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 approached the station too fast and there was a failure to apply the train air brake. 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. Although the passengers survived, a woman in the street below was killed by falling masonry.
|Date||22 October 1895 |
|Operator||Chemins de fer de l'Ouest|
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. 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, the train approached the station too fast, at a speed of 40–60 km/h (25–37 mph), while there was a failure to apply the Westinghouse air brake. 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.
The woman, Marie-Augustine Aguilard, had been standing in for her husband, a newspaper vendor, while he went to collect the evening newspapers.
The locomotive driver was sentenced to two months in prison and 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.
The railway company settled with the family of the deceased woman, and arranged for the education of her two young children, as well as proposing future employment for them.
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.
The Lévy and Sons photograph, which appears at the top of this article, has become one of the most famous in transportation history. 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. The photograph is featured on the album covers for Lean Into It by American rock band Mr. Big and Scrabbling at the Lock by Dutch rock band The Ex with Tom Cora, both first released in 1991, and the 2019 album Warranty Void If Removed by French record producer Leon Inc.
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 series The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, namely the fourth album Momies en folie. 
This accident was partly adapted into the third episode of season 5 from Thomas & Friends, "A Better View for Gordon", where Gordon the Big Engine runs into the blank wall of the station at Kirk Ronan, causing a huge hole in the process. This results in the Gordon-shaped window placed in the wall in the second official opening; The Fat Controller decides to make the window named "Gordon's View", which Gordon heartily approves. 
- Richou 1895, pp. 369–370.
- "Paris 1895". Danger-ahead.railfan.net. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- "Accident at the Gare de l'Ouest". Musee-orsay.fr. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Jason Zasky: Let’s Pause For a Station Break: The story behind the world’s most famous train wreck photo, Failuremag.com Dated 4 Jan 2003, accessed 22 October 2018
- Richou 1895, p. 370.
- "Memorial". People.csail.mit.edu. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- "L'accident a la Gare Montparnasse". Iconicphotos.wordpress.com. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Zasky, Jason. "Let's Pause For a Station Break: The story behind the world's most famous train wreck photo". Failuremag.com. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
- 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.
- Mr. Big: Lean Into It, AllMusic, accessed 23 October 2018
- Scrabbling at the Lock, AllMusic, accessed 22 October 2018
- Warranty Void If Removed Discogs.com, accessed 10 September 2019
- "Train". Tardi – Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- "Jacques Tardi". Lambiek.net. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
- Media related to the Montparnasse derailment at Wikimedia Commons