MARC did it: The 1996 Silver Spring (USA) Train Collision


The location of Silver Spring on the eastern coast of North America.
The site of the accident seen from above today. The MARC-Train came from the left (west), the Amtrak train from the right (southeast).

The trains involved

Amtrak #255, the leading locomotive from the Amtrak-train involved in the accident, photographed six months before the accident.
Amtrak #811, the second locomotive pulling the Capitol Limited at the time of the accident, photographed in 1994.
MARC #73, the locomotive pushing the commuter train involved in the accident, photographed in 1991 (left) and a MARC type IIA cab car identical with that leading the train at the time of the accident (right).

The accident


Firefighters entering car 2 of the commuter train while the front is burning
The remains of the MARC cab car with the large rupture caused by Amtrak #255.
The wreckage photographed from a helicopter the day after the accident.
Firefighters scale the scorched wreckage the day after the accident. The MARC-train is on the left.
  • Passenger cars must have a quick release mechanism for exterior doors to quickly and easily open after an accident
  • Some if not all passenger car windows must be removable to allow quick and direct evacuation
  • Emergency exits are to be marked with luminescent (illuminated in some way) or retroreflective (highly reflective when hit with a beam of light) materials
Amtrak #255 where it came to a rest after being spun around by the train behind it. #811 can be seen on the left.
The front end of Amtrak #255 after the accident, showing damage from the impact into the commuter train.
The passenger-side of the memorial at Brunswick station (left), the plaque at the site (center) and the memorial at the Job Coprs Center (right).
Amtrak #115, one of the P42DC “Genesis”-locomotives photographed in 2017 (left) and one of the “Charger”-locomotives replacing it, photographed in 2022 (right).

History repeats itself

  • In 1987 an Amtrak long distance express train rear-ended a trio of Conrail diesel locomotives near Chase, Maryland (USA) after the locomotives had disregarded a red signal and entered the main line instead of letting the Amtrak train pass them. The Chase Train Collision claimed 16 lives and the article can be found right here.
  • In February 1990 two rapid transit (“S-Bahn”) trains collided head-on at Rüsselsheim, Germany. One of the trains’ driver had forgotten about a signal given ahead of a stop and picked up so much speed that, by the time he realized his error and initiated an emergency stop, his train slid into the path of an oncoming train he had been meant to let past. The collision claimed 17 lives and the article can be found right here.
The wreckages of the 1987 Chase (Maryland, USA) train collision (left) and of the 1990 Rüsselsheim (Germany) S-Bahn Collision.



Train crash reports and analysis, published weekly.

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