Issue #6 - December 1998

Welcome to issue #6 of Stop Signal, the newsletter for Danger Ahead!
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Since the beginning, the railways have had an important role during the Christmas period. Extra traffic has been generated by the numbers of people travelling to be with relatives and friends during the festivities. Freight, parcels and mail traffic has also seen a rise at this time as retail goods are shipped from warehouse to retail outlet and individuals exchange Christmas greetings cards. All this puts a certain strain on working at a time of year when, in the northern hemisphere at least, conditions are less than ideal. It is a tribute to all those involved in the operation of the railways that everything usually works fairly smoothly.
There have however been a number of incidents at Christmas that have led to tragedy. A new Feature "Disasters at Christmas in the Twentieth Century" takes a look at some of the significant accidents that have occurred this century from the run-up to Christmas to New Years Day.

Rail travel in India is probably more popular than anywhere else. Indian has the world's largest single rail undertaking operating about 14,000 trains each day and an estimated 11 million passengers carried each day. However, travelling by train seems to be more dangerous than it is anywhere else. Around 300 accidents are recorded each year many of which are blamed on outdated equipment and human error. The frequent inquiries make innumerable recommendations but due to a lack of finance these are often only partially implemented, if at all.
In the latest incident, over 200 people were killed on 27 November when the Seldah Express was in collision with a number of carriages of the Frontier Golden Mail which had become derailed. These straddled the opposite running line and despite the efforts of one railwayman to warn the oncoming train, it was too close to the derailment site to stop in time. At present, the reason for the initial derailment of the "Mail" is unclear. But, once it had occurred, there was no safety system which, given the proximity of the approaching express, could have prevented the collision.
This was the worst accident in India since 1985 when the Puroshottam Express ran into the back of the Kalindi Express. More than 300 people died and a further 220 were injured. A Time Magazine account is available on-line at -
India's worst-ever railway disaster occurred in 1981 in Bihar state when over 500 people were killed.

Additions made to the site recently include an article about an incident in Paris during the last century when a train failed to stop at the Gare Montparnasse terminus. The locomotive ended up nose down in the street 30 feet below. There is also an illustrated article about the Walouru, New Zealand disaster that occurred on Christmas Eve 1953.

The following sites contain descriptive accounts of railway disasters from history -
Astanbula Bridge Disaster
Claremont, Western Australia - Train Smash - Engine Jumps Subway
Steam on the Web
If you're interested in seeing some live steam action, this site has streaming RealMovie videos of preserved steam from around the world -

Previous issues of Stop Signal are available in an archive at the Danger Ahead! web site. If you have missed earlier issues you will be able to find them here...

Feed-back is always appreciated - praise or criticism. If you would like to make any comment about Stop Signal or Danger Ahead! please send e-mail to:
And finally - I wish you a Very Happy Christmas and a Propserous New Year

Danger Ahead! Historic Railway Disasters

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