Rail accident at Gare Montparnasse in 1895
An amazing rail accident in Paris
Take a look at the photograph - wouldn't you think that it was from the set of a movie? A railway engine crashing through a building an onto a street? Yet this is a genuine photograph of a real rail accident that took place in Paris in October 1895.I only found out about this recently when I watched a fantastic film on the television in which this scene was re-enacted - scroll down for more info.
The Granville to Paris Express train has left its destination on time that morning; at 8.45. But there were several delays which meant that its arrival in the Paris station would be late. The engine, driven by Guillaume-Marie Pellerin, was pulling two baggage cars immediately behind it. Then followed a couple of mail vans and eight passenger cars. There were 131 people on board as the train approached the Gare Montparnasse - going too fast.
Pellerin realized that the train had too much speed and quickly applied the brake. It failed. There was a backup plan for such events - the conductor was also able to apply an emergency brake. Unfortunately in this case, the conductor, Albert Mariette, was too involved in completing paperwork that he only realized at the last minute what was happening. He applied the handbrake but it was too late.
The train smashed through the buffers at the end of the line.
Photographs from Wikipedia Commons.
The train crashed through onto the railway station concourse as terrified bystanders ran for their lives. It smashed through vending booths and cafes. People scattered and pandemonium broke out as the train traveled along the concourse at speed.
The train ran through the station’s concourse for 100 feet until it hit a wall – a wall that was two feet thick. Despite its thickness, the wall wasn’t enough to stop the engine which plowed through the wall and landed on the street – the Place de Rennes, which was 30 feet below where the engine had crashed through the station's thick wall.
This was such an amazing event that several people sell the framed print of the event. I've always liked black and white photographs, especially when they depict historical events. One of the great things about monochrome prints id that they make a great gift because they'll suit any decor.
One of the astonishing facts about this accident is that most people (certainly me) would think that it caused an enormous number of injuries and loss of life. In fact, only one person died because of this event - someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Marie-Augustine Aguilard's husband was a newspaper seller. Her husband had a kiosk just outside the railway station. On the day of the accident, she had taken her husband's place at the newspaper stand. She was knitting at the time of the accident, as business was slow. The train's engine passed over the kiosk but Mme Aguilard was hit on the head by a chunk of falling masonry. The rail company paid for her funeral and an annuity for the lady's two children. The only other injuries were to a firefighter, to two of the passengers and two railway employees.
And what of the driver? Guillaume-Marie Pellerin had worked in his job for almost twenty years but nevertheless, he and the conductor were held to blame for the accident. Pellerin was fined 50 francs and sentenced to two months in jail, although the jail time wasn't served. Mariette, the conductor received a fine of 25 francs.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
This is the title of a fascinating book which was set in the Gare Montparnasse in Paris. The story tells of a young orphaned boy who lives in the station fending for himself as best he can. In 2011, this book was used as the basis of Hugo - a beautifully photographed and fascinating film adaptation.
During the movie, the Gare Montparnasse railway accident was re-created as part of a dream sequence. This is a fabulous film directed by Martin Scorsese. It tells the story of Hugo and how he lives by his wits in the station at the same time trying to repair a fascinating automaton that his late father had been restoring. This leads to a fantastic discovery which changes Hugo's life completely. Scroll down to see a video of how the accident was recreated for the film.
This amazing crash was recreated in the 2011 film Hugo.
I think that this film is one of the most fascinating I've ever seen. The reconstruction of the rail accident is actually a minor part of the movie. As you've seen above the film tells of a young boy who has to survive as best he can in nineteenth century Paris. The star of the show? An automaton. That gives you some idea about the story but I don't want to spoil it for you!
The railway accident is just a small part of this film - but it's highly dramatic, that's for sure. It's a wonderful blend of fantasy and historical fact.