Weird Universe

The Anti-Collision Train

Imagine you're riding in a train, when you see another train hurtling toward you on the same track. No problem. You're on the "anti-collision train," designed by P.K. Stern of New York. It was a bold idea for improving travel safety, but it never caught on. The Strand magazine (1904) explained the concept:

A single track is used, on which railway-cars are caused to travel. Two cars are rushing towards each other at a speed of twenty-five miles an hour, so that a collision would, under ordinary conditions, be inevitable, when suddenly one of the cars runs, not into, but over the top of the other and lands on the track on the other side, where it continues in perfect safety to its destination. The underneath car has proceeded as if nothing had happened.

The cars, although they run upon wheels, are really travelling bridges, with overhanging compartments for the accommodation of passengers. Over the framed structure of the cars thus constituted an arched track is carried, securely fastened to the car and serving the purpose of providing a road-bed for the colliding car. This superimposed track is built in accordance with well-understood principles of bridge construction.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Fri Feb 01, 2013 | Number of Comments: 9
Category: Inventions, Travel, Transportation, Trains
More weirdness from the WU archive:
Listed in chronological order. Newest comments at the end.
Why, this is such a colossally simple and unique idea I just don't understand why it wasn't adopted immediately!

Ah... one question: If they're both "bridge cars" then which one gets to go up and over and which stays on the ground? Just asking, 'cause if they both try to go up and over ....
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 02/01/13 at 09:15 AM
Expat- All you need is to designate the tracks as one way up ramp and the other way down. For a dual sided sign:
Up ramp - \==/
Down ramp - /==\

I am more concerned about the steepness of the ramp. The combined speed is 50 MPH. I'm too lazy to do the math, but I am quite sure it would be an interesting flight.
Posted by BMN on 02/01/13 at 10:21 AM
BMN, I hadn't thought about the speed aspect, but you're right. Even the article says the car that goes over the top "lands on the track on the other side".

The who's on top question could be solved by having one ramp with a larger gap between it and the rails than the other has, or else have one side with a steeper ramp that thus starts nearer to the bodywork. Then, so long as the cars are never switched end for end, the one going from left to right will always go over, and the other will always go under. Or vice versa.
Posted by TheCannyScot in Atlanta, GA on 02/01/13 at 11:58 AM
Guys, the front of both cars are approaching each other so the front ends would be the same design. There'd have to be some 'human' intervention to raise one track, etc.

the 25+25 doesn't, necessarily, need to equal 50 in this case. Mythbusters thought that when they ran 2 cars into each other and found out that 50+50=50! Go figure.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 02/01/13 at 12:03 PM
"Mythbusters" theories and methods are not always correct.
This is not a collision. It is a deflection where the energy is mainly diverted, not converted. The problem here though, is you need the speed to get up the 45 degree slope of the ramp. Even though the cars are slowed, the upward momentum of the top car takes it in a trajectory with the upward velocity almost equal to it's forward speed. This means there are no wheels on the track.

Too slow = you don't get up the ramp.
Too fast = you do a nose plant.
Just Right = you won the lottery.

Also, on a curve the problem of the ramp rails matching the track rails raises it's ugly head.
Posted by BMN on 02/01/13 at 01:43 PM
This got me to thinking about my upcoming vacation where we'll be riding high speed rail. Sure glad this idea never got any traction. raspberry
Posted by KDP in Madill, OK on 02/01/13 at 02:31 PM
Sped would be a problem, but not so much as weight. I'm a former RR engineer. Any arch that steep would crush the lower car. Glad they didn't try it.
Posted by DLAW in LAS VEGAS on 02/01/13 at 03:29 PM
@DLAW - This is for you only.
Steel wheels on steel rails can only climb??? (15 degree on a perfect day?)
@expat - I haven't watched "Mythbusters" lately. On their 50+50=50, did they run a car doing 50 against a wall doing 50. Otherwise, they were just testing crumple zones.
Posted by BMN on 02/01/13 at 05:09 PM
Boy, we have a bunch of very smart engineers on this sight. I think I will keep quiet on this one so as not to display my ignorance about such things fellas.
Posted by patty in Ohio, USA on 02/01/13 at 09:16 PM
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