Off the rails and onto the tail! A runaway train in Rotterdam was caught by an art sculpture, coincidentally named "Saved By the Whale’s Tail."

By Rachel Chang
November 03, 2020
crashed train balanced on top of a whale statue
Credit: Niels Wenstedt/BSR Agency/Getty

A whale of a tale, indeed! Almost two decades ago, Dutch architect Maarten Struijs installed two whale tail sculptures in a park at the end of a track at De Akkers metro station in Spijkenisse (near Rotterdam) to make up for the green space being lost by the tram tracks, according to CNN. He never expected his artwork to serve any other purpose — until it saved a runaway train from falling off of a 32-foot platform on Monday. 

The Dutch train “shot through” past the buffers, the train’s operator RET said on its site, but noted that no passengers were on board and the driver emerged unharmed. 

workers stand below a crashed train balanced on top of a whale statue

In an odd twist of happenstance, the art piece caught the train car, and it landed perfectly perched on the end of the tail, saving it from what could have been a disastrous tumble. The incident happened at about 12:30 a.m. local time, CNN reported. 

“I was surprised, I didn't expect this. Buffers are always strong enough,” Struijs said to CNN, explaining that the tracks were built on a viaduct as a parking area after passengers were dropped off. “So, I am looking forward to the results of the investigation of this crash.”

He also noted that he was shocked that the plastic material used for the sculpture held up so well. “I could never have imagined it,” he added

In fateful coincidence, the name of the sculpture is “Saved By the Whale's Tail.”

“Of course, it does look rather poetic,” Struijs reportedly told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper, according to Reuters. “But it’s really lucky that the tail can bear the weight of the train.”

The rescue operation is definitely a challenging one as the area can’t accommodate large cranes, Ruud Natrop of Rotterdam-Rijnmond regional safety authority explained to CNN.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday evening in the Netherlands, a livestream on Rijnmond appeared to show the train, which was supposed to be removed at 8 a.m., still being fished off the tail.