The Cassandra Crossing – The site of the cinematic railway disaster in Ruynes-en-Margeride

Garabit Viaduct railway arch bridge, was constructed between 1882 and 1884 by Gustave Eiffel, with structural engineering by Maurice Koechlin, and was opened in 1885. It is 565 meter in length and weighed about 3,600 tons. At 124 meter above the river, the bridge was the world’s highest when it was built.

In 1976, it was used in the film The Cassandra Crossing. The disaster thriller film directed by George Pan Cosmatos and starring Sophia Loren, Richard Harris, Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen, Burt Lancaster.

When the existence of a strain of plague is revealed at the US mission at the International Health Organization, three terrorists seek to blow up the US mission. Two of them are shot, one mortally. The surviving terrorist is hospitalized and quarantined and identified as Swedish.

The third terrorist, escapes and stows away on a train bound from Geneva to Stockholm. Elena Stradner (Ingrid Thulin) believes that the train should be stopped so that the terrorist can be removed and quarantined, but Col. Stephen MacKenzie (Burt Lancaster) is concerned that all of the passengers on the train might be infected.

Mackenzie insists on rerouting the train to a disused railway line which goes to a former Nazi concentration camp in Janov, Poland where the passengers will be quarantined. However, the line crosses a dangerously unsound steel arch bridge known as the Kasundruv Bridge or the “Cassandra Crossing”, out of use since 1948.

The train will be rerouted to Nuremberg. There the train is sealed with an enclosed oxygen system and a US Army medical team is placed aboard, with the now-deceased terrorist being placed in a hermetically-sealed coffin.

Jonathan Chamberlain (Richard Harris) learns of the risk of the Cassandra Crossing. He also begins to suspect the disease is not as serious as originally thought. MacKenzie, acting under orders, has no intention of stopping the train. Chamberlain form a group of passengers to overcome the guards and seize control of the train before it reaches the doomed bridge.

Chamberlain manages to separate the rear half of the train, hoping that with less weight the front half will cross safely. But the bridge collapses, killing everyone aboard the front half.

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