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The biggest railway accidents: Eschede-Germany

The biggest railway accidents: Eschede-Germany
photo: Archives/Railway
08 / 11 / 2020

22 years ago, the largest railway accident since World War II in Germany occurred. The disaster claimed 101 lives. It was an accident of the ICE 884 express train near the town of Eschede

The accident occurred on June 3, 1998, before 11 a.m., about 6 kilometers from the town of Eschede. The InterCity Express 884 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen high-speed train ran from Munich to Hamburg. 96 people died on the spot, 8 later in the hospital and another 88 people were seriously injured.

What was the cause of this disaster? The wheel rim of the first car broke at a speed of 200 km / hour. Subsequently, the train was partially derailed during the collision of a cracked hoop with a switch on the track. Another switch derailed the third car. He then crashed hard into the bridge. The fourth car literally broke away at the turnout and drove through the viaduct. At that moment, a bridge collapsed into the tracks, landing on the fifth car. Following this, other wagons derailed, which then collided with each other. However, the front of the train normally reached the station. The driver said that he noticed only a brief jerk, which was accompanied by a loss of power.

Luckily in the accident, another train, InterCity Express 787, passed the scene a few minutes before the disaster. If not, all could have had much worse consequences. If the crashed train was not delayed and had it run on time, it would be a huge tragedy.

The inhabitants of the surrounding houses were the first to arrive, then the fire brigade and other components of the safety rescue system arrived. In total, about 1,000 people took part in clearing and rescue work.

The wheels that caused the accident were not a new technical solution. There were being used normally for trams. They were used for high-speed trains due to their vibration damping characteristics. Only subsequently, during the investigation of the accident, it was found that at higher speeds, the resiliently mounted hoops deform slightly due to centrifugal forces, creating microscopic cracks. These can eventually lead to the whole part cracking. The cracked hoop pierced the bottom of the car. Only passengers who alerted the conductor noticed this. Instead of applying the handbrake immediately, the conductor wanted to see for himself. However, the accident could no longer be prevented.

In 2002, a lawsuit began with two Deutsche Bahn employees and one employee of the company that manufactured the wheel rims. The court fined two Deutsche Bahn managers 10,000 euros and ruled that they were not guilty of misfortune.

Until this accident, the Radevormwald train accident was considered the biggest railway accident in Germany. It happened on May 27, 1971 and 46 people died. Another 25 were injured. Among the dead were 41 high school students.