver is killed on the Middleton Railway in Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire when Salamanca's boiler explodes, as a result of the force of the explosion, he was "carried, with great violence, into an adjoining field the distance of one hundred yards (91 m)."[3] "This was the result of the driver tampering with the safety valves."



  • December 5, 1821 – United Kingdom – David Brook, a carpenter, is walking home from Leeds, Yorkshire along the Middleton Railway in a sleet storm when he is run over, with fatal results, by the steam engine of a coal train.[4]


  • 1827 – United Kingdom – An unnamed woman from Eaglescliffe, County Durham, England (believed to have been a blind beggar woman) is "killed by the steam machine on the railway". This is said to be the first case of a woman being killed in a railway collision.[5]



  • September 4, 1829 - United Kingdom - "A poor fellow incautiously placed himself in the way of a locomotive engine, which was driving waggons on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in Salford, when the wheel went over one of his legs, which was literally cut off. He was carried to a surgeon's in the neighbourhood, but no effectual aid could be given to him nor the bleeding staunched, and he died."[7]




  • February 8, 1831 – United Kingdom – William Tewburn was a guard on an overnight goods train of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, pulled by the Twin Sisters locomotive which arrived at Liverpool Road, in Manchester at 2am, where the unfortunate victim got aboard the tender unbeknownst to the engineer, who started moving the loco to take on coke and water, one of these short lurching trips caused the benumbed guard to lose his grip and he fell under first the tender and then the locomotive, virtually cutting him in half.[8]
  • June 17, 1831 – United States – After the pressure safety valve is tied down by the train's fireman, the locomotive Best Friend of Charleston suffers a boiler explosion at Charleston, South Carolina, killing him, scalding the engineer, and injuring three others. The locomotive was the first engine of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company.[9]
  • October 21, 1831 – United Kingdom – On the Warrington & Newton Railway. Mr. Kitchingman had a garden that backed onto the railway at Dallam-brook. He was on the train with a friend and decided to jump out at his house, but was dragged under the wheels of the following coach, which mangled his leg, which had to be amputated, but he later succumbed to his injuries and expired.[10]




  • October 2, 1836 – United States – A broken axle of a Cincinnati-bound train throws a woman and a child onto the track where they are both dragged and run over. The woman perishes, but the child manages to survive, though seriously injured.[13]
  • October 11, 1836 – France – An employee of the line from Saint-Étienne to Lyon falls on a track and is decapitated by a train. The first train accident in France.[14]


Suffolk, Virginia collision
  • August 11, 1837 – United States – The first head-on collision to result in passenger fatalities occurred on the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad near Suffolk, Virginia, when an eastbound lumber train coming down a grade at speed rounded a sharp curve and smashed into the morning passenger train from Portsmouth, Virginia. The first three of the thirteen stagecoach-style cars were smashed, killing three daughters of the prominent Ely family and injuring dozens of the 200 on board returning from a steamboat cruise. An engraving depicting the moment of impact was published in Howland's Steamboat Disasters and Railroad Accidents in 1840.[citation needed]



  • February 2, 1839 – United Kingdom – Charlotte Carrad was killed by a train heading for Slough on the Great Western Railway, 8 months after this section, the first of the GWR, had opened. She was trying to cross the track at Langley to pick turnip tops in a field. She'd seen the train, Hurricane, with 3 carriages, coming at about 18 miles an hour (29 km/h) but hurried down the public footpath to get across the track. She reached the further rail when the engine struck her on the shoulder. Her friend, who was with her, found her in the ditch on the other side of the track. There was a little sign life, but she died a minute or two later, her neck vertebrae having been dislocated.[16]





Versailles train disaster


  • January 6, 1843 – United Kingdom – A collision between two North Midland Railway trains at Barnsley, Yorkshire killed one person. The only passenger to be killed travelling by train in the United Kingdom that year.[22][23]
  • 1843 – United Kingdom – A locomotive boiler explosion on the Hartlepool Railway kills one person, a member of the public travelling illegally on the footplate.[24]




  • January 20, 1846 – United Kingdom – A bridge over the River Medway between Tonbridge and Penshurst, Kent, England, collapses while a South Eastern Railway freight train is passing over it. The driver is killed.[28]
  • July 9, 1846 – United Kingdom – A Clarence Railway engine standing in a branch line of the Stockton and Darlington Railway suddenly began to move down the incline, and collided with some waggons of another Clarence engine. Four men were crushed between the carriages and were severely injured. One died at the scene.[citation needed]
  • November 20, 1846 – United Kingdom – During the construction of the Blackburn, Darwen and Bolton Railway, the boiler of ex-Stockton and Darlington Railway locomotive No. 18 Shildon explodes at Sough, Lancashire.[29]
  • November 23, 1846 – United Kingdom – Elizabeth Coleman, aged eleven years, was killed on the Eastern Counties Railway. The deceased was, it appeared, endeavouring to cross the line at a point near the Roydon station where the Lockroad crosses the line on a level, when she was struck by the buffer of a Cambridge train, and killed upon the spot. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death."[30]


The Dee bridge after its collapse
  • May 24, 1847 – United KingdomDee bridge disaster - Five people are killed and nine are injured when the carriages of a Chester-to-Ruabon train falls 50 feet (15 m) into the River Dee following the collapse of a bridge. One of the supporting cast-iron girders had cracked in the centre and given way. The locomotive and tender manage to reach the other side of the bridge, which was engineered by Robert Stephenson. The accident causes his reputation to be questioned. The collapse leads to a re-evaluation of the use of cast iron in railway bridges; many bridges have to be demolished or reinforced.
  • 28 June 1847 – United Kingdom – A North Union Railway locomotive suffers a boiler explosion, injuring one person.[31]


  • April 25, 1848 – United Kingdom – The boiler of a North Midland Railway locomotive explodes at Normanton, Derbyshire, scalding three people.[31]
  • May 10, 1848 – United Kingdom – Six passengers are killed and thirteen are injured at Shrivenham, Berkshire when a Great Western Railway express train runs into two wagons on the line. The horse-box and cattle van had been pushed onto the main line by two porters to free a wagon turntable. Although the locomotive was undamaged, the side of the leading carriage was torn out.[32]






  • July 12, 1852 – United Kingdom – A 35-car school excursion train from Goole arrives at Burnley on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, where it is far too long for the platform track. The engines are detached and the train left coasting slowly downhill into a long siding. As the station is understaffed, two friends of the staff have been asked to help out. One of them briefly lets go of a set of spring-loaded points, misrouting the train into the dead-end platform track, where it crashes into the buffers before it can be braked. Of 800 people on board, four are killed.[44][45]
  • July 29, 1852 – United Kingdom – On the London and North Western Railway, a locomotive is brought into Shrewsbury shed for a minor repair, but the steam is still engaged when the fire is dropped. After the engine is repaired and fired up, it is left unattended for 20 minutes at a shift change. It runs away onto the main line and 14 miles (23 km) later collides with a standing train at Donnington, Shropshire, killing one passenger.[46]
  • August 3, 1852 – United Kingdom – The ashpan of the locomotive falls off a Rugby-to-Birmingham train at Hampton on the London and North Western Railway, derailing a van and one coach, which collide with a train on the other track. Two passengers are killed and several injured.[47]
  • September 25, 1852 – United Kingdom – the boiler of an Eastern Counties Railway locomotive explodes.[48]
  • October 4, 1852 – United Kingdom – A South Eastern Railway passenger train is derailed between Ticehurst Road and Etchingham, East Sussex, England, when the formation is flooded and washed away. Both engine crew are injured.[49]
  • November 25, 1852 – United Kingdom – A Great Western Railway train hauled by locomotive Lynx is derailed at Gatcombe, Gloucestershire.[50]


  • January 6, 1853 –United States – A train carrying President-elect Franklin Pierce, his wife Jane and their son Benjamin derailed and toppled off an embankment near Andover, MA. Franklin and Jane suffered minor injuries, but their son Benjamin was killed.[citation needed]
  • March 4, 1853 – United States – A train carrying emigrants near Mount Union, Pennsylvania, is rear-ended by a mail train; boilers rupture, scalding seven people to death and having the highest death toll of in the United States in that time. The engineer of the mail train was reportedly asleep when the collision occurred.[51]
  • March 4, 1853 – United Kingdom – A Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway train derails on a deteriorated section of track near Dixon Fold, killing the driver and five passengers.[52][53]
Norwalk River, Connecticut.



  • August 29, 1855 – United States – A southbound Camden and Amboy Rail Road passenger train, backing up on a single track near Burlington, New Jersey, to make room for a northbound express, hit a horse-drawn carriage. The rearmost passenger car derailed, and the succeeding cars crashed into it, derailed, and plunged into a ditch. All four passengers cars were demolished. Twenty-four people died, and between 65 and 100 were injured.[62]
  • November 1, 1855 – United StatesGasconade Bridge train disaster - A bridge over the Gasconade River at Gasconade, Missouri collapses under a Pacific Railroad excursion train during the celebrations of the line's opening. Thirty-one people are killed and hundreds are seriously injured.
  • September 12, 1855 – United Kingdom – A light engine is dispatched from Reading on the wrong line and is in a head-on collision with a South Eastern Railway passenger train. Four people are killed, many are injured. [61]
  • December 15, 1855 – United States – The boiler of the New York Central Railroad locomotive Dewitt Clinton explodes, killing the engineer and fireman.[63]
  • 1855 – United Kingdom – A South Eastern Railway train is derailed at Bricklayers' Arms Junction, Surrey when a pointsman moves a set of points under it.[61]


Camp Hill, Pennsylvania



  • May 6, 1858 – United Kingdom – A passenger train from Plymouth on the just-opened Cornwall Railway derails just before the Grove Viaduct near St Germans and the engine and two cars plunged toward the water. Three railwaymen are killed.[66]
  • May 11, 1858 – United States – A bridge some 3 miles (4.8 km) from Utica, New York gave way when two trains, including a New York Central express bound for Cincinnati, passed over it. Nine passengers died, including some who drowned, and fifty were injured.[67]
  • May 15, 1858 – United States – A Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad train accident on a 120-foot (37-metre) bridge over Potato Creek, about 17 miles (27 km) southeast of Lafayette near Colfax, IN. The engineer, Jacob Beitinger (Beidinger), the fireman, Patrick Maloney (Moloney), and conductor James W. Irwin were killed.[68][69]
  • June 30, 1858 – United Kingdom – A South Eastern Railway passenger train is derailed at Chilham, Kent. Three people are killed.[61]
  • August 11, 1858 – United Kingdom – A passenger train runs into the buffers ar Ramsgate Town station, Kent. Twenty people are injured.[61]
Round Oak.
  • August 23, 1858 – United KingdomRound Oak rail accident - An Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway passenger train becomes divided following a coupling failure. The rear portion runs away and collides with a following passenger train at Round Oak station, Stourbridge, Worcestershire. Fourteen people are killed. There are 50 serious injuries and 170 minor injuries.
  • September 6, 1858 – France – On the Chemin de fer de Paris à Saint-Germain, a 10-car atmospheric railway train is returning by gravity with about 300 festival-goers from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Le Vésinet, where it will couple to a steam locomotive to continue to Paris. Due to a combination of errors, it runs away and crashes into the locomotive's tender. A crew member and two passengers are killed, and at least 40 people are injured.[70]


South Bend, Indiana.




Wootton bridge after the crash


Winchburgh rail crash


  • February 19, 1863 – United StatesChunky Creek train wreck: The Hercules on the Southern Rail Road crashes into the Chunky River in Newton County, Mississippi. The train was headed for Vicksburg where Confederate forces were in need of reinforcements. The Hercules derailed on a damaged bridge and fell into the cold murky depths. At least 40 passengers were killed. Some victims were rescued by soldiers from the 1st Choctaw Battalion who were camped nearby.


  • May 5, 1864 – United Kingdom – At Colne on the Midland Railway, a 0-6-0 engine being prepared to work a goods train to Leeds suffers a boiler explosion, killing the driver and badly injuring the fireman. A woman is struck by a fragment in her home 14 mile (400 m) away.[76]
  • May 9, 1864 – United Kingdom – At Bishop's Road station on the Metropolitan Railway — a 0-6-0 locomotive borrowed from the Great Northern Railway suffers a boiler explosion. Nobody is killed but the station suffers major damage and injuries extend to a passenger in another train two tracks away.[77][78]
Immigrant train runs through an open swing bridge near Beloeil, Quebec.


  • May 12, 1865 – United Kingdom – An accident occurred on the Irish North Western railway near Enniskillen. A goods train left Derry and ran off the rails. The engine driver, J. McCabe, and the stoker, C. Craven, were killed. Some bullocks in a waggon were also killed.'[85]
  • June 7, 1865 – United KingdomRednal rail crash - A Great Western Railway excursion train is derailed at Rednal, Shropshire due to excessive speed on track under maintenance. Thirteen people are killed and 30 are injured.
Crash scene after the Staplehurst accident


  • April 30, 1866 – United Kingdom – A South Eastern Railway passenger train collides with some goods wagons at Caterham Junction, Surrey due to a signalman's error. Four people are killed.[86]
  • June 10, 1866 – United KingdomWelwyn Tunnel rail crash: A Great Northern Railway freight train is stopped in Welwyn North Tunnel due to a burst fire tube. A Midland Railway freight train following it in the same direction crashes into it, and a third freight train going the other way crashes into the wreckage. All three trains are totally destroyed by fire, but the only deaths are two of the crew members.[87]
  • August 27, 1866 – United States – A boiler explosion on the Petaluma and Haystack Railroad at Petaluma Station kills the engineer and three others, and wrecks the railroad's only locomotive.[88]
  • December 19, 1866 – United Kingdom – During the construction of the new Smithfield Market building adjacent to an open-air section of the Metropolitan Railway in London, a girder falls onto a passing train and 3 passengers are killed. This is the first fatal accident to an underground train.[89]


Bray, County Wicklow.
Angola, New York
  • August 9, 1867 – Ireland – A bridge collapses under a passenger train at Bray, County Wicklow. Four people are killed and twelve are injured.[91]
  • December 18, 1867 – United StatesAngola Horror – The Buffalo-bound New York Express of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern derails its last coach, and it plunges off a truss bridge into Big Sister Creek just after passing Angola, New York. The next car is also pulled from the track and rolls down the far embankment. Stoves set both coaches on fire and 49 are killed. The cars were relatively easy to derail because they were "compromise cars" designed to run on slightly different track gauges, a practice soon afterwards prohibited.[92]



  • April 23, 1869 – United StatesHollis, New York: A Long Island Rail Road passenger train is derailed by a broken rail. The rail curls into a "snakehead" and rips out the bottom of one of the cars. Six people are killed and fourteen injured.[96]
  • November 14, 1869 – United States – San Leandro, California: An errant switchman and poor visibility due to fog led to a head-on collision between an eastbound passenger train from Oakland, with a sleeper car, on the Western Pacific Railroad and an Alameda-bound Alameda Railroad passenger train. Among the fourteen killed was Judge Alexander W. Baldwin of the US District Court of Nevada.[97]




  • February 6, 1871 – United States – A freight train on the Hudson River Railroad, carrying both crude and refined oil, suffers a broken axle. Because the crew have not threaded the required rope for communication from caboose to locomotive, the engineer is unaware and the train keeps moving until it derails at the Wappinger Creek drawbridge, New Hamburg, New York. They and the drawbridge tender try to warn the following Pacific Express passenger train, but they are not in time and 22 people are killed by the collision and resulting fire.[104][105]
Bangor, Maine August 8, 1871
Site of the Revere, Massachusetts train wreck August 26, 1871



Scene of the Railroad Disaster at Meadow Brook, Rhode Island, a wood engraving from a sketch by Theodore R. Davis, published in Harper's Weekly, May 10, 1873. The accident occurred on April 19, 1873, at Wood River Junction
  • April 19, 1873 – United States – A passenger train is derailed at Wood River Junction, Meadow Brook, Rhode Island. Nine passengers are killed.[110]
  • May 6, 1873 – Austria-Hungary – A passenger train is derailed at Budapest-Nyugati Railway Terminal. 26 people are killed.[111][112]
  • August 2, 1873 – United KingdomWigan rail crash - A London and North Western Railway passenger train derails at Wigan North Western station, possibly due to excessive speed over facing points. Thirteen people are killed and 30 are injured.
  • August 12, 1873 - Italy - A Società per le strade ferrate romane passenger train in service between Rome and Florence derails near the town of Orte (Lazio) after hitting two cattle standing on the tracks. Two people are killed and more than 40 injured.
  • December 2, 1873 – United Kingdom – At Menheniot on the Cornwall Railway, a porter-signalman named Pratt instructs a down goods train to proceed by calling out "Right away, Dick" to its guard, Richard Wills. Unfortunately an up goods train is also at the station and its guard, Richard Scantlebury, thinks the instruction is for him; by the time Pratt realizes this, Scantlebury has already told his driver to start. Their train collides with another down goods before reaching St Germans, injuring several crewmen and killing one.[113][114]




  • July 6, 1875 – Chile – A bridge collapses beneath the overnight train between Valparaíso and Santiago in Chile, killing nine people.[115]
  • August 28, 1875 – United Kingdom – A passenger train overruns signals and is in a rear-end collision with an excursion train at Kildwick, Yorkshire. Seven people are killed and 39 are injured.[116]
Lagerlunda rail accident, 1875


Ashtabula Bridge collapse.



  • May 21, 1878 – United States – A Kansas Pacific R.R. Freight train is caught in a bridge washout at Kiowa Creek, Colorado; 3 killed.[124]
  • August 31, 1878 – United Kingdom – A London, Chatham and Dover Railway passenger train collides with goods wagons at Sittingbourne, Kent due to errors by a shunter and the two guards of a freight train. Five people are killed.[125]
  • October 8, 1878 – United StatesWollaston disaster - A train in Quincy, Massachusetts carrying over 1,000 passengers runs over an open switch resulting a serious derailment.[126]
  • January 11, 1878 - United Kingdom - Great Northern Railway - The Flying Scotsman is in a collision with a freight train at Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, after which a local passenger train collides with the wreckage.


Tay Bridge collapse.
  • December 28, 1879 – United KingdomTay Bridge disaster - The Tay Rail Bridge collapses in a violent storm while a North British Railway passenger train is crossing it. There are no survivors, with the total estimated at seventy-five lives lost; although the real total was fifty-nine.[142] The subsequent investigation concludes that "the bridge was badly designed, badly constructed and badly maintained" and lays the major blame on the designer, Sir Thomas Bouch. William McGonagall produces his epic poem The Tay Bridge Disaster to commemorate the event. The disaster shocks engineers into creating an improved crossing both on the Tay, as well as the famous Forth Bridge.

See alsoEdit


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