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@Hot Water posted:

Technically, the rail does NOT "buckle" or "kink". As the rails expand from the heating, and if the anti-creepers attached to the bottom of the rails, which contact the sides of the ties, fail to contain the expansion from the heating, then the whole track structure may move ever-so slightly out of alignment (maybe only a few inches or a few feet, depending on the roadbed). When a train at speed runs in to/on to that misalignment, derailment generally occurs, and that is why in high heat conditions, train speeds are lowered.

That makes more sense to me than potential explanations from others who have used the terms "buckle" and "kink".

@Richie C. posted:

That makes more sense to me than potential explanations from others who have used the terms "buckle" and "kink".

Well, the Railroader's term for such a condition is indeed "Sun kink", and when witnessed from the cab, there is definitely a noticeable deflection in the track, i.e. both rails. Hitting such a "wow-eeee" at speed is not something one wants to do!

Remember that Amtrak derailment some years ago in the middle of the night, out in Kansas or Oklahoma, when a farm feed truck "got loose" and rolled out of a farmers lot, across the local highway, across the bar-ditch, and ran into/onto the BNSF main track. The Amtrak stated that he saw the "wow-eeee", and applied the brakes in emergency, but at speed the train still "went into the ditch". That track wasn't all that much out of alignment, but still created a heck of a mess. Yes, the police and investigators did find out the exact cause, and one of the guys at the farm admitted that the truck "got away", but he backed it back into the yard, and didn't think any damage was done, in the dark.

@Allegheny posted:

Professor Chaos,

Since I'm a member of the peanut gallery what does that make you then?

Our journalist friend noted that the rail softened.  Blamed it on climate change.  Really?   An insane conclusion.   Thus the reaction to bring him back to reality.   

Whether the article noted it as buckling doesn't matter as the Forum journalist should have known better.  He should have done his homework first - PRIOR to blaming the accident on climate change at a ridiculous temperature of 84°F being the cause!!!!!!!!

I'm just another member of the peanut gallery of course!

Not about to debate climate change, but interestingly technical reports from England discuss an increase in heat-related failures from temperatures in the 27° C range - about 81° F.  Though many of those were signaling issues, not track expansion.  And of course English design is unlikely to anticipate summers as hot as ours.

Last edited by Professor Chaos

I'm just another member of the peanut gallery of course!

Not about to debate climate change, but interestingly technical reports from England discuss an increase in heat-related failures from temperatures in the 27° C range - about 81° C.  Though many of those were signaling issues, not track expansion.  And of course English design is unlikely to anticipate summers as hot as ours.

Your last sentence is spot on as the English are not accustomed to elevated temperatures that we have in the States.    Should it rise any higher, they may have to reevaluate what their next steps should be.

I'm glad you didn't take my remarks personally as I didn't know how to phrase it without it sounding terrible.   

By the way as a member of the peanut gallery I'm happy to share the peanuts I have with fellow members.

I run trains on the G&O garden railroad.  In direct sunlight our Atlas O gauge rail and our LGB G gauge rail gets much hotter than the ambient temperature.  In many cases the rail becomes too hot to touch.  The same thing happens to brass and diecast engines running in direct sunlight.  

I suspect that real rail also absorbs energy in direct sunlight and may be much hotter than the ambient temperature.   I am sure that the investigation will look at the rail's actual temperature in addition to the ambient temperature.  

I look forward to reading the investigation report.  NH Joe

I run trains on the G&O garden railroad.  In direct sunlight our Atlas O gauge rail and our LGB G gauge rail gets much hotter than the ambient temperature.  In many cases the rail becomes too hot to touch.  The same thing happens to brass and diecast engines running in direct sunlight.

But does it soften and melt? Plus, just how is this relevant to what happened in Montana?

I suspect that real rail also absorbs energy in direct sunlight and may be much hotter than the ambient temperature.

Yes, but it sure as h#%& doesn't soften or melt!!!

  I am sure that the investigation will look at the rail's actual temperature in addition to the ambient temperature.  

I look forward to reading the investigation report.  NH Joe

@Allegheny posted:


The world has gone through several horrific climate changes all on its own without man's intervention in the past.   As we speak, the poles of the planet are moving getting ready to flip.    When it does (1-10,000 years from now) who or what will the media blame it on?  By the way its happened before.  So its normal.

The magnetic poles are about ready to reverse as they do every 500,000 years or so, so what is currently magnetic north will become magnetic south and what is currently magnetic south will become magnetic north. The moon stabilizes Earth's rotation so our planet does not tumble as it moves in its orbit, so the physical poles themselves will remain put. It is not known how slow or quick the magnetic pole reversal will take place, but the reversal is quite fast on geologic time scales.

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/are-...ews_science_products

@Number 90 posted:

Okay, before we attempt to solve the cause(es?) of this derailment from the comfort of home, let's think about how many there could be.  These are some of the causes of past derailments of passenger trains:

  • Broken rail
  • Broken frog
  • Broken or missing joint bar and/or bolts
  • End-battered rail or low joint
  • Missing spikes, tie plates, or broken ties unable to retain spikes
  • Insufficient or washed-out ballast
  • Improper cross level
  • Excessive speed
  • Slid flat wheel building up a false flange
  • Something falling off of this train or a preceding train
  • Failure of a truck component
  • Roller bearing retainer strap missing
  • Track misalignment due to heat or insufficient maintenance, or excessive speed through turnout by a preceding train.
  • Bent, broken, or improperly adjusted point rail of turnout
  • Broken connecting rod on turnout
  • Broken wheel or wheel flange
  • Obstruction on track, especially at turnout
  • Improperly installed, maintained, or repaired signal or dual controlled switch circuitry or mechanisms.


Hi Tom:

There is one cause missing from your list.

Criminal Event.

If this is the cause the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board will turn it over to the. FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation and DHS, Department of Homeland Security.   

I took this photo at Pontiac Station this past Saturday at 6:47 PM - This was just a few hours after this crash. They’re maybe a connection. Just speculation.

2 HLS Pontiac Amtrak copy

Gary

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Another paper for those who are interested.

Journal of Constructional Steel Research
Volume 66, Issue 5, May 2010, Pages 634-647

Ultimate strength reduction factors  for different stainless steel grades from EN 1993-1-2 and Euro Inox/SCI design manual for structural stainless steel.

Steel Strength reduction

Thus, from the freezing point of water to about 120 F the tested steels loose about 0.2% of their strength.





Also, the issue of absorbing radiant energy from the Sun was brought up. Yes, steel absorbs both visible and infrared light.

Absorption wavelength spectrum for different materials: glass, metal and others.

Absorption wavelength spectrum for different materials: glass, metal and others.

Thus, because steel absorbs both visible and infrared radiation from the sun it will be warmer than surrounding air temperature. https://endurancelasers.com/ab...different-materials/

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Last edited by WBC

Of course, I was being hyperbolic for effect.  But here's how the discussion proceeded:

  • Times publishes publishes article quoting respectable expert giving his opinion that heat-induced  buckling was possible cause of derailment
  • Forum member misstates article as claiming that 'softening' was cause
  • Peanut gallery piles on about how terrible article was for citing softening and climate change, when the article says absolutely nothing about softening, climate change, or even unusual heat conditions
  • Therefore, journalism is dead, journalists don't know anything about technology, etc. etc.

At a time when we need more reliable information about what's going on in the world, I think critics ought to actually read the source before confidently proclaiming that it's utter nonsense and proves the unreliability of the media.

It’s too bad Jack’s last post was deleted. Is it that journalism is dead, or do the so called “experts” jump to conclusions without reading or comprehending what they’re driveling about? Get a drink Jack. The above sums it up.

Sam, fellow Peanut Gallery resident

@Sam Jumper posted:

It’s too bad Jack’s last post was deleted. Is it that journalism is dead, or do the so called “experts” jump to conclusions without reading or comprehending what they’re driveling about? Get a drink Jack. The above sums it up.

Sam, fellow Peanut Gallery resident

Don't know what/who you are talking about but, my last post is still there. By the way, I currently HAVE a "drink"!

@Rich Melvin posted:

A sun kink...

This is the type of track condition reportedly being focused on as the cause of this accident. How the kink (as it is known in the industry) was formed has yet to be determined. Some possible factors could be extreme temperatures, improper CWR installation, damage from outside interference such as heavy equipment disturbing the roadbed, or severe slack action from a preceding train, to name a few.

Regards,

C.J.

Last edited by GP40
@Hot Water posted:

Don't know what/who you are talking about but, my last post is still there. By the way, I currently HAVE a "drink"!

One needs a drink to try and make any sense of the absurdity of several of the comments on this thread.  There was an AP article on NPR where an expert summed it up best.  To quote:

Allan Zarembski, director of the University of Delaware's Railway Engineering and Safety Program, said he didn't want to speculate but suspected the derailment stemmed from an issue with the train track, equipment, or both.

Until a thorough review of the above is completed, the rest is pointless speculation.  At this time, the loss of life, injuries to passengers, and pain to all those personally affected seems to be where the focus should be while the people who are on the ground doing the forensics figure this out.   

Youtube had an NTSB update about 3 hours ago. They have retrieved the black box and found the locomotive and train was going between 75 and 78 mph. The allowed speed limit for passenger trains on this stretch of track is 79 mph. Additionally the train had not reached the nearest switch, so, presumably mis-aligned points would not be a cause. This would seem to exonerate the engineer......but we must wait for a more thorough investigation to be completed.

A very disheartening turn of events.

@GG1 4877 posted:

One needs a drink to try and make any sense of the absurdity of several of the comments on this thread.  There was an AP article on NPR where an expert summed it up best.  To quote:

Allan Zarembski, director of the University of Delaware's Railway Engineering and Safety Program, said he didn't want to speculate but suspected the derailment stemmed from an issue with the train track, equipment, or both.

Until a thorough review of the above is completed, the rest is pointless speculation.  At this time, the loss of life, injuries to passengers, and pain to all those personally affected seems to be where the focus should be while the people who are on the ground doing the forensics figure this out.   

Bingo.  Face it, we're all armchair quarterbacking, experienced folks and novices alike.

We're not on site, we didn't witness the derailment and any image from ground level or above can't tell us how the derailment happened.  Nor are we schooled in the investigation of transportation accidents.  That's what the NTSB is for.

Might be time to close this thread...

Rusty

Last edited by Rusty Traque

I ran across some photos of the derailment taken by local tv station from an aircraft the next day.  After looking at these photos was the first time I understood the derailment.  Missing from most photos is the rear three cars of the train. They are laying on their side about 500 feet east of the derailed cars shown on the switch. They are still coupled together.  The track appears to be up on a embankment about 8 feet above the natural ground. The cars are about 30 feet from the near rail on the south side with their trucks facing away the track. These cars had to role through about 270 degrees to get into this position. Damage to the roofs shows that the cars were sliding through the ballast when they were completely upside down. I am impressed that the couplers held together through this role.  

On the track adjacent to these cars, the gauge is spread wide with the north rail pushed nearly to the end of the ties. It appears that one or more of the trucks of the front part of the train were on the ground between the rails at this point. Clearly the point of derailment is still hundreds of feet farther to the east of this point. Looking at the google earth photos of this area shows a farm crossing some distance to the east of this point.  These dirt road crossings are always a point of concern.  

In what would have been the ditch on the north side of the track, BNSF crews have bladed a smooth work area where they are building track panels. There was probably about 400 feet already constructed when these photos were taken.  These is also a large pile of ballast being dumped.  It looks like as soon as the NTSB releases the site they are going push the existing track of the embankment and replacement it with panel track. I saw no pictures east of this point, but at 80 mph the damage to the track could extend a long way east of this point.  

The derailed cars at the turnout, east end of the siding, looked typical of what is seen when a derailed train is dragged through a facing point switch. In my opinion it says nothing about the probable cause of the derailment.   In my experience, if I were guessing at the probable cause, two things jump out.  One is that the front of the train was not derailed and the other is the rails were spread. I would be looking for a loose or broken wheel, broken axle, burnt off journal, or a piece of equipment that had fallen from under a car.  

Very tragic to lose three lives. 

The September 2021 Trains Magazine has an excellent article on broken rails "The Science of Broken Rails".   It notes that "broken rails are a leading cause of derailments".... and "the overwhelming majority are found and repaired before a derailment occurs."   The article also notes that "complicating the derailment investigation, is the fact that the point of derailment is often obscured by the pile of derailed cars."

So, given that this was a passenger train with a dozen or so cars and not a freight train with over 100 cars, if a broken rail was the cause, it would be found easier/quicker.  Some of the challenges is to find the initial broken rail,  since there are probably a lot of rails broken after the crash started. However, it was noted that the majority of broken rails occur during the winter as the cold weather causes steel to contract.

A distant second cause of derailments are various events like: journal/roller bearing failure, wide gauge, or buckled track.

It was an interesting article,  and included technology being employed to detecting rail flaws.

I have always wanted to go on the Empire Builder, this derailment is not going to derail my dream to do this trip and enjoy the sights.   

 

Bingo.  Face it, we're all armchair quarterbacking, experienced folks and novices alike.

We're not on site, we didn't witness the derailment and any image from ground level or above can't tell us how the derailment happened.  Nor are we schooled in the investigation of transportation accidents.  That's what the NTSB is for.

Might be time to close this thread...

Rusty

Why? So people don't have a right to discuss when something like this occurs? The things we discuss on this board have 0 relevance to what goes on in the real world, a lawyer can't use what we say in court, it is basically a group of people discussing something that has happened. Of course we are speculating but then again, not one word of what we write on here has any meaning outside here. When the NTSB finishes its investigation we (hopefully) will learn what they think and that will be the official word on this, till then speculation is what it is, speculation, that has the weight of a billion dollars of bitcoin.

The other thing I wonder about from a materials standpoint, this summer's weather in the area was weird, if you look at the temperatures in the area of Joplin this summer it got very hot, like into the upper 90's and 100, but they also had cool stretches way cooler than that (and obviously it gets cold at night there, can be 30 degrees or more colder at night). Could this pattern have weakened the rail, caused it to crack and it finally gave way as the train was passing over it? Yeah, it is speculation, but looking at the swings in temperature during the summer I wonder about that.

The track appears to be up on a embankment about 8 feet above the natural ground. The cars are about 30 feet from the near rail on the south side with their trucks facing away the track. These cars had to role through about 270 degrees to get into this position. Damage to the roofs shows that the cars were sliding through the ballast when they were completely upside down.

This had to be terrifying.  Thank you for this comment, this gives insight into violence of what was going on inside the cars that led to loss of life.  Such a tragedy.

@Allegheny posted:

The world has gone through several horrific climate changes all on its own without man's intervention in the past.   As we speak, the poles of the planet are moving getting ready to flip.    When it does (1-10,000 years from now) who or what will the media blame it on?  By the way its happened before.  So its normal.

Who is to say that previous climate change events were "horrific"? They were natural occurrences and are neither good nor bad.

What the heck does the Earth's magnetic field have to do with climate change? Nothing. (The magnetic poles will not flip within the next year nor are they even likely to flip within the next 10,000 years. It takes hundreds of thousands of years for the poles to reverse and there is little to no indication that they are in the process of doing so.)

Lastly, there is nothing normal about the current change in the Earth's climate. The rate at which it is occurring is entirely unnatural and it is accepted fact by the scientific community that its cause is anthropogenic. There is nothing "so-called" about it. It is horrific, because we are the root cause of the resulting destruction.

If it is found the that a sun kink caused the derailment and if the sun kink was the result of the current above average temperatures in Montana, then it is reasonable to say that the derailment was a result of anthropogenic climate change.

You are free to choose to dismiss this, but you would be factually wrong.

Last edited by Matt_GNo27
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