The Disaster on the Great India Peninsula Railway. Source: the 1869 Illustrated London News. [Click on image to enlarge it]

The Great Indian Railway Disaster

The tremendous accident, on Jan. 25, to the mail-train from Poonah to Bombay, in descending the Bhore Ghaut incline of the Great-Indian Peninsula Railway, was known here by telegraph a month ago. It happened about two hours after midnight. The train had left the Lanowlee station about an hour before the accident. It consisted of one road van, two saloon-carriages, two second class, three third class, and four incline brakes. On reaching the top of the incline, the engine brakes and the four incline brakes were applied; and, as an extra precaution, the front wheels of the-first third-class carriage, which was next the brakes, were spragged. At the first tunnel after leaving Khandalla the driver and guard both found that they had no control on the motion of the train, and all the brakes were put hard on and the engine reversed. This had no effect in checking the rushing of the train down the steep incline; the speed increased till it reached a frightful velocity, and continued to increase till the train came to the level ground between the end of the incline and the station, which is about 400 yards long. Here the reversed engine and the great brake-power had effect, and gradually brought down the motion to between twenty and twenty-four miles an hour before the train reached the end of tho rails at the embankment. When a few yards from the embankment, the engine-driver, the incline guard, two main-line guards, two firemen, and the four incline brakemen, finding that there was no hope of the train stopping before on accident happened, jumped off and escaped with only slight injuries. The trains in coming down the Ghaut run into the station, where they are reversed before proceeding on their way further; and at the end of the line in the station there was an earth buffer, beyond which the embankment sloped down about 15 ft. to the hill-side. The engine rushed on to the earth buffer, displaced it, and tumbled over the embankment, drawing after it the four brakes, one second-class and four third-class carriages. These went over and were smashed to pieces. The engine and brakes turned a little to one side as they fell; the passenger-carriages went straight down, were smashed to splinters. and mutilated the unfortunate occupants in a horrible manner. The second-class carriage which went over rested on one of the third-class, and stuck on the slope; and the saloon-carriage next to it had an end forced in, but did not go over the embankment. The third-class carriages were occupied by natives; and of those fourteen were killed on the spot, and thirty-six wounded, some seriously and others slightly. One has since died. Amongst the passengers was a detachment of lascars on their way from Kirkeo to Bombay, for embarkation to Aden. Two of those, with their wives, were killed, and not one of the detachment escaped without severe injuries. There were 160 passengers altogether: those in the hinder carriages were the Europeans, and were little hurt.

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“The Disaster on the Great India Peninsula Railway.” Illustrated London News 54 (6 March 1869): 238, 248. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 11 December 2015.

Last modified 27 February 2018