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War and malfunctioning brakes - a recipe for disaster

War and malfunctioning brakes - a recipe for disaster
photo: and malfunctioning brakes - a recipe for disaster
09 / 07 / 2022

The world's second-largest railway accident happened in Romania more than a century ago. The "Courier" train had a total of 26 carriages and was on the route from Galați to Jasa. The fateful date was Friday, 11 January 1917.

The train left several hours late because the locomotive was damaged during the bombing by German planes. It had to be replaced. Hundreds of people travelled on the train, many of whom used the service to get out of the city, which at the time was plagued by war. The train was used by soldiers and students, among others, and the Romanian former finance minister Emil Costinescu was among the passengers. The train was so overcrowded that other carriages had to be added to it. Some of them had neither heating nor windows.

On the way to Jasa, the train was hit by a heavy snowstorm. For this reason, it stopped for the night at the station in Bârladu. In the morning, when the weather improved, the train continued to Ciurea station. This station was close to the train's destination, and the train had a few last kilometres to travel.

It was on these last kilometres that the accident occurred. The cause was a closed brake line valve. The brakes were only functional in the first two cars. The train was travelling at 95 km/h and could not be stopped. As a result, it derailed and collided with a locomotive on the other track. All but two cars derailed. Some cars hit fuel tanks, causing an explosion and subsequent fire.

The exact number of casualties is unknown. Estimates are between 800-1000. Some passengers were travelling on the roof of the train, and it was very crowded. Due to the wartime period, there was not much information about the accident, and many people did not know about it at all.