This study reviews the development of railway safety in Finland from 1959 to 2008. The results show that the level of safety has greatly improved over the past five decades. The total number of railway fatalities did not show any obvious decreasing or increasing trend during the first decade, but since the early 1970s the annual number of fatalities has decreased from about 100 to 20. The estimated overall annual reduction per year from 1970 to 2008 was 5.4% (with a 95% confidence interval from −8.2% to −2.6%). The reduction in subcategories per million train-kilometres from 1959 to 2008 was 4.4% per year for passengers, 8.3% for employees, 5.0% for road users at level crossings and 3.6% for others (mainly trespassers). The safety improvement for passengers and staff was probably influenced by the introduction of central locking of doors in passenger cars and improved procedures to protect railway employees working on the tracks. The number of road users killed at level crossings has fallen due to the installation of barriers and the construction of overpasses and underpasses at crossings with dense traffic, removal of level crossings, and an improvement of conditions such as visibility at crossings. The number of trespasser fatalities has seen the least decline. Key plans for the future include further reduction of the number of level crossings on the state railway network from the current roughly 3500–2200 by 2025, and involving communities in safety work related to railway trespassers.