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The trainwreck industry

In 1895, this happened:


A train crashed through the buffers at Montparnasse Station, Paris, then smashed through the wall and fell out onto the street. A woman below was killed. The cause seems to have been an excess of paperwork.

I wouldn't have thought a French train crash such an unusual thing, but in 2004, I saw this:


It's a real-life replica of the crash! The number (721) and layout of the engine seem more or less accurate. Not only has the train been reproduced, but the building itself seems to be styled on the Montparnasse Station. This was a strip mall somewhere near GoiĆ¢nia, Brazil. It's not really such an oddity as far as the talking-points of anonymous strip malls go, so I didn't think any more of it until I saw this:


Again, it's train 721, and again it's fallen out of a building fashioned after Gare Montparnasse.

It turns out these things are the frontispieces for a chain of museums known as Mundo a Vapor ("Steam World"). I must've seen the one in Caldas Novas.

I wonder if there has arisen an industry based on producing full-size novelty crash scene replicas. If so, I'd like to know who else has bought one, and encourage any prospective purchasers to buy theirs ASAP.


  1. Ron Hann., on Thursday 1st March 2007, said:

    Well, what's so unusual about that?? The number of Museums, dealing with just about anything you care to think of, is continually expanding (it must be one of the few non-I.T.-related growth industries, today) and must, eventually, lead to the really extreme subjects.

    This is one subject which, dealt with in this fashion, offers the opportunity to go very graphic, without resorting to computer-enhanced graphics.

    In three words - I like it.

  2. Honey Solomon, on Saturday 6th October 2007, said:

    A group of unsual photographs arrived with the title: "So you thought you had seen everything." I found this photograph unusual because there had not been a train wreck of this magnitude recorded in the United States. Sent the series of photographs to my son, a Ph.D. professor of 'graphic design,' he sent this link in return. Ron, your comment is interesting because graphic art is a hobby. I create fun desktops of friends pets and on a more serious side, repair scanned photographs from the Viet Nam era.

    Thank you for the clarity and accuracy of this site information!

  3. Ham549, on Friday 8th February 2008, said:

    Honey Solomon There was one kind of like this in the US. The train ran off the end of the track smashed into the lobby and crashed through the floor into the basement

  4. Stoni, on Tuesday 19th February 2008, said:

    So you can have an accident for the next generations figuratively hold. Unfortunately, the era Damplok over.


  5. Debbie, on Sunday 16th March 2008, said:

    I am so happy to finally learn about this train wreck! I purchased a print of this image (the 1895 crash) and have had it displayed in my dwellings for several years. I never knew the story, nor was I ever successful in finding out what happened to cause this accident. It wasn't until I saw the image on ebaum that I was able to conduct a correct search for it - and voila! I found this page. Thank you for your hard work/information...

  6. Pete, on Saturday 22nd March 2008, said:

    If you do a google search for "Ripleys Pattaya" you'll see a wreck of a Dakota which has "crashed" into the side of a shopping mall. It is a real plane, I've seen it, but obviously adapted for its new home.

  7. Gracie, on Wednesday 20th August 2008, said:

    what an amazing thing 2 happen i just finished reading the invention of hugo cabret which tells u a little about it which made me very interested in (and i have to do a book report on it so i thought it might be nice to throw in a few facts about it.

  8. Becky Mulligan, on Monday 6th October 2008, said:

    Do you know where I can purchase a print of the train wreck at Montparnasse that is suiteable for framing? Is it copywrited? Your assistance will be greatly appreciated. Thank You!

  9. James, on Thursday 23rd October 2008, said:

    I got the image from Wikipedia. The biggest version there is this one which you can probably make quite a big print from. It was taken in 1895 so the image is now in the public domain.

  10. Mark the spark, on Saturday 8th November 2008, said:

    Does anyone know why the westinhouse brake failed?

  11. Lilly, on Sunday 16th November 2008, said:

    How did the train come off its tracks? I thought a train could never come off its tracks.

  12. Wayne, on Tuesday 18th November 2008, said:

    I bought a print of the Montparnasse crash the other day because it just looked so absurd. I actually thought it was a clever photoshop but i researched a bit and found this site. Explains the whole thing.

  13. Riki Walsh, on Thursday 20th November 2008, said:

    That is cool how they put the train in the building

  14. Ellis, on Thursday 18th December 2008, said:

    I bought a framed poster sized print in Coventry market so presumably they are easy to get. I expect picture shops have a catalogue.

  15. kristien V, on Monday 9th March 2009, said:


  16. Some Random Guy, on Monday 13th April 2009, said:

    Thats kinda weird. Its like they want people to remember something terrible happened there and a woman died.

  17. AcesHigh, on Wednesday 27th May 2009, said:

    As far as I know, the Mundo A Vapor train museum with the accident replica is located in Gramado, southern Brazil, a very nice small german/italian settled town aboout 100km north of Porto Alegre.

  18. AcesHigh, on Wednesday 27th May 2009, said:

    you can check photos of Gramado here

  19. Living_History, on Friday 20th August 2010, said:

    @Pete Train? Airplane? That's nothing....

    The Fry's Electronics store in Burbank, CA apparently has attracted an interstellar accident.

  20. edwin fundales, on Monday 4th October 2010, said:

    i like trains , this crash is awsome!

  21. carol, on Thursday 25th November 2010, said:

    it isn't in gramado, is in Canela

  22. Giovanni Andreani, on Thursday 29th December 2011, said:

    Thank you very much for this page. My daughter was reading a book about this tragedy and we had no further information, until I found your site.

    Giovanni Andreani

  23. Sigurdur Kiernan, on Saturday 12th May 2012, said:

    There is a replica crash in the new film Hugo by Martin Scorsese. The film is set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station and the crash appears in a nightmare.

  24. Todd Sherrod, on Thursday 4th October 2012, said:

    Wow, what information this site has on this train wreck. I found this site because I was looking at a CD cover of Mr. Big's 1991 "Lean Into It" album. I know, everyone else found it due to some history or something of important nature, but every since I saw this on the cover I was always curious if it was real. I finally found my answer. Many thanks!!!

  25. Mike Earle, on Thursday 4th October 2012, said:

    Todd, you are going to laugh at this coincidence, but I am copying in Cd's to my MAC and I just looked up this website because I was inputting that exact album. Imagine my surprise to see your name looking at the same album on the same day.

  26. Alok, on Saturday 8th December 2012, said:

    Its not train 721, its engine 721! There is a huge difference between engine number and train number! I know that for a fact because I am a ferroequinologist.

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