In 1895 an accident occurred at the Parisian railway station Gare Montparnasse that has been referenced in art, education and pop culture throughout the 20th century. The Mundo a Vapor (“Steam World”) museum in Brazil went as far as recreating the entire scene (above).
One person was killed and five injured on October 22, 1895 when the Granville-Paris Express overran the buffer stop at Gare Montparnasse, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. The engine then careened across 30 metres of station concourse before smashing through a two-foot thick wall.
It proceeded across a terrace and crashed through the station’s outer wall before plunging 33 feet onto the Place de Rennes below. The derailment was attributed to a faulty brake system and the driver’s efforts to counter earlier delays by going faster.
(Image: Studio Lévy and Sons (Studio Lévy & fils), public domain)
References and Recreations
The Gare Montparnasse accident has been referenced many times in pop culture. A similar train crash is depicted at the end of the film Silver Streak. The scene also appears in the 2007 children’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, its film adaptation Hugo, and an episode of Thomas and Friends.
In 1991 the famous photograph appeared on the front cover of American hard rock band Mr. Big‘s album ‘Lean into It’. It also featured as the cover page of the book An Easy Introduction to Error Analysis by John Taylor, and has been referenced in other music and comic books.
The Steam World replica can be found in the city of Canela, in the Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.