Eight people died in a train accident in Hamburg in 1952 NDR.de – History

Status: 07/22/2022 09:35

Eight people were killed in the Hamburg train crash on September 18, 1952 and 35 others were injured, some seriously. Cause of the accident: broken rail, unnoticed during the inspection.

by Jochen Lambernd

Hamburg has around 2,500 bridges. Some of them are known far beyond the city limits, many are known primarily to the inhabitants, and others even to them. The Wallstrasse Bridge is close to the Berliner Tor S-Bahn (city rail) and underground station. Today, a large part of the road passes through it – at this point Wallstraße is part of the busy federal road 75. On September 18, 1952, at about 8 am, this bridge becomes the site of a tragic accident: The car of the express train 902 Lübeck-Hamburg derails and stays in other carriages pressed against the pillar of the bridge and literally bent around it.

“Suddenly I was wedged between wood and iron. An iron clamp held me in place, I couldn’t move. “
Survivor Hans Witten, Lübeck, in “Hamburger Abendblatt” of September 19, 1952

The train is badly damaged. Hurried helpers must use cutting and breaking tools “in very hard work” to get to the passengers. This is how Werner Nölken of the Hamburg fire brigade describes it in an interview with NDR and quotes it from the then chronicle. About how some passengers can get off the train themselves:

When the car hit the post, I was thrown near the window. This was my salvation. I managed to break free and jump out the window. “
Survivor H. Möller in the “Hamburger Abendblatt” of September 19, 1952.

Another misfortune just prevented

As it later turned out, the driver of the crashed express train can help to avoid a further collision: immediately after the derailment, he quickly runs towards the S-Bahn train coming from Berliner Tor and the signal stops. An attentive S-Bahn driver discovers the obstacle under the bridge and is able to stop his train on time.

There are at least 100 rescuers on duty at the scene of the accident


The derailed car literally twisted around the pillar of the Wallstrasse bridge.

The rescue operation lasted about an hour and a half. According to Nölken, three fire engines, a workshop vehicle, eight accident vehicles and eleven ambulances are in use. According to Nölken, there are around 100 emergency services at the scene of the accident to release and care for the injured and recover the dead.

The crews of the two Federal Railway auxiliary trains ensure that the debris under the Wallstrasse Bridge is cleared quickly. The S-Bahn can also resume operation after an hour and a half. Also this night, the long distance to Lübeck is free again.

Bundesbahn must compensate relatives

The property damage amounts to approximately Deutsche 100,000. But the severity of the accident is much greater: eight people lost their lives and 35 were injured, some seriously. Little consolation for the relatives of the victims, but: “Under the Liability Act, Federal Railways must pay the relatives of the dead and injured a compensation that varies from case to case,” Hamburger Abendblatt reported at the time. Individual compensation depends on the extent of the consequences or the severity of the injury. Already today, such compensation payments are regulated by the Liability Act.

The train wasn’t too fast

The driver of a fast train with an accident cannot explain the cause of the accident at that time. He says he was driving about 55 kilometers per hour. At this point, even a speed of 60 km / h is acceptable, so it could not be due to the speed at which the car was jumping off the rails.

A broken rail is identified as the cause of the accident

Experts quickly learn the cause: they discover a broken rail about 150 meters in front of the Wallstrasse Bridge. The rails on the line have been in operation since 1934 and, like all main lines of the German Federal Railways, are regularly checked. There are also measuring wagons constantly running on the tracks. But the fracture was not visible on routine examinations. As reported by “Hamburger Abendblatt” the day after the accident, citing Gerhard Schramm, construction director at the Federal Railways headquarters in Offenbach, the person responsible for the accident track line cannot be blamed, because “the crack in the rail was not visible from above and under the tape “.

The “chain of unfortunate circumstances” leads to a catastrophe

Schramm speaks of “a chain of unfortunate circumstances that I have never encountered in my 25 years of practice.” It is very rare that a broken track on the inner rail leads to a slight curve derailment. “The shard had to get up and thus derail the first car,” says one engineer. Previously, he only knew about the three damaged rails that had left the train derailed. “What remains ineffective in a thousand cases has turned into a disaster in Hamburg.”

Great sympathy in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein

To commemorate the victims, flags on public buildings in Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bad Oldesloe and Reinfeld, which are also stations on the railway line, fly half-mast the day after the accident. Mayor Paul Nevermann (SPD) visits the wounded at the hospital, and many Hamburg residents bring flowers and gifts to victims. Social sympathy is great. On September 22, 1952, an official funeral ceremony takes place in Lübeck, during which relatives, friends and acquaintances say goodbye and commemorate the dead. It is also remembered that a small piece of metal caused such a disaster.

Further information

A crashed S-Bahn train, into which huge iron girders of a construction train broke through in October 1961.  © pipicture-alliance / Uwe Marek Photo: Uwe Marek

28 killed and approximately 100 injured: When it hit a construction train on October 5, 1961, the first car was literally impaled. still

Bird's-eye view of the ICE crash site near Eschede on June 3, 1998. © Obraz ally / Ingo Wagner / dpa Photo: Ingo Wagner

101 people were killed in the ICE accident in Eschede in 1998. Reconstruction of the accident – and what the responsible say today. still

Aerial photo of the crashed Transrapid in Emsland in September 2006. © picture-alliance / dpa |  Police footage Photo: Police footage

On September 22, 2006, the train hit a service vehicle on the Emsland test track at 170 km / h. still

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THIS! | March 1, 1999 | 18:45

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