I know that ever since the clearance was boosted on that famous 3.35 m overpass in Durham, North Carolina, many of you may have despaired that the days of enjoying big helpings of can-openery schadenfreude were over. That’s not the case! There are still plenty of low-bridge disasters to enjoy, like this painful sardine-can-opening of a whole bunch of rail cars carrying road-going cars inside, which happened in Memphis last Sunday.
It’s also a good reminder of how long it takes a train to stop. Here, watch the pain:
It’s strangely satisfying to watch how that corrugated roofing just accordions up under the bridge, ripping pretty cleanly off the auto-carriers below.
The accident is interesting, and pretty telling about some of the realities and difficulties of modern rail transport. You’d think that all of these conditions — height of the train cars, clearance height of the bridge — would be known prior to sending the train onto a route that would end up doing damage like this. There are precautions like these in place, advanced train dispatching systems that have interfaces like this:
At some point, though, there must have been bad data about either the height of the train or the clearance of the bridge. Or there was some other failure of the system, since trains don’t tend to grow taller, and bridges (generally) don’t sink lower.
The end result of this mess is that this train, with cars marked both Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific Railway, sustained more than $US2 ($3) million worth of damage, most probably not in the cheap corrugated metal train car roofs but rather to the cars inside the train:
Looks like some new Ford Explorers in there, some Lincoln Nautiluses — this must be a Ford transport train.