A classic photo shows a steam locomotive hanging nose-first from the second story of a what appears to be a train station, apparently having crashed through the wall. Is this photo real or fake?
Although at first glance this photo looks like it could be one of the many amazing Photoshop manipulations seen on the internet almost daily, this picture is authentic and shows a train wreck which occurred in Paris in 1895.
The derailment occurred on October 22, 1895 when the Granville-Paris Express overran a buffer stop at the Gare Montparnasse terminal in Paris. The accident happened at approximately 4:00 PM local time when the the locomotive suffered air brake failure. It was speeding while entering the station because it was several minutes late and the driver was trying to make up time.
Amazingly – despite crashing through stops, traveling 100 feet through the station concourse, breaking through a two-foot cement wall, and plunging 33 feet nose-first to the street below – none of the 131 passengers or
crew aboard were killed. Five people on the train and one person on the street sustained minor injuries.
A woman on the ground was killed by falling debris. The woman, Marie-Augustine Aguilard, had been standing in for her husband, a newspaper vendor, while he went to collect the evening papers. The railway company paid for her funeral and provided a pension to care for her two children.
The train was comprised of locomotive No.721 along with three luggage cars, a mail car, and six passenger cars. The train was left as-is for 48 hours while the accident was investigated. The passenger cars were
largely undamaged and easily removed from the scene. The locomotive was lowered to the ground by a 250-ton winch after attempts to lower it with horses were unsuccessful. When brought the yard for repairs, the engine was found to have only minor damage.
Photos of the Crash
Below are some photos of the crash, along with a newspaper clipping about the incident.
The driver of the train was ultimately fined 50 francs for entering the station too fast. Some sources report that he also served two months in prison. Another worker was also fined 25 francs for not pulling the handbrake. He claimed to have been distracted while doing paperwork.
Below is a recreation of the wreck taken from the movie Hugo.
The iconic train wreck photo is authentic and depicts a major incident in train and transportation history that probably should have been much worse than it actually was.
Updated April 27, 2015
Originally published March 2014