There’s no other way to put this, tonight I was in a train crash. Can’t say I enjoyed it much.
The day began well enough. We finished the last of the Christmas food shopping. Then we headed out to the town of Tulln. I was hoping to visit the Weihnachtsmarkt in Tulln as research for a post here. The trip went well, and my wife and I had a good day. To come home we caught the train from Tulln/ Donau Bahnhof. The journey is only 21 minutes. As the train arrived a little late (two minutes, or an age in Austrian time) we were a little colder than we’d have liked. The train was one of the Wiesel double deckers, a great way to see the countryside, especially from the top deck. These trains are safe as houses and comfortable to boot. We headed upstairs as we normally do when we get a Wiesel.
The train left and we settled in to the journey. I’ve done this journey before an using trains in Austria is second nature. Things were going great for the first 10 minutes or so. Then we felt the train begin to slow. The boys in the seats ahead, feeling the train braking a little, got up and put their coats on. It was a bit early, but in the darkness outside, it’s difficult to judge where you are. Realising it was just the train slowing, they sat back down. A few minutes pass and then, all of a sudden, the brakes came on, hard. From here things get interesting. There was a bump and the realisation that this wasn’t usual heavy braking. The train jumped and I realised we’d been derailed. The noise wasn’t that bad. I can recall the sound of metal on gravel, but my focus switched to my wife Lynda. We had been sitting opposite each other. I grabbed hold of her and dragged her from her seat, forcing her and I to as close to the floor as we could. The train was shaking. I was aware that I wanted it to stop before we tipped over. Had we begun to tip, I was ready to force Lynda and I to the floor, hoping to avoid us tumbling onto the other side of the train. Then, everything stopped. Disoriented, I checked that Lynda was okay. My heart was pounding and that ‘fight or flight’ reaction kicked in. Amazingly, we were still upright, just. We were certainly leaning a good 20° to the right. The cabin all breathed a sigh of relief. During the crash, there were no screams, no shouts. In the end we were all as dazed as each other. I realised we’d derailed. As my senses returned to normal, Lynda told me my phone was now 3 meters away against the far wall, my handbag was with it. I gathered them up as the train continued to tilt precariously. I hugged Lynda very hard and we made our way downstairs to the exit doors. Along the way, I found an elderly passenger who was sat looking as startled as the rest of us. I offered her my arm as I checked she was ok. My Deutsch isn’t great but in the confusing, any words I did know deserted me. The lady in question assured me she was fine and would wait for instructions.
Downstairs, the lower carriage was as shocked as we were. The power was still on, and the doors were all operational. The right side was the easiest to leave from, but the risk of the carriage toppling over on us was high, and the two live rail lines were riskier still. The left offered safety by a nearby factory, but due to the tilt of the train, the drop was a good three feet. For the time being we stayed put. Alarmingly a small amount of smoke filled the carriage. It mostly came from the dust settling and a bit of electrical shorting. No danger, but nonetheless, unwelcome.
At this point I was aware that I was in shock. It took a real effort to remain calm. I wanted to get off the train. Lynda however seemed to have a much different view of the whole thing. For her, time slowed down. While I became solely focused in her, she was aware of everything that was going on around here. She watched as the shopping she had on the seat next to her, flew across the carriage, narrowly missing a guys head. She watched my phone, that had been in my hand, flew to the far wall. Everything in slow motion, and she looked upon in with a curiosity few would find in such a situation. She stood downstairs smiling as she always does.
Time was passing though, and with the precarious tilt of the train concerning us all, nerves were on edge. Where we were stood, the doors to the rear wards carriage to my left. The door opened and someone came through. That carriage wasn’t sitting the same as ours. That was jolting in the extreme. Someone then opened the door to the left and I took the opportunity to look outside. Behind me to the left I could see the rear carriages on their sides. They’d tipped over completely. There was also a second train tilted on its left. It was clear what happened. We’d hit a train. At a guess, we side swiped it hitting us off the rails. It looks like it was just pulling into a siding, but it didn’t quite make it in time before we hit it.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, a guard came to help us off the train. We sat on the step and slid onto the track bed before heading away from the crash and off the tracks. Blue lights were everywhere. It was cold and for the longest time, all we could do was huddle together as best we could. Out of our carriage the sheet devastation was clear. Our train had clipped the other half way along its length. That had forced the front off the tracks. We then caught the rest, breaking the axle and tilting the carriage at the front. Behind us however, the last two carriages had gone over. Thankfully the service wasn’t busy, and only around twenty people were injured.
By now though, the cold night air was starting to seep in. A Police man came around to get everyone’s ID. My drivers licence and Lynda’s passport were photographed. Eventually we were moved on to the very near station. We had no idea what was really going on though. As more ambulances arrived and the Air Ambulance landed, my thoughts were to prioritise the injured. We could walk. Finally, two buses arrived and we were taken to Klosterneuburg train station and an awaiting train, that to be honest, I wasn’t that keen to get on. By now, with the Adrenalin waning, I began to feel my body aching. My right hamstring was sore, as was my right arm and lower back. Nothing serious, just the results of being jostled around.
We finally reached home an hour and a half later than expected. Battered, bruised and shocked, but ok. Truthfully I’m just happy to be okay and that Lynda was ok. We survived a very traumatic experience. All I can think to say is Merry Christmas everyone. This year I’m a little more grateful for all I have than normal.This entry was posted in Uncategorized