17 Jun 2021

RANDOM Times •

To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

May 31, 1962: the Voghera massacre

3 min read

May 31, 1962: it is a warm but not sultry night when the fate of 64 people is about to be marked.
Shortly after midnight, at 0.02 am, the 8151 freight train from Milan Rogoredo station leaves from Lecco and goes to Arquata Scrivia.
The convoy consists of 33 wagons.
In the meantime, at 0.45 am, from another Milan station, the Central Station, the fast train 1391 also leaves, expected in Genova Brignole at 5.22 am.
The passenger convoy stops at Voghera where it arrives at the third platform 15 minutes late.
It should have restarted at 2.20 am if it had been on time, but this is not made possible by the time wasters due to the change of traction.
It is 2.30 am when the A-side cabin in Genoa gives the go-ahead signal for the fast train.
At 2.34 am the station manager sees the final operations completed and is about to raise the shovel to dismiss the train when the headlights of the other train can be seen from afar, about to enter the station.
Although the arranged signal, the train shows no sign of slowing down except in the final moments, and at 2.35 it takes the third track and hits the tail of the fast train 1391, literally entering the last carriage.
The impact is devastating, with the train car and locomotive wheeling up against the station shelters causing the immediate death of 60 people and the injury of 40, four of whom will subsequently perish in hospital.
All the victims are in the last carriage and are mostly vacationers headed for the Ligurian Riviera, who are probably killed during their sleep.

As will discover later, the speed of the impact is about 60 km/h with the freight train braking sharply from the 72 km/h with which it swoops into the station just 9 seconds before impact.
This speed was in no way admissible, regardless of the indications of the red signal, since the train would have had to stop at the station for the change of the locomotive even if, it was later justified by the train drivers (who miraculously left unscathed) as necessary to overcome the neutral section present in the power supply change station.

It was hellish job to extract the wounded and mangled bodies from the bunch of twisted metal among which the train drivers of the freight train did not end up, who escaped once they realized they could not do anything to avoid the terrible impact.
Both from Sesto San Giovanni, in the suburb of Milan, they will pay with a harsh trial and jail, faults that they will always deny.
According to them, in fact, the signals allowed entry into the station, while all the technical reports proved the opposite.
No one ever managed to completely rule out possible “ghost” problems such as a failure caused by stray currents, but no one was able to demonstrate the presence of these problems.

The impression in the country was enormous.
These were the years of the economic boom and a prosperity that was also extending to the lower and middle classes, but the echo of the destruction caused by war and bombing was still alive.
With the massacre of the Voghera station, the clock of time seemed to go back twenty years, to the cities gutted by bombs.
An imposing crowd attended the funeral, celebrated in the Duomo Cathedral in Milan city center.