25 Worst Train Wrecks in History

Posted by , Updated on April 21, 2024

One might easily think that traveling by train is safer than taking a flight, but that’s not necessarily correct. A 2013 study indicates that, while train travel ranks as the second safest means of transportation with only 0.43 deaths per billion passenger-miles, air travel actually came in first with a mere 0.07 fatalities per billion passenger miles. This is not to suggest that train travel is dangerous. On the contrary, as the second safest mode of transportation, train accidents are uncommon, making them significant when they do happen. Unfortunately, these rare occurrences can lead to many fatalities. In this article, we will explore the 25 Most Devastating Train Accidents in History.


The Mikawashima Train Crash (Japan, 1962)

Mikawashima Train CrashSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

The Mikawashima train crash was a multiple train crash that happened on May 3, 1962, near Mikawashima Station in Arakawa, in Tokyo. It involved a freight train and two passenger trains and cost the lives of more than 160 people.


The Tsurumi Rail Accident (Japan, 1963)

Tsurumi Rail AccidentSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

Only a year after the Mikawashima train crash, Japan faced the Tsurumi rail accident that occurred between Tsurumi Station and Shin-Koyasu Station on the Tōkaidō Main Line in Yokohama, about twenty miles south of Tokyo. In this incident, two passenger trains collided with a derailed freight train, killing 162 people.


The Aracaju Train Crash (Brazil, 1946)

Aracaju Train CrashSource: Wikipedia, Image: blog.ctnews.com

The Aracaju train crash, which occurred on March 20, 1946, was the worst-ever rail disaster in Brazil, killing 185 people and injuring three hundred more.


The Tenga Rail Disaster (Mozambique, 2002)

Tenga Rail DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: snipview.com

This rail disaster happened at Tenga, twenty-five miles northwest of Maputo, Mozambique, on May 25, 2002, causing 192 deaths and injuring 167 others. According to local authorities, the crash was a result of human error and a maneuver that went horribly wrong.


The Khanna Rail Disaster (India, 1998)

Khanna Rail DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: snipview.com

The Khanna rail disaster occurred at 3:15 on November 26, 1998, near Khanna on the Khanna–Ludhiana section of India’s Northern Railway in Punjab, when the local express collided with six derailed coaches of the Amritsar-bound Frontier Mail, which were lying in its path. More than 212 people were killed out of the 2,500 passengers on both trains.


The Quintinshill Rail Crash (Scotland, 1915)

Quintinshill Rail CrashSource: Wikipedia, Image: scotsman.com

This rail disaster occurred on May 22, 1915, near Gretna Green, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, at Quintinshill. The accident involved five trains, killing about 226 people and injuring 246. It remains the worst rail crash in United Kingdom’s history in terms of death toll.


The Lagny-Pomponne Railroad Disaster (France, 1933)

Lagny-Pomponne Railroad DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

The Lagny-Pomponne rail disaster occurred on December 23, 1933, between Pomponne and Lagny-sur-Marne when the 4-8-2 express locomotive to Strasbourg crashed at 110 km/hr (65 mph) into the rear of an auxiliary train bound for Nancy. The accident’s impact on French society was huge because both trains were full of people going home for Christmas. It was reported that 204 people died and 120 were injured.


The El Virilla Train Accident (Costa Rica, 1926)

El Virilla Train AccidentSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

The El Virilla train accident occurred in Costa Rica on March 14, 1926, when an overcrowded train carrying mostly farmers and laborers derailed while crossing a bridge over the Virilla River Canyon. 248 people died and 93 were injured. It remains to this day the deadliest train accident in the country’s history.


The Genthin Train Disaster (Germany, 1939)

Genthin Train DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: no.wikipedia.org

Taking place on the evening of December 21–22, 1939, the Genthin train disaster on the Berlin–Magdeburg Railway claimed the lives of 278 people.


The Igandu Train Disaster (Tanzania, 2002)

Igandu Train DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: cbsnews.com

The Igandu train disaster occurred during the early morning of June 24, 2002, in the African Great Lakes country of Tanzania. In one of the worst rail accidents in African history, a large passenger train with over 1,200 people on board rolled backward down a hill into a slow-moving goods train. In total, 281 people died.


The Gaisal Train Disaster (India, 1999)

Gaisal Train DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

The Gaisal train disaster occurred on August 2, 1999, when two trains carrying 2,500 people collided at the remote station of Gaisal, 310 miles from the city of Gauhati in Assam. The crash occurred at such high speeds that the trains actually exploded on impact, killing at least 290 people.

If you are fascinated with anything that has to do with trains, you should check out these 25 Concept Trains That We Wish Were Real.


The Baku Metro Fire (Azerbaijan, 1995)

Baku Metro FireSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

The Baku Metro fire broke out in the subway system of Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, on October 28, 1995, between the stations of Ulduz and Nariman Narimanov. According to official reports, the fire was responsible for the death of 286 passengers (including twenty-eight children) and three rescue workers, while 270 people were injured. The fire was deemed to have been caused by an electrical malfunction, but the possibility of deliberate sabotage was not excluded.


The Sukkur Rail Disaster (Pakistan, 1990)

Sukkur Rail DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

The Sukkur rail disaster occurred on January 4, 1990, in the village of Sangi near Sukkur in the Sindh Province of Pakistan. It was reported that 307 people were killed and seven hundred injured, which makes it Pakistan’s worst rail disaster ever.


The Nishapur Train Disaster (Iran, 2004)

Nishapur Train DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: fouman.com

The Nishapur train disaster was a large explosion in the village of Khayyam, near Nishapur in Iran, on February 18, 2004. Over three hundred people were killed, and the entire village destroyed when runaway train wagons crashed into the area in the middle of the night and exploded.


The Firozabad Rail Disaster (India, 1995)

Firozabad Rail DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: snipview.com

This rail disaster occurred on August 20, 1995, near Firozabad on the Delhi–Kanpur section of India’s Northern Railway, when a passenger train collided with a train that had stopped after hitting a cow, killing 358 people.


The Al Ayyat Train Disaster (Egypt, 2002)

Al Ayyat Train DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: skyscrapercity.com

The Al Ayyat train disaster took place on February 20, 2002, in a passenger train with eleven carriages, traveling from Cairo to Luxor. The number of dead given by officials at the time was 383, all Egyptians. However, considering that seven carriages were burnt to the ground and each was packed with at least double the maximum carrying capacity of 150, this number is believed to be inaccurate.


The Awash Rail Disaster (Ethiopia, 1985)

Awash Rail DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: article.wn.com

On January 14, 1985, a train derailed at Awash on the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway, plunging four of its five carriages into a ravine; the crash was estimated to have killed at least 428 and injured five hundred of the estimated one thousand on board. It was the worst rail accident in African history. It is believed the cause of the crash was the train’s excessive speed around a curve on a bridge across the ravine.


The Torre del Bierzo Rail Disaster (Spain, 1944)

Torre del Bierzo Rail DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: wdsu.com

The Torre del Bierzo rail disaster occurred on January 3, 1944, near the village of Torre del Bierzo in the El Bierzo region of Spain’s León Province. Three trains collided inside a tunnel, officially killing seventy-eight people. However, more recent studies have estimated the death toll at over five hundred.


The Balvano Train Disaster (Italy, 1944)

Balvano Train DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: realmagick.com

On March 3, 1944, more than 426 people illegally riding a steam-hauled freight train died of carbon monoxide poisoning when the train stalled on a steep gradient in the Armi tunnel. The accident occurred in southern Italy, near Balvano.


The Ufa Train Disaster (Soviet Union, 1989)

Ufa Train Disaster Source: Wikipedia, Image: wikimapia.org

The Ufa train disaster was an explosion on the Kuybyshev Railway on June 4, 1989, in the Soviet Union, about thirty-one miles from the city of Ufa. It was the deadliest railway accident in Russian and Soviet history, with 575 confirmed dead.


The Guadalajara Train Disaster (Mexico, 1915)

Guadalajara Train DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: 100yearsagotoday.wordpress.com

On January 22, 1915, in Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico, an engineer lost control of an over-packed passenger train which derailed and crashed into a ravine. More than six hundred people died.


The Bihar Train Disaster (India, 1981)

Bihar Train DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

On June 6, 1981, a passenger train carrying more than eight hundred passengers between Mansi and Saharsa, India, derailed and plunged into the Bagmati River. After five days, more than two hundred bodies were recovered, with hundreds more missing, believed to have been washed away by the river. Overall, it was estimated that more than five hundred people died.


The Ciurea Rail Disaster (Romania, 1917)

The Ciurea Rail DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

The Ciurea rail disaster occurred on January 13, 1917, at the Ciurea station in Romania, a station with a passing loop on the railway line from Iaşi to Bârlad. Between six hundred and one thousand passengers lost their lives in the derailment and subsequent fire.


The Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne Derailment (France, 1917)

The Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne DerailmenSource: Wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

The Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne derailment of December 12, 1917, was a tragedy involving a troop train carrying at least one thousand French soldiers on their way home for leave from the Italian front in World War I. Their train derailed as it descended the Maurienne valley line. More than seven hundred people died.


The Sri Lanka Tsunami-Rail Disaster (Sri Lanka, 2004)

The Sri Lanka Tsunami-Rail DisasterSource: Wikipedia, Image: en.wikipedia.org

The 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami-rail disaster is the largest single rail disaster in world history by death toll, with at least 1,700 fatalities. It occurred when an overcrowded passenger train was destroyed on a coastal railway in Sri Lanka by a tsunami that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.