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Wind Restrictions or Disasters on Trestles?

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  • Member since
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  • From: Portland, Oregon
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Wind Restrictions or Disasters on Trestles?
Posted by Attuvian on Friday, January 31, 2020 11:13 PM

One of our club members posted a photo of one of his switchers atop a very tall trestle on another club layout where he was a guest.  I've always thought of trestles as rather precarious fixtures, regardless of the weight of the engine(s) and train crossing them.  Then I recalled seeing old video of a significant number of cars littered in the water and along a causeway at Sandusky, Ohio that were toppled by heavy winds. (Apparently the location is notorious for this kind of thing and there are local route restrictions in place that occasionally go awanting.)

Anyway, is there a history of wind-related misadventures on trestles - in particular - and how were/are such dangers dealt with?

(I grant that this might be more appropriate for a Trains forum or the like, but this one is where I reside.)

John

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, February 1, 2020 1:10 AM

Now a days, during violent weather where high winds are possible certain trains will be stopped.  No matter if on a trestle or not.  Intermodal and empty coal hopper trains come to mind.

Many high bridges where wind gusts can be a problem are protected in some form.  There will be an anemometer which is connected to a signal, often a continually lit light with a sign stating it's purpose.  A high gust of wind causes the light to go out.  If there is an automatic block system in effect it'll be tied into the ABS.  It may also sound a warning in the dispatcher's office or the nearest continuous open railroad office.

The CNW's Kate Shelley high bridge in central Iowa had an intermodal train that had some trailers blown off it back in the 1980s during a severe thunderstorm at night.  I forget how many went over, but one contained Nike tennis shoes.  Another had Uzi submachine guns.  All the Uzis' were found and accounted for.  They said they found tennis shoes along the Des Moines River for months afterwards. 

I talked to the rear brakeman of that train, now deceased, who told me about it.  He said they were instructed to move their gear up to a trailing engine and cut away from the derailed cars and keep going.  He said the conductor was really nervous about crossing the bridge during the storm in the dark.  Once they got to the other side, the conductor thanked the brakeman for holding his hand as they crossed.  It kind of helped calm him.  The brakeman told him he hadn't been holding his hand, both of his were carrying his bags.

Jeff

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  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, February 1, 2020 2:16 AM

Attuvian
Then I recalled seeing old video of a significant number of cars littered in the water and along a causeway at Sandusky, Ohio that were toppled by heavy winds.

That sounds like my YouTube video? Yes

Small world... I recall there were signals since installed that are supposed to restrict train movements during high winds.

 

Then there's this:

I recall some double stacks were tossed into the Susquehanna River off the PRR's Rockville Bridge, AND the B&O's bridge in Perryville, too. 

Then —

The ever popular January, 2008, tornado that derails the train in Illinois:

I believe the UP has strings of loaded hoppers just west of Denver, maybe in other places too, on a parallel track which act as wind barriers.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, February 1, 2020 7:19 AM

Wow Ed, that's crazy!  all those Triplecrown trailers!  ( first video) what a huge mess, must have took forever to clean up, and all of the lost product!

You took this?

Mike.

 

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Posted by dehusman on Saturday, February 1, 2020 8:21 AM

Its not really trestles per se that are the problem, its any place there are high straight line winds.  Wyoming, Colorado, West Texas, places in Utah.

The railroads have wind detectors to detect high wind velocities and the weather service contractors predict high winds and alert the dispatchers.  The dispatchers then check the blow over speed of the cars on the train and if the wind speeds are higher than the blow over speed, they will stop the trains.  Engines and loaded tank cars have blow over speeds in excess of 100 mph.  A double stack with two empty containers can have a blow over speed of 55 mph.

Stopping the train doesn't keep the cars from blowing over, it just makes the pile smaller.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by dehusman on Saturday, February 1, 2020 8:25 AM

There is a network of weather stations that feeds into the "Mesowest" system that takes wind information from thousands of sources, weather stations, airports, landfills, railroad detectors, highway department detectors, chemical plants, etc.  Anybody that has some sort of feed.  It is run by the University of Utah.

https://mesowest.utah.edu/

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by John-NYBW on Saturday, February 1, 2020 8:47 AM

This isn't directly related to the topic but I've always been curious about the practice of having fire barrels of water on wooden trestles. I've read about stories of trestles catching fire and being destroyed by an ember from a passing steam locomotive. My question is how would such a fire be detected in time to save the trestle. If the ember just smoldered,  even the rear brakeman in the caboose would be unlikely to detect a fire starting. Was there someone stationed at each trestle to inspect it for a possible fire after each train passed?

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, February 1, 2020 10:13 AM

mbinsewi
You took this?

Yes. I used to frequently visit a friend in Indiana. At one time Amtrak was a convenient method to travel and I would ride #43 and #44, since curtailed to Pittsburgh, between Cleveland and Waterloo, Indiana.

On the return trip I managed to shoot this out the car window. I seem to recall talk of "microbursts" or some such weather phenomenon. The Triple-Crown cars were empty and others had very light commodity (bread or crackers?) and since they were just resting on the trucks the wind was able to flip them off the causeway.

I believe there was talk of the high wind signal system not in service at the time, maybe something overlooked in the Conrail/NS transition?

As I recall.

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by Attuvian on Saturday, February 1, 2020 10:34 AM

Not surprised that there are modern, technological means to mitigate these types of occurrences. Not so generations ago, when both engines and cars were lighter - but the trestles, bridges, and winds were just as high. Being a train crewmember then was not for the faint-of-heart. And for far more than exposure to unexpectedly high winds!

Of couse, it's not just here in North America.  There's plenty of dizzying viaducts in Europe and elsewhere.

I remember a monologue by a now elderly and rather out-of-favor comedian. In it he spoke of being a kid that was afraid of travelling over bridges.  Whenever he would have to go over one he would hum.  When asked about this odd behavior, he told his elders that it kept the bridge from collapsing - and that it worked very time! 

John

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Posted by dehusman on Saturday, February 1, 2020 11:12 AM

The majority of blow overs do not occur on bridges.  They happen on regular old track in high wind areas.  A common place is when the railroad runs along a stream or river and there is a canyon that intersects the railroad the wind is funneled down the canyon and hits the tracks/train broadside.  In the case of a bridge its not the "bridge" that causes the train to blow over, its that its over a canyon that funnels the wind.  Its not the height of the bridge as much as the size and shape of th canyon it crosses.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by davidmurray on Saturday, February 1, 2020 5:50 PM

Some highway bridges also are closed in high winds to keep transport trucks from blowing over.  The Burlington (Ontario) to Hamilton and Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island come to mind.  High winds and flat sides cause problems.

Dave

 

David Murray from Oshawa, Ontario Canada
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Posted by NittanyLion on Saturday, February 1, 2020 8:12 PM

dehusman

Its not really trestles per se that are the problem, its any place there are high straight line winds.  Wyoming, Colorado, West Texas, places in Utah.

 

I've personally witnessed an RV roll over in the flat parts of Ohio and two FedEx trucks go over in narrow valleys in Pennsylvania and Maryland mountains. Just need a good crosswind. 

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