Versailles Train Crash

Windows into History

versaillesSnippets 116.  Exactly 175 years ago today a tragic rail accident occurred between Versailles and Paris, on 8th May 1842. A locomotive broke an axle and derailed, causing the carriages behind to crash into it and catch fire. Astonishingly, it was standard practice to lock carriage doors with the passengers inside at the time, so many people were trapped and of the 770 passengers somewhere between 52 and 200 tragically died. This was at the time the worst rail disaster the world had ever seen.

In his Notes on Railroad Accidents (1879), Charles Francis Adams described the events of the day, and also how the disaster gave the French people pause for thought about whether rail travel, still in its infancy, was the right path for the country to take, or whether they should return to more traditional means of travel. But, as always, it is very…

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