Osijek rail accident

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The Osijek railway accident occurred due to a bridge collapse on 23 September 1882 in Osijek (then also: Esseg) in present-day Croatia (then: Transleithania / Kingdom of Hungary within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy). 26 people died.

Initial situation

The railway bridge in question carried the line over the Drava River. It was a wooden construction according to the system developed by William Howe with nine openings of 30 metres each. The bridge was considered to be only conditionally stable, a new construction of iron on stone piers had been started upstream in early 1882. The stone piers of the new structure were scaffolded in September 1882 in order to be able to assemble the supporting structure.[1]

In September, there had been very high precipitation in Carinthia and Tyrol, which led to extreme flooding of the Drau. The river also carried considerable amounts of flotsam.[2]

Accident history

Flotsam became entangled in large quantities on the scaffolding of the new bridge structure. Workers tried to channel the flotsam through the relatively narrow passages. However, this had to be stopped due to poor visibility during the night of September 22-23. Eventually, the accumulated flotsam broke through, taking part of the scaffolding with it, hit the wooden bridge and became jammed there. The engineer in charge ordered a test run with a locomotive and then opened the bridge to traffic at slow speed, which was initially done without any alarming signs.[3] However, the driftwood washed up caused a current which – as the later investigation found – caused scouring at the seventh pier of the bridge.[4]

When the fifth train using the bridge in this way, a mixed train from Osijek/Esseg, reached the seventh arch, the sixth arch collapsed: the scouring had become so great that the bridge pier gave way under the weight of the train. Sixth and seventh bridge arches collapsed, taking with them the part of the train that was just there. This was the locomotive, its tender and six freight cars, though the last two were used to transport soldiers. The following railroad mail and passenger cars, on the other hand, derailed and remained on the part of the bridge that did not collapse.[5]


26 people died, all soldiers who had been in the first of the two transport cars. The other soldiers as well as the railway personnel were able to save themselves by swimming.[6]


  • Bernhard Püschel: Historische Eisenbahn-Katastrophen. A chronicle of accidents from 1840 to 1926. Freiburg 1977. ISBN 3-88255-838-5

Individual references

  1. Püschel, p. 46f
  2. Püschel, p. 46f
  3. Püschel, p. 46f
  4. Püschel, p. 47
  5. Püschel, p. 47
  6. Püschel, p. 47