Bibliografia Ferroviaria Italiana


Treno 8017. Il più grave disastro ferroviario italiano


Articolo di Albert Sheldon Pennoyer pubblicato in "Railroad Magazine" New York, gennaio 1945, pagine 75-76



War-Torn Italian Railways

By A. Sheldon Pennoyer
(Capt., U.S. Army, Overseas)

[...] Of the one hundred and twenty trains passing through this region daily, only a scant fifteen percent are now in operation. The blockade which preceded reopening of the various lines had created a backlog of civilian traffic so that the departure of the first trains nearly produced a stampede. Passengers filled the coaches, mounted the roofs, packed themselves tight along the running boards; and even clambered into cabs and onto tender decks, forcing an unprecedented increase in the number of guards, or trainmen, needed to maintain order.

It was this condition which led to the great rail disaster of March 3rd, 1944. Civilian opportunists had, by then, worked out a lucrative business purchasing foodstuffs and clothing in outlying districts and bringing them into the cities where sales netted high profits. Every freight train carried its hoard of nonrevenue-paying traders.

On the night of the tragedy a citybound drag was inspected shortly before sunset and cleared of unauthorized riders. But at a subsequent station, under cover of darkness, a new crop of "merchants" boarded the double header. They occupied every available foothold as she continued on her clanking way upgrade. Unseen and unthought of were the tandem exhausts of the two engines - until they mushroomed back from the rock-lined walls of a tunnel. It was damp in there and first one engine and then the other lost her feet on the slippery rails. Drivers spun, and the exhausts quickened to a roar. A black mantle of death in the form of monoxide gas reached out from car to car. So swift was its coming that passengers had no thought of panic but were later found in conversational or sleeping positions, while trainmen stood at their posts and one engineer at least remained in a seated position, his hands before him on a closed throttle and applied brake valve.

Four hundred and twenty-six people died in that major catastrophe and the inspection which followed was naturally of the most thorough sort. Allied operators were greatly relieved when the accident was attributed to natural causes, rather than to man or machine. [...]