Eschede train disaster

From Academic Kids

Missing image
This picture illustrates the destruction of the rear passenger cars.

The Eschede train disaster was the worst train accident in German history. It happened on 3 June 1998, near the village of Eschede in the district of Celle, Lower Saxony.

The ICE high-speed train "Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen" was on the route from Munich to Hamburg. After stopping in Hanover at 10:30 am, the train continued its journey northwards. At 10:59 the train derailed. The cause of the disaster was a broken wheel. When passing a switch at over 200 km/h, the damaged wheel jumped off the rail. The locomotive was separated from the remaining train and the emergency brakes were activated; this braking had little effect as the braking distance was too long due to the velocity. The first four carriages made it through the road bridge that crossed the tracks at Eschede, but the fifth carriage drove against the pier. The bridge collapsed and buried two carriages, the rear carriages crashed into the wreckage and were totally torn apart.

While many passengers and the driver survived in the front part of the train, there was almost no chance of survival in the rear carriages. 101 people died in the disaster.

Ultimate cause

The ultimate cause of the accident was a faulty wheel design which eventually cracked. The wheel design had been modified to include a rubber layer between hub and rim, in order to suppress noise and vibration. But the rubber layer allowed the rim to flex until it broke. The rubber wheel design has since been replaced.

In addition, valuable time was lost when a passenger tried to warn the train crew about a large piece of metal coming up through the floor. The Train Manager refused to stop the train until he had investigated the problem himself, saying this was company policy. Conventionally, railways apply a a stop and examine policy when there is strange behaviour or noises from a train.

The design of the overbridge may have also contributed to the accident because it had two thin piers holding up the bridge on either side, instead of the spans going from solid abutments to solid abutments. The Granville train disaster of 1977 had a similar weakness in its bridge.

Yet another contributing factor is the use of welds in the carriage bodies that "unzipped" during the crash (see Modern Railways December 2004, p16).de:ICE-Unglück_Eschede da:Eschede-ulykken


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