The dramatic incident happened on Saturday evening in the Salzburg municipality of Köstendorf when for unknown reasons a driver drove his car onto the tracks and then got out and fled the scene without alerting anyone.
Luckily for the train driver and 250 passengers, a brave passer-by who was on the scene ran towards the train hurtling down the tracks and alerted the driver with hand signals that he should stop.
According to the national railway operators ÖBB, the hand signals alerted the driver on the Railjet 165 on the way to Zurich from Budapest that there was something amiss and he was able to stop about 100 metres before the car after pulling an emergency brake.
“The passer-by prevented a terrible incident at the very last second thanks to the warning signals,” ÖBB later said, according to the Kurier.
With the help of a farmer's tractor, the car was pulled from the tracks and the train could continue the journey after an hour's delay.
Police initially failed to trace the 31-year-old driver of the abandoned car but he eventually handed himself in to authorities on Sunday morning, although he told police he had no idea why he left the car.
“He confirmed that he had been driving the vehicle,” said police spokesperson Eva Wenzl. “He cannot not remember any more details, however, including about the accident or why he left the scene.”
The driver reportedly had his driving license revoked three times in recent years. An alcohol test taken on Sunday showed no evidence he had been drinking.
The driver was charged with fleeing a vehicle after an accident. Police say an investigation will establish whether further charges of causing a danger to the physical safety of others should be made.