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The biggest railway accidents: Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, France

The biggest railway accidents: Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, France
photo: railway accident
02 / 01 / 2021

The biggest railway accident in France to date has taken place at Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne station. On December 12, 1917, the train number 612 derailed and a was hit by fire. More than 675 people died there. These were mainly soldiers returning home from the Italian war front.

British and French troops were stationed in northeastern Italy to strengthen the Italian front after the Battle of Caporetto, which took place from October 24 to November 19, 1917. After the situation stabilized, some of the troops were to return home to France. Therefore, on the night of December 12, 1917, military train number 612 was returning to France.

After passing through the Mont Cenis tunnel, the train arrived at Modane station. There were two more wagons attached to the train. One part of the passengers from this train decided to use the hour break at Modane station to switch to from this train to an express train, which saved their lives.

At 23:15 the train number 612 left Modane station. It gradually gained speed and reached speed of up to 135 km / hour due to poorly functioning brakes in a steep descent. The speed was subsequently reduced to 102 km / hour, but however, the train was passing through a section between the mountains, where the maximum permitted speed was 40 km / hour.

The wooden wagons ignited by the overheated brakes and also by the candles used to light the wagons. The fire lasted until the following evening. The number of victims that could not all be identified was 424. Another 135 dead could be identified. Another 37 victims were found by the track. These were soldiers who wanted to save their lives by jumping off the train. More than a hundred people succumbed to the consequences of the accident in hospitals. Only 183 people who travelled on the train were saved.