Towards a Safer Railway
Modern materials and construction techniques have done much to reduce the casualty toll in rail accidents. Railway coaches in the nineteenth century were built from wood, in a tradition that owed more to stage-coach practice rather to anything developed for the high-velocity travel that steam locomotives offered.
It was a tragic feature of many rail accidents at this time that in a high-speed impact, carriages were often destroyed, scattering their occupants. Modern rolling stock by contrast is constructed from steel and aluminium. Materials which provide a metal cage for travellers, able to contain them in the unfortunate event of an accident.
The accident at Staplehurst in 1865 on the South Eastern Railway in England claimed 10 lives in the splintered coaches of the train. In 1997 an Amtrack train had a very similar mishap at Kingman, Arizon. Although the train was travelling almost twice as fast, there were no lives lost. Read the accounts of these accidents discover how features of today's railways have improved accident survivability...
Charles Dickens Shaken
Fatal Bridge Plunge
"Tidal" Boat Train
Staplehurst - 1865
Incredible as it may seem to us today, the South Eastern Railway in 1865 allowed the foreman in charge of a gang of workman to decide when to remove rails from the main line from London to Folkestone. Using the rudimentary rules then in force, he made a decision which was to have disastrous consequences.
Amtrack Train Derailed
309 Survive Bridge Terror
The Southwestern Chief
Kingman Arizona - 1997
The Southwestern Chief, travelling at 90 mph traversed the remains of a bridge, much of which had been swept away by flood water. Amazingly there were no fatalities as one-by-one the passenger cars were dragged across the gap.
Go to Staplehurst
Go to Kingman
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