A detailed reconstruction of the July 2013 train accident in Spain

When it comes to building incredibly accurate 3D models, Peter Olsen is as good as they get.  He’s built some excellent models of items like Mount Rushmore and the Costa Concordia, but he’s also exposed real-life miscalculations as he worked on models for items such as the MLK Memorial in Washington, DC and the Stone Mountain carving near Atlanta, Georgia.

He’s back now with a remarkably detailed animation of the horrible train accident that occurred in Spain on July 24.


There are two versions of the animation, a long one that describes the entire event, and a short version of just the accident. With the short version the entire accident can be viewed from any angle to study closely what happened.

Long version (download and view in Google Earth)

Short version (download and view in Google Earth)

The details of the animations, from Peter:

The 3D model of the train has been constructed to exact dimensions based on Talgo specifications. The animation is accurate to the millisecond, based on the video timestamp (unlike the online YouTube video, which runs too fast). It shows how the accident unfolded, how the severe damage occurred to carriages 3, 5 and 7, and how the carriages ended up in their final positions.

Detailed Crash Analysis

The following data has been calculated based on a study of the track-side video combined with the 3D model:

The curve has a radius of 422m and starts 234m from the tunnel exit.

The train enters into view on the trackside video at time 24/07/2013 20:43:59.342

The latitude/longitude positions of the front of the train at each one-second timestamp are as follows:

24/07/2013 20:44:00 42.859098, -8.525769 (28m from the start of the curve)
24/07/2013 20:44:01 42.859264, -8.526354
24/07/2013 20:44:02 42.859398, -8.526948
24/07/2013 20:44:03 42.859483, -8.527561
24/07/2013 20:44:04 42.859514, -8.528155
24/07/2013 20:44:05 42.859483, -8.528710
24/07/2013 20:44:06 42.859441, -8.529185

The distance travelled and average speed in each of the 1-second intervals on the video timestamp is as follows:

00-01 51.17m 184.2 km/h
01-02 51.15m 184.1 km/h
02-03 50.21m 180.7 km/h
03-04 49.09m 176.7 km/h
04-05 45.39m 163.4 km/h
05-06 38.91m 140.1 km/h

When the rear half of carriage 3 was torn open by the end of the concrete wall it was travelling at 158 km/h

When carriage 5 was ripped open by the end of the concrete wall it was travelling at 140 km/h

As always, great work Peter!

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Thanks for the indepth article Mickey. The accident was horrific and just wish this need for more speed could be curtailed.

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