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CEM in new train cars – Metrolink’s investment likely saved lives

We are continuing our discussion of the Feb. 24 collision between a commuter train and a heavy-duty pick-up truck at a road-grade crossing near Oxnard. Of the 28 people injured, four were reported in critical condition. Earlier this week, authorities announced that one of those victims, the engineer of the Metrolink train, had died from his injuries.

The hope in every accident, of course, is that there are no injuries and no fatalities. In a wreck like this, though, when a train crashes into a truck stopped on the tracks, Metrolink officials were grateful that more people weren’t hurt. A similar accident in 2008 claimed 25 lives.

As we said in our last post, much of the credit goes to collision energy management technology. Three of the cars were part of Metrolink’s investment in cars designed to handle the force of an impact the same way newer cars do. The design is meant to keep the occupants safe by distributing the energy to other unoccupied areas of the train or motor car.

In a collision with a motor vehicle, the train will win, right? Well, not entirely. A train may be larger and heavier than the car or truck it smashes into, and its speed — and force resulting from the speed — also gives it an advantage. A train, however, cannot maneuver to avoid something on the track, it cannot choose to hit the guardrail rather than the car in front of it. The best a train can do is slow down and stop, and stopping is a lengthy process.

A train wreck is essentially a multi-car pileup, but along a straight line and with the cars traveling very close to one another. Sophisticated brake systems can only do so much to reduce the risk to passengers. CEM technology addresses the physics of the chain reaction crash.

If you have seen “The Greatest Show on Earth,” you will remember the train wreck. If you have not seen the movie, you have a few days to rent it. We’ll continue this next week.

Source: CNN, “tragedy in Southern California, officials say,” Kyung Lah, Steve Almasy and Ashley Fantz, Feb. 25, 2015

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