The Anonymous Widower

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Train Derailment

The Garmisch-Partenkirchen train derailment, which took place a few days ago, seems a strange one to me.

A push-pull train of five Bombardier double-deck carriages being pushed by a Class 111 locomotive derailed on a single-track line.

This map from OpenRailwayMap shows the are of the derailment.


  1. The derailment took place between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Farchant.
  2. The train was heading North.
  3. The accident happened close to the junction of the B2 and B23 roads.
  4. The speed limit through the area would appear to be between 100 and 110 kph.

This Google Map shows the area in detail.

Note the railway curving to the left.

As an engineer, I used to be worried, where a heavy powerful locomotive pushed a rake of coaches at a high speed.

But then I had a long talk with a British Rail engineer, with whom I was working on the analysis of signal failures. He put my worries to rest.

In recent years in the UK, we have had four services, where a heavy, powerful locomotive runs a service in a push-pull mode, with a driving van trailer (DVT) at the other end of the train.

  • Chiltern Railways – Marylebone and Birmingham.
  • East Coast Main Line – London and Leeds and Edinburgh.
  • Great Eastern – London and Norwich.
  • TransPennine – Across the Pennines.

There has only been two serious accidents on these services.

Strangely, the same locomotive was involved in both crashes. It was pulling at Hatfield, but pushing at Selby.

It should also be noted that prior to the introduction of the driving van trailer, a less sophisticated control car calla a Driving Brake Standard Open (DBSO) was used.

  • They were converted from Mark 2 coaches.
  • Some are still in services with Network Rail.

One was destroyed in the Polmont rail accident, where an Edinburgh to Glasgow train struck a cow.

In a section entitled Background in its entry for the Polmont rail accident, Wikipedia says this.

Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley were operated by the push-pull technique with a single British Rail Class 47 locomotive located at one end of the train at all times (the locomotive usually pulled the carriages from Glasgow to Edinburgh and pushed them on the return journey). At the other end of the train was a Driving Brake Standard Open (DBSO). DBSO carriages were introduced on the line in 1980 and consisted of a passenger carriage with a control cab at the front for the driver; a DBSO would be situated at the front of the train allowing the driver to control the locomotive with a set of remote controls from which control signals were sent through the lighting circuits of the train to the locomotive pushing from behind. This system meant that the train could continuously run between the two cities without having to allow time to switch the locomotive to the front of the train between departures. However, it left the front of the train vulnerable when being pushed from behind because the front end was lighter than the rear and had the risk of being pushed over an obstruction, leading to derailment.

To summarise in the UK, of the three major accidents involving push-pull trains, two were caused by substantial objects getting on the line, that was hit by the DVT or DBSO.

  • All three accidents have been fully explained.
  • Recommendations have been made to ensure better track security.
  • I notice that now, where push-pull trains are used for replacement services, they seem to be run using two locomotives.
  • Hitachi and Stadler both build quality bi-mode trains, which can replace push-pull operation using diesel locomotives.

I doubt that we’ll see many more new push-pull services in the UK, except where there is a shortage of suitable new rolling stock or on heritage services.

No reports from Germany have indicated that anything was on the line.



June 7, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. has just been published, stating that 3 DB employees are being investigated for “fahrlässige Tötung” – roughly homicide through negligence – though no details have so far been released. The Bavarian transport minister is quoted as saying that no other train or vehicle was involved.

    Think we’ll have to wait for more details to emerge.

    Comment by Peter Robins | June 7, 2022 | Reply

    • I lived in Munich for 10 years, and know that line well.

      Comment by Peter Robins | June 7, 2022 | Reply

    • is the latest from the SZ. It seems it’s routine after such incidents that the driver and train dispatcher are investigated, and it seems the 3rd person under investigation is the person responsible for that stretch of track. The paper adds that there isn’t much evidence for the incident being due to human error or any criminal behaviour, and is likely to be a technical failure.

      The loco and 1st carriage are to be kept in situ while the investigations continue, though the other carriages are being removed.

      Comment by Peter Robins | June 8, 2022 | Reply

  2. All fair points that you make, however it is worth noting that much of Bavaria has experienced flash flooding at least twice in the last 12 months and the German press is reporting that DB was intending track replacement in the general area of the accident in the next month. Like the UK’s RAIB reports I doubt we’ll find out the cause until they finish their investigations.

    Comment by fammorris | June 7, 2022 | Reply

  3. Seeing as it was double deck stock presumably the centre of gravity is higher up the vehicle so its overturning propensity is increased through curves although it would have to been excessive overspeeding which doesn’t seem to be the cause. DB run high cant rates through there curves so guess its possibly that a track condition initiated a derailment and teh train got pulled off on the curve.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | June 7, 2022 | Reply

  4. British Rail Research were the masters of rail and bogie dynamics, which I believed they modelled on a PACE-231R analogue computer, which was similar to those used by NASA to put a man on the moon.

    On privatisation, the bogie business ended up with Bombardier.

    As a former PACE-231R user at ICI, I tried to get a look at the work they did, but it’s all commercial confidential.

    I have modelled some complex connected dynamics in a polythene plant and I suspect the analysis of a five-car double-deck train is complex in the extreme. I wonder, if the speed and conditions set up an oscillation and the vibration overbalanced the train. We’ve all seen the films of Galloping Gertie.

    Comment by AnonW | June 7, 2022 | Reply

    • So many possibilities, I just hope we get to hear what the root cause was.
      There are about half a dozen Rail Vehicle Dynamics Software packages with the leading British example being Vampire, which emerged from British Rail Research’s earlier work in the mid 1990s. This was the UK industry standard that I witnessed until I retired and like all of these packages now runs happily on a pc.
      Just watched an IMechE YouTube video on its origins, evolution from BRB to the successor consultancy set up after the privitisation and the future now that Atkins SNC Lavalin have taken up the baton. Highly informative.

      Comment by fammorris | June 8, 2022 | Reply

      • RSSB publish other administrations accident reports

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | June 8, 2022

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