It'll buff out
July 23, 2015 10:32 PM   Subscribe

Thinking of hiring a stretch limo for that graduation, prom, wedding or some other event? Top tip! If you do, perhaps don't try and drive it over a level crossing. Especially on a rail line used by trains hauling a "ten thousand ton" load. (Video features train collision with unoccupied vehicle, amateur video production effects). As in the Telegraph, Jalopnik, ABC news and Car Buzz. And a follow-up video by the county sheriff.
posted by Wordshore (53 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's hard out here for a pimp.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:43 PM on July 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


The limo held up better than I expected.
posted by furtive at 10:46 PM on July 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


The limo probably made better time on the cowcatcher of the train than it would've on the road.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:50 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


made my day
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 10:57 PM on July 23, 2015


Huh. Stretch limos are tougher than I thought. I was kind of hoping to see it cut in two. But then again, that's generally my reaction whenever I see one.
posted by happyroach at 11:10 PM on July 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


I worked at an RV plant in New Paris, IN the summer after I graduated from high school.

I drove a 1973 Dodge Polara. It was a boat. On handing me the keys, dad said, "you're going to see just how fast this car can go once. ONCE." I heard that as, "Son, feel free to see how far this car can go once."

So one morning I turned off of CR21 and on to CR142 on my way to work, and I thought to myself maybe this was the morning to see how fast the car would go. I straightened the wheel and mashed down on the gas as hard as I could and the car took off.

I had hit 120mph when I saw the stop sign for SR15 that might ordinarily have come up about a third less soon on a morning where I wasn't seeing how fast the car could go. I panicked and smashed the brakes with both feet. It being 1986, I didn't really have a seatbelt habit, so I slid across the big vinyl bench seat and the car went into a spin with me clinging to the wheel and straining to keep my feet on the brake pedal.

I remember seeing oncoming traffic from both directions as I spun across SR 15. I got the car back under control and came to a stop on the next railroad crossing south from the one in this video, the car gently rocking and creaking a few times.
posted by mph at 11:39 PM on July 23, 2015 [41 favorites]


Also, I super like that there's a giant, white stretch limo right there on the tracks but there's the guy off to the side waving his red bandana to warn the train operator.
posted by mph at 11:43 PM on July 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


Also, I super like that there's a giant, white stretch limo right there on the tracks but there's the guy off to the side waving his red bandana to warn the train operator.

You do what you can. Looks like trains have a stopping distance of a few thousand feet, mind.

But this way the operator is less spooked that he just killed a bunch of folk in a stretch limo.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:07 AM on July 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Stretch limos are tougher than I thought. I was kind of hoping to see it cut in two. But then again, that's generally my reaction whenever I see one.

Likewise.

If you're going to stretch a vehicle, do it properly.
posted by flabdablet at 12:52 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eerie -- I just finished watching Nightcrawler. BTW, loved the movie.
posted by oluckyman at 1:32 AM on July 24, 2015


BTW, loved the movie.
posted by ryanrs at 1:45 AM on July 24, 2015


Apt username, mph.
posted by salmacis at 1:46 AM on July 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


"idiot railroad crossing" is a search term I admit to having plugged into youtube in the past. The ones that puzzle me are big rigs, who must have their own miniature world of this type of encounter, where cars blithely merge in front and stand on their brakes without considering how much distance something weighing many multiples of their car might take to stop. You'd think that would make them a bit more careful on grade crossings, but evidence suggests that may not be the case...

I assume the right thing to do if you get something like that stuck on a level crossing is 911, right? Surely the dispatchers there have a direct line into the BNSF (or whoever) operation center and can pass a message along: "uh, if you have a train headed toward the grade crossing at Dipshit Road, you might want to throw the anchors out."

I'm also a bit suprised, maybe, that in this age of cheap sensors and what-not, railroads can't put sensors between the tracks with a "confirmation" cam operators could peek at. Not that I suppose it makes much difference. You'd probably burn up a multi-thousand-dollar's worth of diesel on a false alarm, and get chewed out to boot.
posted by maxwelton at 3:12 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


What do you mean, "that"?
 
posted by Herodios at 3:43 AM on July 24, 2015


I assume the right thing to do if you get something like that stuck on a level crossing is 911, right?

From the Jalopnik comments: "Calling 911 won’t get the fastest response. Calling the railroad’s number, posted on every crossing box, gets the trains immediately put on caution, and they will approach at walking speed."
posted by effbot at 3:50 AM on July 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


Right so..

passenger rail in this country sucks, because

it's subordinated to freight rail, which sucks, because

high-centering a passenger vehicle over a grade crossing is apparently "something that happens"
and not something that "disqualifies you from a CDL"
posted by 7segment at 4:13 AM on July 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wow, that's somebody that does not know their limo. My group of friends got a limo for prom, and I was the last one to be dropped off, although I was picked up at my date's house. My place at the time was in a condominium where the entrance had a not-insignificant bump as you turn into it, and the driver stopped short and told me I had to walk in because he knew the limo would get stuck on this bump that I had never given one thought about.
posted by numaner at 4:24 AM on July 24, 2015


That was neat to see AND it's crazy that, at this point, someone's automatic reaction whenever anything happens is "better get out my phone and film this for the internet!".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:27 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am astonished how sturdy that limo was. As in: not crumbled into an accordion, just dented about 10-15 inches. If there would have been people in there, they probably would have survived, with just minor injuries like whiplash, I guess.
posted by ojemine at 5:27 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


land o' goshen, that was close!
posted by pyramid termite at 5:32 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Those stretch limos have a shit-ton of box-section reinforcement in the frame, so that it doesn't bow or flex. That's what kept it fairly intact.

I loved the "Didja see me?" comment. Apparently some people have no clue about what it takes to stop a train.

There are a lot of crossing grades like that throughout Indiana. I know of a couple that are even steeper. Like Daytona banking steep. Or, at least, it sure feels like it.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd say the problem was that the grade crossing wasn't level. WRT the limo suffering minor damage, I bet its suspension was all messed up from the wheels being whapped sideways by the ties.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:55 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why don't they look, Ralph? Tell me, why don't they look?
posted by dr_dank at 6:05 AM on July 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was surprised by how well this limo held up, given that last week a more traditional stretched limo was hit by a regular pickup truck and suffered significantly more damage with fatalities.
posted by Atreides at 6:43 AM on July 24, 2015


I used to work with a woman who drove a pilot car for oversize loads. She has an incredible story (with the DOT accident report booklet to boot) about a run she did where there was a slight mathematical error from the plotter drive (the person who runs the entire route in a pickup truck prior to the actual run) report, in which the grade of a railroad crossing was entered incorrectly. The truck was carrying a enormous piece of machinery (she didn't know exactly what it was, but knew it was upwards of 3 million from the insurance papers) and got stuck on the crossing. By the time she got the railroad on the line, they all heard the telltale whistle of a train horn, and the bells from the gates coming down. Everyone cleared the Hell out, and 3 million or so went kablooey for about two hundred yards. She said it was the most awe inspiring thing outside of nature she had ever witnessed.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:45 AM on July 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


I wonder how much time elapsed between getting stuck and train approaching.
Seeing the stuck limo, I would have tried to put the passenger front side up on the jack (assuming it even has one) and backed it off the jack. At least until I heard the crossing start.
posted by plinth at 7:03 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Debaser626 - was it this one?
posted by pjern at 7:33 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Stretch limos are tougher than I thought. I was kind of hoping to see it cut in two.

It helps that it was resting on the tracks. With the metal frame of the limo on the metal tracks, that's basically frictionless compared to tires on pavement. If the wheels had been on the ground, there would have been more resistance (i.e. bending) and, possibly, tumbling.

Despite the (relatively) small amount of damage to the car, if anyone had been in there, it would have gone poorly for them. Someone else can do that math, but IIRC, a 0-15MPH instantaneous acceleration like that is 4-5Gs, and I think that train was going a bit faster than that. Point is, human bodies do poorly in with those sorts of forces - things get all bendy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:33 AM on July 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Stretch limos are tougher than I thought.

Here's a video from Popular Mechanics entitled "Building a Lincoln MKT Premiere Limosine."

It's just over 20 minutes long with plenty of kapoc, but most of it is pretty interesting.

Our host represents a one specific coachworks, but one gets the idea that they all do it about the same way. They aren't working on their own, either; they get lots of support from the OEM. In this case, they're working on a model specifically designed to be sold to custom coachworks for stretching: no sunroof, cables are already split with multipin connectors, etc. Ford also supplies them with some of the parts, such as duplicate door pillars.

Apropos of the present discussion, between about 10:30 and 13:30 the clip covers the technology and techniques that go into stretching the source vehicle's frame. They can use the process shown to add up to 120" to the vehicle's length.

In brief:
They add roof rails and lower rockers made of a 'sandwich' of three 20-gauge steel panels welded together. They also add a "crash beam" at the midline and a 16-gauge steel floor panel.

That's going to be pretty rigid, more rigid than the vehicle looks from the outside.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:38 AM on July 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


⬆️ Favorited for the use of kapoc, which only those who wore life jackets pre 1980 can appreciate.
posted by TedW at 8:23 AM on July 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am astonished how sturdy that limo was. As in: not crumbled into an accordion, just dented about 10-15 inches.

I'm not. To stretch a car like that, you need to extend the frame a great deal, or if it's a unibody car, you need to build a frame. For the frame to hold up the car across a wheelbase that long, it needs to be that strong -- you are basically building a bridge that crosses between the wheels, after all. The one impact most limos take well is side impacts because of those two big frame rails and the cross members to hold them parallel. It's basically a big strong ladder under there.

When he high centered it on the tracks, the only friction point was the high center -- the wheels were barely touching the ground. Once it got going, it basically skidded along the tracks with the train. Most of the energy of the train never went into the limo, it just went into moving it.

If you replaced that crossing warning light that the limo blew through with something sturdy, like a bridge abutment, the limo would have shredded -- the abutment would have been the anvil, the train would have been the hammer, the limo would have been a watermelon.

One of the rules of force is things that move fast shatter other things, things that move slow move things. So, a small hammer moving fast breaks off chips when it hits a rock, a big sledgehammer moves a rock. This was a *very* big sledgehammer, and it wasn't moving that fast, I'd guess about 40mph, and it just moved the limo right down the tracks. Really, the damage all occurred while the limo was getting pushed from 0 to the train's speed, once it was moving at the same speed, the damage that occurred was relatively light (other than smacking that warning light.)

Note how that warning light didn't last a second, but that's by design -- they're built to break away clean when hit. This means that cars don't suddenly stop if they hit them, killing the people inside of them, it also means that the light generally mostly survives and can be fixed and reinstalled. If it's mounted sturdily, it get bent beyond repair and has to be completely replaced.
posted by eriko at 8:34 AM on July 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


If this is you, BTW.

1) Never ever ever ever ever ever......ever start to cross a set of tracks until there is enough speed to get all the way across. If the gates start to come down, *get across*. You will have room, because you waited to make sure there was room. The #1 reason people get caught is that they don't wait until there is room for them to cross and get stuck halfway. Then you're fucked if the person behind you blocks you.

2) So, you're stuck for whatever reason. Look at the signal box. There should be a number. CALL THAT NUMBER, tell them the signal number on the box. The railroad can then put the line signal on caution, and the train will be approaching at either caution (15mph) or stop-on-sight (5mph) and be able to stop. Which depends on the track, if they can see a long way, they'll come on caution or approach, if they can't, they'll be on stop-on-sight.

If there is no number, RUN up track and wave. If there are two tracks, send one guy up the other way. You need distance. Call 911, they might be able to help, but they might not. If there's any sign of who owns the railroad, call the operator and ask for the railroad, when you get them, just say you have a car on the tracks, that operator should have a fast connect to the switch.

Theoretically, if the track is signaled and you have jumper cables, connect the red cable (or the black, but pick one set) between the two tracks. This will act is if there is a train in the block by electrically connecting the tracks together, which will set the signals for that block to danger. This will also attract the attention of the railroad, because they'll see that block go occupied. Problem, you probably won't know if that track is signaled, so this is a shot in the dark, and if a train is already past the block signal, that signal will already be red and that block will already be marked as occupied. Note -- doing this without a really good reason like "The tracks are in fact occupied and there is real danger" will get the railroad on you big time, so don't do that, but if you do that when it is in fact a bad idea for a train to go through, they'll thank you. Delaying a train is much better than shredding a train. The guy in front of the train alone will thank you for not having to have those nightmares. Note two: I haven't tried this. In theory, it'll work, and I've seen them strap across the tracks when they're working on the tracks to make sure that block was set to danger. So, it should work, but if the track isn't using block signals, it won't, so don't count on it. Keep watching for the train.

At night, the light signals for a stop that are close to universal are a single red light, or a white light waved back and forth horizontally, the "washout" signal. A slow up and down white is "Come on slow" and a white or green held high is "Come at speed" or in US railroads, the "Highball", which is one possible source of the name of the drink. Trains can see these from a ways away, and most smart phones have flashlights now, so if you turn the light on, aim it up track, and start waiving it back and forth horizontally, you're telling them they need to stop.

But if you have a big mag light, you can tell them that much farther away! So, if you have a big flashlight in the car, grab that. It might save the car.
posted by eriko at 8:52 AM on July 24, 2015 [132 favorites]


When we were kids we listened to Arch Oboler's Drop Dead, and the Car Stuck on the Tracks segment - Taking Papa Home- assures that I am crazy careful about railroad crossings. Late one very foggy night some years ago, the lights came on and the gates began to drop just as I crossed some tracks, and I about had a heart attack. Of course I was plenty safe, it was jsut spooky.
posted by theora55 at 9:22 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the UK, some (but not all) crossings are monitored. The monitoring can be via CCTV, or by a signalperson in a tower overlooking the crossing. Trains aren't given a clear signal to proceed through the crossing until someone has verified that all gates are down and the crossing is clear.

It's more sensible from a safety standpoint. On the other hand the gates need to close 2-3 minutes before any train goes through, so that the block can be given a green signal (and so the upstream block signals can be changed from yellow to green).

Here's a PDF explaining the closing sequence in detail for a controversial crossing near Cambridge. Controversial because it's where a busy rail line crosses a major highway, causing huge tailbacks at times.
posted by penguinicity at 9:36 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm curious how much the limo company's insurance will have to pay out in terms of damage to the train, the tracks and ancillary equipment, the lost fuel, the missed deliveries, etc.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:08 AM on July 24, 2015


Right so..

passenger rail in this country sucks, because

it's subordinated to freight rail, which sucks, because


seemingly all the rail lines are owned by freight rail, which is under no obligation to serve the public interest.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:54 AM on July 24, 2015


seemingly all the rail lines are owned by freight rail, which is under no obligation to serve the public interest.

There are tracks owned by Amtrak or by the states, but not enough of them. And all it takes is one segment that they have to share with freight, for the scheduling troubles to ripple out through the system.
posted by elizilla at 12:48 PM on July 24, 2015


It's always a bit unnerving when you click a vid like this and realise that it's probably the same train line that passed right by my house
posted by Ferreous at 2:42 PM on July 24, 2015


Just checked, yep, that's the train line I can see from my porch. Urgh.

There's been a lot of fatal train accidents in this area lately, just glad this one only cost a limo and damage to a engine car.
posted by Ferreous at 2:49 PM on July 24, 2015


seemingly all the rail lines are owned by freight rail, which is under no obligation to serve the public interest.


Moving freight is very much in the public interest.
posted by Modest House at 4:10 PM on July 24, 2015


Modest House: Moving freight is very much in the public interest.

But that's something different: a public electric utility has an obligation to serve the public interest, which affects the rates it charges, where it runs power lines, et cetera. A privatized electric utility might say "having electricity is in the public interest"—and that would be true—but it carries no obligation and can be used to justify darn near any policy that keeps the company in business or benefits its bottom line, regardless of externalities imposed on the public.
posted by traveler_ at 5:35 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought the same thing about tripping the block signal, but I would think the car across both rails would do that already.

Why would you put "Studio Noe Productions" on that video? Really, you "produced" that shaky cell phone video with the cheesy slide show effect at the end? Nice anti-ad.

(Oh, AND the super-informative caption on-screen at the beginning.)
posted by ctmf at 5:59 PM on July 24, 2015


Potatoe.
posted by flabdablet at 7:31 PM on July 24, 2015


I would think the car across both rails would [trip the block signal]

Cars aren't necessarily conductive. There's a layer of paint and often some thicker sound-deading coating.
posted by ryanrs at 4:29 AM on July 26, 2015


My nightmare with train tracks was always the idea of getting stuck while transporting kids in car seats and trying to get them undone and out in time. And that was before I actually *did* regularly cross train tracks in a car with a kid. Fortunately, the people I am with are the sort that respect the tracks.
posted by tavella at 3:44 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cars aren't necessarily conductive. There's a layer of paint and often some thicker sound-deading coating.

I was wondering about the car tripping the block signal too; even if there is a layer of paint, there should be enough scraped off when a car bottoms out across rails. But there's an old Talmudic aphorism: don't argue with the facts.

Maybe there was no good contact.
Maybe there was no conductive path.
Maybe the mechanism was interrupted.
Maybe there was no block signal.

All we know is that the accident occurred.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:49 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why would you put "Studio Noe Productions" on that video?

So that if a site-scraper scarpers the clip, you can still point to it and say, "that's mine". Notice that the caption keeps coming up during 'the good bits', at least in replay. Even if a scraper edits it down to just the money shot, it'll still have Noe's tag on it.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:16 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


All we know is that the accident occurred.

Maybe the train was already in the block.

I'm guessing, since in the US...

1) Most of these incidents happen in areas with block signals
2) And a lot of them do happen

...that cars do not provide enough conductivity to close the block. I don't know how much current needs to flow. I'm assuming that a jumper cable, which is explicitly designed to handle a pretty high current, would be able to handle it, and that the signal voltage can't be very high because it's running on something very close to the ground. If it was very high, it would just arc to ground.

But I honestly don't know. Hmm. Do I know any signal engineers?
posted by eriko at 6:51 AM on July 27, 2015


And, thinking about it more, connect both cables. Just make sure not to connect both red clips to one rail and both blacks to another -- though with most jumper cables, that should be basically impossible to do.
posted by eriko at 6:52 AM on July 27, 2015


But I honestly don't know. Hmm. Do I know any signal engineers?

My dad was electrician for a railroad for 30 years. The last 10 were spent as a signal maintainer.

The way it works is that the signal measures the impedance as the train approaches - as you mentioned, the steel wheels and axle complete the circuit between the two tracks. Without getting too far into the transmission line impedance weeds, a small RF signal can tell the switch hardware about how far the train is. Similar to this method.

It doesn't take a whole lot to close the loop. Any piece if wire will do (don't tell dad, but us neighborhood kids would screw with the signals using coathangers wound together). A car across the tracks would almost certainly do it - although, yeah, you need metal to metal contact, and any paint/lining/whatever would interfere with that.

But also, consider, at a crossing the tracks usually run some distance below the road bed, if not level with it. In this case, it is entirely possible that the car is not making contact with the tracks at all, and is supported by the roadbed or other smoothings that make the track crossing possible. It's hard to say from the video, but that looks to be the case here - the car is supported on the asphalt, and not by the tracks - at least until it gets pushed off the crossing.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:48 AM on July 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wordshore: "Thinking of hiring a stretch limo for that graduation, prom, wedding or some other event? Top tip! If you do, perhaps don't try and drive it over a level crossing . Especially on a rail line used by trains hauling a "ten thousand ton" load. (Video features train collision with unoccupied vehicle, amateur video production effects). As in the Telegraph, Jalopnik, ABC news and Car Buzz. And a follow-up video by the county sheriff."

Amateur level? Studio Noe is ANYTHING but amateur level. Betcha didn't know that was from Studio Noe, did you?
posted by Samizdata at 8:15 AM on July 27, 2015


Limo held up pretty well all things considered.
posted by zeoslap at 9:38 AM on July 28, 2015


I learned to drive more than twenty years ago now, but I still remember some of the lessons that my parents taught me. At the time they owned one, manually transmission car, so I learned to drive stick. It was a relatively new car at the time (hello mid '90s!), so in order to start the car, you had to press the clutch in all the way. My dad explained that this was to prevent you from turning the starter and having the car lurch straight thought the garage wall into the living room. A wise safety precaution, thought I! He agreed, but mentioned one situation where not having this feature came in useful.

Three decades earlier, a friend of his was driving a manual transmission car, when he stopped on the tracks (remember to make sure you have enough room to cross before entering, kids!). As luck would have it, when he stopped there, his car stalled out. The person in front of him moved forward, but he still couldn't get his car started. The engine would turn over, but it just wouldn't catch. Of course, by this time, a train was coming. I don't know why he didn't just bail at this point, but instead he kept at it, trying to start the car. Eventually he changed strategies, putting the car into first, not pressing the clutch, and just turning the starter. He got the car to lurch forward, off the tracks, and back onto the road, thus avoiding an untimely demise.

Then he sat on the side of the road for a few minutes to calm down the shakes.
posted by Phredward at 10:49 AM on July 30, 2015


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