Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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How to derail a runaway train (and save Australia)

Most things do not do this happen as they do in the movies. Changes are less sudden, incidents less surprising, people less attractive. However, when an out-of-control move broke through the Australian Outback, the ensuing action sequence seems to have come from a Tony Scott movie.

All the confusion started when the engineer stopped the 268 four-engine car and got out to inspect one of the cars, according to the Australian Transport Safety Board. While he was on the ground (presumably distracted by giant spiders and roving kangaroos), the train did not leave with anyone aboard. Loaded with iron ore, it soon hit 68 mph. The train, which operated with metals, mining and petroleum giant BHP, traded an impressive 57 miles before the company stopped it – hurling it off the tracks.

No one was injured, although the investigators who wanted to find out why the train had even left off rated the damage to the equipment as "significant."

Runaway trains are rare and runaway trains that stay on the Lam for almost an hour are even rarer. "This is very unusual," says Allan Zarembski, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Delaware, who studies railway safety and derailment prevention.

However, it makes sense that the railway authorities needed some time to track down and derail, given the landscape of this part of Western Australia, the Pilbara, mainly for iron mining. And it makes sense that they moved four miles before the train to Port Hedlund with 14,000 inhabitants. If you crash a train, you want as few people as possible.

Regarding the derailment, Zarembski suspects that BHP has taken one of two routes. First, they may have used railroad derailments or derailment devices – relatively light steel devices that clamp to the top of a railhead. Under normal circumstances, derailleurs can be used to prevent a slow-moving train from changing lanes. However, when a train moves faster towards a derailment car, the device creates a ramp that picks up the wheels of the train and pushes the undercarriage off the track. Well, it derails.

Some derailleurs are portable; Others are firmly connected to the railway lines and can be remotely controlled if necessary. It sounds as if the latter occurred in the Pilbara – the first report of the ATSB states that the train was "deliberately derailed" at a number of points served by the control center ".

For a train that moves so fast, Zarembski says a derailment car does not do the trick. "The other way to derail a train is to cut out a piece of rail," he says. "You can go in there with a cutting torch and cut one or two feet of the rail at a turn." He estimates that the entire operation takes two cuts and takes between 15 and 30 minutes.

But they did it, the result was not nice. YouTube material claims to show the ruined debris of train and track. BHP did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but shared it Bloomberg The almost one mile stretch had been damaged by the derailment, and it will take about a week for the iron ore to be transported to the area. The shortage could lead to temporary price jumps for the raw material worldwide.

Here's a good news: The technology to prevent an extended uncontrolled train event like this already exists. Positive Train Control systems use GPS and sensors mounted on rails and rails to track locomotive movement and alert conductors and dispatchers to impending derailments or collisions. When people do not respond to the warnings, the systems are designed to automatically brake trains before something terrible turns out. Congressional legislation demanded that American rail operators introduce Positive Train Control by 2015. However, the Ministry of Transport extended the deadline to December 2018, after many had difficulties using the technology in a timely manner. According to the DOT Positive Train Control dashboard, PTC had installed only 18 out of 40 railroads on all its locomotives by July this year.

With a bit of luck, Hollywood's window of opportunity could just be closed for sweeping screen-based screenplays.

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