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Train vs. Tornado. Guess who wins!
July 10, 2009 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever wondered what happens when a freight train drives through a tornado? Let me show you (2:01 SLYT)
posted by P.o.B. (122 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Allow me to be the first to say: WHOA. Dammit.
posted by jbickers at 7:22 PM on July 10, 2009


Two big thumbs up! Reminds of the circus train crash in that old Burt Lancaster pic... But this one's real!
posted by Faze at 7:24 PM on July 10, 2009


Fartin' heck!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:24 PM on July 10, 2009


Have you ever wondered what happens when a freight train drives through a tornado?

Not since I was 11. Sadly.
posted by anti social order at 7:28 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


So let me see if I have this straight: trains don't actually stop for tornadoes?!?
posted by JaredSeth at 7:28 PM on July 10, 2009


That was scary.
posted by nola at 7:28 PM on July 10, 2009


Here's the circus train crash clip ("From the Greatest Show on Earth").
posted by Faze at 7:30 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


holy shit!
posted by weezy at 7:30 PM on July 10, 2009


Wow - just when you think it's done, you see that the rest of the train isn't stopping..
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:30 PM on July 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


Allow me to be the first to say: WHOA.

dammit!
posted by davejay at 7:30 PM on July 10, 2009


It's like watching a spammer trying to drive his cash-gifting self-link freight train FPP through the tornado of MetaFilter. The comments pile up and the thread derails into a careening, broken mass until the invisible, silent force of Cortex smites it with the resounding voice of No, This Shall Not Be.
posted by mattdidthat at 7:34 PM on July 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


JaredSeth: Trains don't stop. It's more like a very gradual, ponderous consideration of possibly slowing down perhaps sometime in the next couple of minutes and after that a sort of casual yet earnest deceleration but only just a little bit and then maybe if we're lucky we can see about coming to a halt after a mile or two.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:36 PM on July 10, 2009 [32 favorites]


that video is a whole lot of one hundred and thirty two percent awesomeness.
posted by localhuman at 7:38 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. I had five bucks on the train, but then I usually root for the underdog.
posted by wendell at 7:38 PM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, AzraelBrown had my reaction, too:

"Heh. Well, that was fairly interesting. What a mess. But, you know, now that it's over, I wonder why they were filming this toWHOA! WHOA! STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP...holy shit. Dude."
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:41 PM on July 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Have you ever wondered what happens when a freight train drives through a tornado?

Actually... yes. No kidding, I really have. So now I know. Thanks!

Also, note to self: when a bunch of train cars derail, get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, because some more will be coming along very shortly.
posted by FishBike at 7:43 PM on July 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


Sir Topham Hatt is going to be cross! Better send out Harvey with the breakdown train!

/Fazed has good headlines
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:43 PM on July 10, 2009 [17 favorites]


Why was there a camera running?
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:43 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why was there a camera running?

A lot of locomotives around here have cameras on them for post-accident investigation purposes. They are recording all the time. This is probably the shot from such a camera, on a rearward-facing locomotive with others in front of it. That's my guess, anyway.
posted by FishBike at 7:47 PM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow! Tornado:1, anything man-made: 0
posted by nonspecialist at 7:50 PM on July 10, 2009


Flying cows would have made that a better movie, but geez, that was neat.
posted by heyho at 7:55 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


that'll buff right out
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:58 PM on July 10, 2009 [25 favorites]


Yeah, n'thing the experience of "wow, well that was rough, hoo boy... holy! ARGH! more train coming! Yikes! Whats in that tank car?!?! AIEEEEEE WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! ... oh... phew... wow, that was rough..."
posted by Reverend John at 7:58 PM on July 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


it's hard to tell, but it looks like it crossed a few cars back? and then the main car got dragged off the track. and then I guess the front carriage stopped? (hence second collision)

pretty cool. this is the closest i've felt to being in a die hard movie for a really long time...
posted by puckish at 7:58 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


closest i've felt to watching a die hard movie, too!
posted by puckish at 7:59 PM on July 10, 2009


I don't often get all "HOLYSHIT!" over youtube videos, but hell if that one didn't get me good!
posted by orme at 8:00 PM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


i've been in a few car crashes. you know that feeling where you've lost traction and you're all, "whelp! not much to do now but ride it out and see what happens!"

x1000%
posted by klanawa at 8:02 PM on July 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Along similar lines, there is this train vs. train video. Note the signal changing from green to red as the oncoming train blows past the red signal on the other side of the switch, where it was supposed to stop.
posted by FishBike at 8:03 PM on July 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


BNSF Installs 2,000th Locomotive-Mounted Camera

"The cameras capture circumstances and events that lead up to grade-crossing and train/pedestrian incidents and confirm that train crew members took the appropriate action. The confirmation may be used to help defend BNSF train crew members who are on occasion sued as a result of such accidents."

(My brother is an engineer with a different railroad. They all think the cameras are there so the railroad can fire them.)

Incidentally, while most individual locomotives do have a distinct front and rear, they commonly operate in both directions, and often engines are doubled up on larger trains. Essentially, this is a nose-mounted camera that was incidentally facing backwards.

Oh, and because my brother is an engineer, I'm not showing this video to our mom.
posted by dhartung at 8:03 PM on July 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


That freight train had it coming.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 8:05 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another thing they're using the locomotive cameras for here is to get the commuter trains moving again sooner after somebody jumps in front of one. When they've got video showing it was clearly a suicide, they don't need to shut down the line for hours and hours to conduct an extensive accident investigation.

Sadly, it's a frequent enough occurrence that the extensive delays did actually matter.
posted by FishBike at 8:08 PM on July 10, 2009


Wow! I kept saying 'stop! stop!" when I saw the rest of the train still coming. Good thing it didn't totally take the engine out. That was wild!
posted by garnetgirl at 8:09 PM on July 10, 2009


Um, I'm not the kind of person who normally asks this sort of question, but was anybody hurt?
posted by Evangeline at 8:13 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Turns out CGI is more realistic than I thought.
posted by fshgrl at 8:14 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heavy metal, but apparently not heavy enough.
posted by gallois at 8:15 PM on July 10, 2009


Looks like several project I've been involved with
posted by mattoxic at 8:15 PM on July 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


So I went to High School with the fellow who posted this on youtube (Mike Senese). Turns out Mike made something of himself and is hosting a show on the Science Channel, which sadly we do not get here. Well done Mike!
posted by Big_B at 8:16 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow. It's like watching a major trainwreck.
posted by dobbs at 8:16 PM on July 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


That clip was a total waste of time for the first 1:20 seconds, then it got way cool. Or I miss something in the first minute?

Also, I can't believe they cut the CGI budget so badly in FishBike's link that they went back to bluescreen.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:17 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cinders and Ashes!
posted by tayknight at 8:19 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Very cool. Thanks.

How trains stay on their tracks (via kottke).
posted by starman at 8:20 PM on July 10, 2009 [21 favorites]


Or [did] I miss something in the first minute?

Yeah, the backstory.
posted by bz at 8:20 PM on July 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, I'll be the first to admit disappointment. Perhaps I'm jaded thanks to the incredible house-lifting power displayed in The Wizard of Oz or the cow-flinging majesty of Twister. I wanted to see that train fly.
posted by graventy at 8:33 PM on July 10, 2009


I was amazed at how well that tank car took the collision there near the end. We're so used to seeing anything tank-like in movies automatically containing incredibly explosive substances that blow the hell up at the slightest provocation. Cool video.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:35 PM on July 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'd always heard that tornadoes sound like freight trains. Now we know why! There's a real train inside each one of 'em, people!
posted by darkstar at 8:38 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've "lived" through a tornado. I've always been amazed at how incredibly focused, but erratic, their paths of destruction are. I remember the first vividly. I was almost 4 years old, riding in the family car on a back country road with my parents. The tornado came up behind us. My mother was screaming for my father to go faster as, apparently, the trees were falling across the road behind us. What I do remember particularly was a howling noise, the rattle of hail, branches, and debris pelting the vehicle, not to mention the very real pain of my mother crushing me. As the tornado moved on, of the dozens of trees if left on the road, one was about 20 yards behind us and another about 5 yards in front. It wasn't until that evening that a rescue crew, who were very surprised to find a perfectly intact car and family amid the destruction, cut their way to us. Odd stuff.
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:43 PM on July 10, 2009 [25 favorites]


Typical. Most people only go to train vs. tornado events to watch the crashes.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:58 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


That clip was a total waste of time for the first 1:20 seconds

I loved the first minute and a half, actually. Watching the weather gradually grow worse, knowing all the while that the titular tornado was looming somewhere off screen, built up a tension that could only be adequately resolved by seeing the train get FUCKING BLOWN AWAY

BY WIND
posted by voltairemodern at 9:00 PM on July 10, 2009 [13 favorites]


Oh, and since we're in the area of trains-vs-weather, usually they do pretty well against snow, but sometimes...

(And if you want to see how well stuck they got, check out related video 4/5 for a quick look at how many locomotives still couldn't extract the plow. They had to dig it out.)
posted by FishBike at 9:01 PM on July 10, 2009


Brief backstory
On January 7, 2008, a fierce tornado producing up to 160 mile-per-hour winds blew across two northern Illinois counties. The twister was unusual for two reasons: First, the temperature and weather conditions were more typical of a midwestern spring than mid-winter. And second, the storm blew 12 railroad cars off the tracks.
Story about tornado on NOAA
posted by purephase at 9:06 PM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


My first thought was "no way can a tornado pick up a train" I thought it would be to heavy, but I guess it makes sense that the engine would be way heavier then the train cars (which did get knocked off).
posted by delmoi at 9:07 PM on July 10, 2009


I loved the first minute and a half, actually. Watching the weather gradually grow worse, knowing all the while that the titular tornado was looming somewhere off screen, built up a tension that could only be adequately resolved by seeing the train get FUCKING BLOWN AWAY

The only problem was Youtube's "related" feature had a thumbnail for another video titled "Tornado vs. Train: train loses." which was actually the same video retitled, and therefore a spoiler.
posted by delmoi at 9:08 PM on July 10, 2009


What's shocking is how fast it unfolds: The first hint of real trouble is at 1:09 when you hear the brake valve trip into emergency, followed by the lead car going over- which was dragged off the rails by the initial derailment somewhere back in the train- you can see several cars pretty far off the rails. The first car blown over was probably something along the lines of an empty boxcar- high profile and a nice sail area. (It's not unknown for empty boxcars with a door left open to get caught in Midwestern winds and take unplanned journeys of several miles along a main line.) I see one such candidate on its side right after the covered hopper behind the engine slews away.

Notable, also, is how well the couplers held it together, the (front half of the) train stopped very quickly indeed dragging 1000 tons of freight cars on their sides in the dirt.

The 'second section' (heh) of the train, led by the partially derailed tank car, is in emergency braking, but the front half of the train stopped so quickly that it still had a lot of roll left in it when it got up to the engines. When the 86-foot boxcar slews sideways and stops, there are still cars behind it moving, we just can't see them.

Imaging being the engine crew up front, facing the other way, when the train grinds to a halt faster than you've ever seen a train stop... then the sound of all that metal behind you. I'll bet the second impact knocked them out of their seats.
posted by pjern at 9:19 PM on July 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


Sure, it starts out train versus tornado, but, at the end, it's really train versus train, in the same way that The Bridge Over the River Kwai seems to be Man v Nature, but is really Man v Himself.

Yes, I'm sucking the fun out of it. Let me go on to say that The Bridge Over the River Kwai is the template for all disaster films, in which, rather than follow one protagonist, we instead follow several, whose lives are in crisis, and whose lives resolve, or end, with the disaster. This is also the template for The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, except that there is no disaster.

Anyway, back to the original subject: Now I want to see train versus volcano!
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:25 PM on July 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Er, Bridge On.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:27 PM on July 10, 2009


Wait! Over is the book, On is the movie!
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:27 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The scary part is that it was only an F3.
posted by Ugh at 9:28 PM on July 10, 2009


That being said, of course, I am actually talking about The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

DRUNK!
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ten extra points* to Astro Zombie for the Bridge on the River Kwai reference and analysis.




*Points may be redeemed at the front for more booze.
posted by darkstar at 9:35 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mostly unrelated in the sense it relates not to tornados or trains, but does relate to machinery doing things that are physically remarkable: Check out this video of the brakes connected to the anchor mechanism of a merchant ship failing during a test. I mean, that's some heavy, heavy, and very fast moving metal!
posted by lazaruslong at 9:39 PM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


starman: "Very cool. Thanks.

How trains stay on their tracks (via kottke).
"

I thought this was going to be a video with trains and graphics and shit. I was tickled to find that it's just a 2:30 video of Richard Feynman sitting in a chair like my grandpa, telling me about train physics.
posted by peep at 9:44 PM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Metal.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:53 PM on July 10, 2009


So I have a crippling fear of tornadoes and severe weather. It was always pretty bad but last year my car got struck by lightning when my husband and I were driving home and since then I've been a little more... jumpy. A couple of weeks ago I had a nice panic attack when the tornado sirens went off at nine in the morning, which in my opinion shouldn't even be legal. Severe weather should be in the afternoon where it belongs.

This is just to say that I watched that video and then figured out that it was filmed less than thirty miles from where I live. So that's not helping the old phobia any.
posted by sugarfish at 10:01 PM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Michael Bay is expressing interest in this as a plotline for an upcoming film.
posted by elmer benson at 10:02 PM on July 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


The first hint of real trouble is at 1:09

For me the first hint of real trouble is between about 0:45 and 0:55 when the treetops go from being completely still to perpendicular to the ground.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:07 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


i *knew* this thread was gonna be (about) a total trainwreck!
posted by mwhybark at 10:08 PM on July 10, 2009


I am actually talking about The Bridge of San Luis Rey

It's about faith vs fate
posted by stbalbach at 10:09 PM on July 10, 2009


Wait. There is no Tom Waits song?
posted by darth_tedious at 10:09 PM on July 10, 2009


sugarfish: "This is just to say that I watched that video and then figured out that it was filmed less than thirty miles from where I live. So that's not helping the old phobia any."

Oh sugarfish, I feel for you. I grew up in Northern an Southern Indiana and watched several of the April '74 twisters along the Lafayette horizon, the snake-fingered hand of god scratching the soil of the plains. My sister developed a huge twister phobia overcome, um, by transferring it to airplane flight. So, um, I feel for you.
posted by mwhybark at 10:11 PM on July 10, 2009


Choo choooooooooooooooooooooo
posted by phaedon at 10:12 PM on July 10, 2009 [18 favorites]


So let me see if I have this straight: trains don't actually stop for tornadoes?!?

Trains don't just up and stop for much of anything. You have to plan stopping a good ways in advance -- a 100+car train can take over 2 miles to bring from 55 mph to 0.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:12 PM on July 10, 2009


Oh shit -- well that wasn't so bad, some of the cars blew off, but -- Oh Fuck My Life...
posted by dirigibleman at 10:21 PM on July 10, 2009


My most beautiful of spouses has exactly* three phobias; centipedes, heights, and tornadoes.

So when she came to me just now and said there was a video on Mefi that I needed to see, I had no idea that you all were going to be feeding her nightmare material for the next year or so.

She has these terrible dreams, see. So I spun what I saw, and then, I have to explain that the train cars were taken away by happy leprechauns, not an evil wind that lives in our neck of the woods.

I'm pretty convincing when I need to be, but she has doubts.

And when we watch the footage again, and I reveal that the freight cars are not crashing because the three cars in the middle were just whisked away, but that the tanker loves the engine and wants to be close to it, she is just not believing me.

In the end, I think I have to admit; she might be right. Tornadoes are kinda scary.

*; I think it's pretty likely that there are a bunch more phobias locked away in there. Details to follow...
posted by quin at 10:23 PM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Great, I spent time watching some of the related videos which may as well have been titled "Death to Douchebags: You are going to lose to the train."

But the linked video here is amazing. I saw that tank car coming and thought "now the shit is really flying."
posted by maxwelton at 10:28 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This problem could be solved by making outriggers like a Polynesian canoe or making catamaran trains. Except trains are already sort of catamarans so it would have to be double catamaran trains.
posted by Iron Rat at 10:55 PM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Their skulls collide! The tornado's remains the victor.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:56 PM on July 10, 2009


It would have been cooler still if the tornado had just ripped through a chocolate factory and the freight train was hauling peanut butter.
posted by mazola at 11:02 PM on July 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't understand, with the driver honking on his horn like that the tornado had plenty of fair warning to get out of the way.
posted by mhjb at 11:37 PM on July 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


My 3 year old wanted to watch that again, and again, and again. I think it was at least as much for my reaction each time as for her to watch a train fall over.
posted by nonspecialist at 11:40 PM on July 10, 2009


That's a lot more visceral than most of the egghead posts on thishear blog bro!! WHHEEEEE ?HA?HA
posted by Twang at 11:44 PM on July 10, 2009


Interestingly, an article in Time about a similar thing in 1931 ends with "the 77-ton locomotive alone had held the rails".
posted by mdoar at 11:45 PM on July 10, 2009


That train wreck? Yeah, I dated her.
posted by Mojojojo at 3:33 AM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I flagged this post as derail.
posted by the latin mouse at 3:50 AM on July 11, 2009 [16 favorites]


So the scared-of-tornados types should keep something in mind when watching this: At the time the train got hit this was a relatively weak tornado. Very weak; possibly just north of 110mph winds which would put it on the high end of moderate damage or the very low end of considerable. So what you saw is what happens when a baby tornado hits a train.

If an F4 hit that sucker the train cars would probably have been picked up a little bit and flown a little further. The engine would almost certainly have been rocked, I dont have any idea if it would have derailed.

God help the train if an F5 hit it.
posted by Justinian at 4:08 AM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


For reference, ths google latlong page is the best page you'll likely see (if we're lucky) to illustrate the damage from an F5 tornado. Because the tornado walked across Greensburg, Kansas. And Google Earth had high resolution imaging of the town before the tornado destroyed it which means they can make exact comparisons.

If there was a crater you'd think a tactical nuke or a moderately sized meteor hit the place.

The train wouldn't have stood a chance.
posted by Justinian at 4:17 AM on July 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Irv, cleanup in aisle three.
posted by digsrus at 4:29 AM on July 11, 2009


C'mon everybody, sing along...

This traaaiin is bound for gloryyyyy, this traaaaiin!
This traaaiin is bound for gloryyyyy this - OH SHIT!
posted by The Deej at 5:41 AM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


...to illustrate the damage from an F5 tornado. Because the tornado walked across Greensburg, Kansas.

Damn. What do you do when that shit comes calling? Just die, I suppose.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:12 AM on July 11, 2009


Cool video.
If you look closely to the right of the mayhem, you can see what appears to be supports that indicate that, at the point where the cars get launched, the train is passing across a trestle of some sort, possibly to pass over a creekbed or something.

This very probably exacerbated the situation, allowing the extreme uplift forces to get under the train, making the defeat of gravity much easier.

Living in the midwest, you learn to be alternately impressed/fascinated/respectful of tornadoes.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:43 AM on July 11, 2009


After pictures from FishBike's train v train link.
posted by acro at 7:26 AM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm glad I didn't see this before I rode my motorcycle across the Plains last month during all that tornado activity. Very glad indeed.
posted by scratch at 7:36 AM on July 11, 2009


Yes, it blends!
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:18 AM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder what the engineers did. I can totally see myself coming to a halt, instinctively taking my seat belt off to look around, and then getting slammed by the second half of the train.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:34 AM on July 11, 2009


instinctively taking my seat belt off to look around

Unless things have changed since I sat behind a throttle, there are no crew seat belts.
posted by pjern at 8:51 AM on July 11, 2009


I look forward to Train Vs. Tornado II: The Revenge
posted by mahke at 9:35 AM on July 11, 2009


I live by a number of wind turbines used for generating electricity. You know, the BIG ones. I've been asking people I know who are informed of such things what would happen if a tornado hit one of the turbines. Either no one knows or no one wants to tell me. Hmmm.
posted by bristolcat at 9:59 AM on July 11, 2009


For some reason, I kept reading tornado as tomato and I couldn't figure out what the hell was going to happen. Was it going to be a model train plowing through a tomato? A real train driving through a giant tomato? Tomatoes raining from the sky, pummeling a speeding train?

I was confused, but not disappointed.
posted by zerokey at 10:03 AM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Um, I'm not the kind of person who normally asks this sort of question, but was anybody hurt?

I was curious to find out some more info, so I looked it up on the FRA page:

DERAILMENT on Jan 07 2008 Union Pacific RR Co. [UP ] RR Report 0108PR004

Involving FREIGHT TRAIN at 3 :47PM
Locos(Total/derailed) 4/1 in Illinois Union Pacific RR Co. [UP ] Track Maintenance RR
Cars(Total/derailed) 22/12 County of MCHENRY
Speed 032 Eqp Dmg $338,964 Near or in LAWRENCE

HAZARDOUS MATERIAL
1 cars carrying hazmat 1 damaged/derailed 0 cars released 196 people evacuated

....................Track information....................
Main Damage $654,786 Milepost 64.7 FRA Class 4 Total Casualties: 0 Deaths and 0 Injured

....Method(s) of operation ....Cause(s)....
Automatic block
Extreme environmental condition - TORNADO
Track warrant control

APRPRB-07 DERAILED UNIT UP9452 AND THE NEXT TWELVE CARS DUE TO A HIGH WIND BURST, DUE TO A POSSIBLE TORNADO.

posted by smackfu at 10:15 AM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fun facts -- a typical empty freight car weighs 50,000 to 80,000 lb, comparable to a loaded tractor-trailer; a loaded freight car typically weighs 150,000 to 200,000 lb. And locomotives typically weigh 300,000 to 500,000 lb, enough to overcapacity many rail scales designed for weighing the cars. And a typical train has 50 to 100 cars. Which is why you do not fuck with trains. Unless you are a tornado.
posted by localroger at 10:33 AM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]



Unless things have changed since I sat behind a throttle, there are no crew seat belts.


I grew up 200 ft. away from a set of very rural tracks in the last few years of a rapidly declining coal-belt railway system. I (you don't want to hear this) would hop trains to town, play in empty cars, collect coal and coke along the tracks for our coal burner (gotta watch that coke), and generally walk miles of railroad a week during the summer. There were few things I wanted more as a boy than to see inside a locomotive and I was pretty shaken up to see that they had removed all the track and trestles of my youth.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:17 AM on July 11, 2009


I think the point of that was that being a locomotive engineer where I came from was like being an Apollo astronaut....very, very cool and they weren't accepting new applications.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:18 AM on July 11, 2009


So the scared-of-tornados types should keep something in mind when watching this: At the time the train got hit this was a relatively weak tornado. Very weak; possibly just north of 110mph winds which would put it on the high end of moderate damage or the very low end of considerable. So what you saw is what happens when a baby tornado hits a train.

Oh, thanks, yes. That is very helpful, if by very helpful you mean DEAR GOD I'M JUST GOING TO STAY IN MY BASEMENT FOREVER.
posted by sugarfish at 11:56 AM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


According to the report that smackflu posted, the locomotive we were watching from was derailed, but remained upright, it looks like. Just under $1,000,000 damage.
posted by maxwelton at 12:16 PM on July 11, 2009


This is one of those times when you be 100% sure from the title that it will be a complete thread of a trainwreck.
posted by oaf at 12:29 PM on July 11, 2009


Google Earth had high resolution imaging of the town before the tornado destroyed it which means they can make exact comparisons.

The old satellite photos are still up on Google Maps. The Google Street View car, however, clearly drove through afterward. Note that the little man is facing a building.
posted by oaf at 12:45 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks, I hadn't tried the street view stuff, oaf! Interesting to see what it looks like more recently.

I think I still prefer the google earth satellite comparison if only because it's not clear from the street view whether things are missing because the tornado removed them or because they were bulldozed afterwards. Of course the sheer scale of the empty spaces tells you something about the damage either way.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 PM on July 11, 2009


Justinian: The sheer scale of the empty spaces

This is what impressed me about the Lower 9th Ward when I returned after Katrina. I also spoke to an old customer whose family founded the wiped-out town of Biloxi, MS, who told me he had stood in the former downtown area and been able to see both the mainland and the ocean and both ends of the island, and that he was probably the first person to be able to do that since nobody but Native Americans lived there.
posted by localroger at 1:47 PM on July 11, 2009


Loved the train v tornado vid, but the real gem of this post was the link to the Feynman video(s!). Thanks!
posted by DU at 2:52 PM on July 11, 2009


I was all like "whoa, that white tanker car is gonna stop - looks like its slooooo..... HOLY SHIT!"
posted by Jeremy at 4:38 PM on July 11, 2009


FAKE


(hehe, always wanted to do that on metafilter)
posted by newfers at 4:48 PM on July 11, 2009


unrelated but dramatic, via a youtube link or two:
Eventually we did make contact with a ship (on the radio) and we told him what our situation was, and so he says to me 'You know, what rank are you?'. 'I said 'I'm not a rank, I'm a guitarist'.

Wikipedia: The sinking of the cruise ship Oceanos

Stagebeat Music Shop (Farnham, Surrey):
...
Moss and his bass player wife Tracy performed with bands, trios & as a duo, & Moss also performed solo. Plus they spent more than a decade entertaining aboard many cruise ships around the world (two of which sank while they were aboard - The Oceanos in 1991 and The Achille Lauro in 1994). Moss also worked as a sound engineer on various studio & live projects.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:04 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


For all its faults, Youtube is good at showing related disaster videos once you get to one of them.
posted by smackfu at 7:34 PM on July 11, 2009


So if the locomotive is 3 to 5 hundred thousand pounds, and it was derailed, how do they get it back on the rails - cargo helicopter? Specialized train tow truck? Tow train?
posted by birdsquared at 8:36 PM on July 11, 2009


Giant fucking cranes.

I used to build railcars. The tank car that comes crashing in? Since the front truck (pair of axles) is gone, it's probably sliding on a skid mid-car that I designed (the skid protects the unloading valve). It's made to be able to support a 286,000 lb, fully loaded tank car going *across* a set of rail. You know, if the car goes sideways. I always had a mental image of a tank car derailing, but to actually see footage...fuuuuuuck.

(incidentally, regular tank cars are 3/4" thick walls. *Pressure* cars, made for LPG, are, if I recall, 1 1/4" thick. Bad ass chunks of steel.)
posted by notsnot at 9:51 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


So if the locomotive is 3 to 5 hundred thousand pounds, and it was derailed, how do they get it back on the rails...

In cases where it's not too far off the rails, they can use a small ramp device (a re-railing frog) and just drive up that to get back on the rails. There's another YouTube video showing this in use. It's 10 minutes long, actual re-railing action starts around 4:30.

Also here is a series of pictures showing the recovery from another derailment, complete with the aforementioned crane. Surprisingly not that giant-looking, since they don't have to lift the locomotive very high. A giant-er one would surely be needed for a locomotive that tipped over, though.
posted by FishBike at 6:16 AM on July 12, 2009


See (/hear) also: Runaway train with engineer on board.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:51 AM on July 12, 2009


Came across this today; you can stream train radio transmissions: http://www.railroadradio.net/content/view/123/173/
posted by figment of my conation at 9:24 AM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


It didn't look like it was slowing at all even as the rain and wind picked up...I would think that a tornado would constitute emergency stop conditions (e.g., stop within 3/4 mile??) but who knows. Seems like the damage would have been much less severe if the train was moving slower or was stopped.
posted by arnicae at 10:28 AM on July 12, 2009


Oops
posted by MuffinMan at 12:35 PM on July 12, 2009


Just goes to show, you can't be too careful.
posted by niles at 2:19 PM on July 12, 2009


Wow. It's like watching a major trainwreck.

Wonder what it would look like if we ran Britney Spears through a tornado?
posted by bwg at 1:20 AM on July 13, 2009


bsg, I think Britney's tornado was called "puberty."
posted by localroger at 5:02 AM on July 13, 2009


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