Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

L’Accident à la Gare Montparnasse

with 30 comments


On 22 October, 1895, the Granville-Paris Express rail engine 120-721 failed to stop at the platform at Gare Montparnasse and overran the buffer stop. The engine careened across almost 100 feet of the station concourse, crashed through a two foot thick wall, shot across a terrace and sailed out of the station, plummeting onto the Place de Rennes 33 feet below where it stood on its nose.

All on board the train survived, five sustaining injuries: two passengers, the fireman and two crewmembers; however, one woman on the street below was killed by falling masonry. The accident was caused by a faulty Westinghouse brake and the engine drivers who were trying to make up for lost time. The conductor incurred a 25 franc penalty and the engine driver a 50 franc penalty; he was also sent to prison for two months.

A photo by H. Roger-Viollet (below) also recorded the accident, but it was the anonymous photo above that became a curious icon of the incident, repeatedly printed on posters, coffee mugs, and album covers. Its story was recounted in in the 2007 children’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Replicas of the train crash are recreated in a Brazil theme park.

(The original name of the station Gare de l’Ouest is visible on the outside of the building in the above picture.)


Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 19, 2009 at 10:06 am

Posted in Society

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30 Responses

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  1. Where can I buy a poster of this photo?


    October 5, 2009 at 1:40 pm

  2. i bought it today in supermarket REAL in Poland 61×92 🙂 mr. big used this photo on they socond album Lean Into It


    December 9, 2009 at 10:26 pm

  3. The original foto is attributed to ‘Lévy et fils’ (and son). You can see the newspaper report ( http://www.retinaproject.be/gallery2.6/main.php?g2_itemId=21672&g2_fromNavId=x88386223) or a newspaper frontpage (http://www.retinaproject.be/gallery2.6/main.php?g2_itemId=21668) with an etching (newspaperphotographs didn’t exist at that time) based on the photograph.


    February 11, 2010 at 7:28 am

  4. How much would an original photo of this accident be worth?


    May 2, 2010 at 3:32 am

    • Do you have any idea of the worth of this photo

      Betty smith

      December 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm

  5. Our band “Locomotive” used this as an album cover in about 1987. We paid about $250 for the license to use it commercially.


    December 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    • Fretts, who did you pay? who owns the rights? do you have a link?


      July 25, 2014 at 3:15 am

  6. […] 22 Ottobre 1895, Parigi. Il treno Granville-Paris Express deraglia e supera la piattaforma di stop alla stazione di Montparnasse, precipita 33 metri sotto dopo aver sfondato il muro di 2 metri di spessore. Source: iconicphotos.wordpress.com […]

    Best iconic photo

    September 17, 2012 at 9:50 am

  7. should have gone to specsavers

    fred toone

    January 15, 2013 at 8:33 am

  8. Reblogged this on Powdered Wig Couture and commented:


    September 23, 2013 at 6:41 am

  9. I have an original poster of this picture .does anyone have any idea of it worth?

    Betty smith

    December 16, 2014 at 10:37 pm

  10. I’ve got this in a frame I bought it at an auction

    carol r

    February 22, 2015 at 2:44 pm

  11. I have this On my bedroom wall

    Walker Chris

    April 14, 2015 at 10:44 pm

  12. Was Hugo Cabret ran over


    June 2, 2015 at 6:30 pm

  13. […] the subject of this iconic photograph showing the locomotive hanging above the pavement […]

  14. […] the subject of this iconic photograph showing the locomotive hanging above the pavement […]

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