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Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters
 
 

Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters [Kindle Edition]

George Bibel
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £15.50
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Product Description

Review

Investigations of 17 accidents help show why trains crash and what those incidents can teach.

(Science News)

... an interesting read to be recommended to anyone who travels by train.

(Today's Railways UK)

Fascinating.

(Sn3 Modeler)

I would use this book in a high school science class and the book could be used as a supplement in a history class and in a math class. Actually the information presented involves science, technology, engineering, and math; it is a real world way of addressing STEM.

(Marilyn Cook National Science Teachers Association)

Bibel takes us on a journey from the fundamentals as to why trains crash, the trends through the history of railroads, through to scenarios resulting in crashes and cites many specific such cases. His approach allows the reader to immerse themselves as if they were on the accident investigation team, analysing the data from the aftermath and by interrogation of more modern equipment, such as trackside and onboard event recorders

(Tony Lemon IRSE News)

Review

Bibel takes the reader, chattily and with skill, through his analysis of a series of fatal accidents.

(New Scientist)

The author succeeds in both science and storytelling.

(Choice)

A fascinating book.

(New York Times)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4591 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (7 Sep 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0099SKJXW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #330,564 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be put off by the title 28 July 2013
Format:Hardcover
This is an amazing book well worth careful reading. If you can cope with secondary school physics, in particular the laws of motion, and the basic idea of momentum, you will gain a wonderful insight into how train wrecks can occur and how railway engineering has evolved to improve safety.

The book is up to date and, whilst mainly dealing with accidents in America, it also covers incidents in the UK and the rest of Europe. The author does not focus on the gory details of accidents but makes a CSI type examination of each incident. For the non-railway reader it gives a fascinating insight into how basic scientific principles can be applied to complex event. For the train buff it has everything.

Treat yourself and become enlightened
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The autopsy of why trains crash 10 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There are two group who buy a book of this title. There are those interested in operation and history and those who want a deep technical analysis of the construction and maintenance of railroads. This book is clearly for the latter. George Bibel covers all points in respect of the technical issues to do with what can go wrong with railroads and the actions taken by those who legislate and run the railways to improve safety. There are large number of statistics from which reseachers can gain background details, formulas and means of calculation safety margins and whilst those already deeply involved in vehicle build may find the details abreviated those on the margin will indeed find this book useful. The details on crashworthyness of passenger cars, track maintencnce, brakes, and the FRA and NTSB pressure for Positive Train Control is covered at length. In the case of the latter I remain surprised that the technology of Postive Train Seperation (as opposed to Control) is dealt with only in passing but like Mr Bibel this is badly treated by everyone - so it is hardly surprising. If there are any omissions it is the area of signalling, wrong side failures and phantoms. The only crititism I have is the rather foolish omission of the location of most of the accidents used as examples which will irritate some readers who (like me) have to then to search other lists to identify the additional details. I would also advise the author to check carefully before launching into steam locomotive boiler accidents. Read more ›
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
By-the-numbers coverage.of the subject. Excessive high school physics. Hard-core railnuts only...
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  38 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fascinating material 2 Nov 2012
By Phelps Gates - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've enjoyed Henry Petroski's books about engineering and failure analysis and this is very much in the same vein. The physics of operating a railroad are a lot more complicated than I had realized: who knew so much could go wrong! When a train has more than a hundred cars, some of which are going downhill and others uphill, around curves, with three different kinds of braking... Bibel really gives you a feel for what the problems are and what strategies have been used to solve them.

I learned a lot from this book: how air brakes work, and why they work the way they do (part of this is the result of Westinghouse's business acumen), why ballast stones have sharp edges, what "stringlining" and "truck hunting" are, and the 19th-century digital computers that made up switch interlocks, to name just a few. The book doesn't assume any knowledge on the part of the reader other than high-school physics (remember F=ma?), and even that amount of physics isn't really needed for 90 percent of it.

The book has minor editing issues: some of the sentences could be more clearly phrased, and the metrical equivalences are sometimes garbled: kilograms and kilometers occasionally get confused, as do relative and absolute temperatures: 32 degrees F above ambient isn't 0 degrees C! But these are really just quibbles. Lots of good reading for those of us who are information junkies.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly entertaining and informative 25 Jan 2013
By J. C Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am not a train nut. Heck, I don't really care about them one way or the other, though I hope never to collide with one or have one blow up my house, accidents which I am now far more familiar with. This book, which I found a tad heavy on the physics and a bit light on the reporting, was overall a very entertaining experience for his non-train guy. But more focus on the who did what when, and what happened, would have appealed to me even more.

I really liked his description of the various parts of the trains, and how they developed over the years. Brakes, wheels, communications, track, all get a brief but well-done history, with some of the more dramatic accidents caused by failures in each area described. I read with pleasure and gained a new appreciation for the work done by all the many guys who get trains from place to place. Many years ago, I knew a fellow who worked the night shift coupling trains in a yard, and he described for me in harrowing detail the ever-present calamities that he and his co-workers faced. Well, now I know that not just he, but everyone associated with trains, faces huge dangers daily. And uses a combination of skill, art and hope to get the trains to their destinations.

I do wish they had not translated every unit of measure throughout, every single time they appeared. Anyone reading knows about how long a mile or kilometer is, and all the various weights and distances just slowed me down, for no good reason. And more photos and a map or two would have been useful. But minor quibbles on a very interesting read.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Look Into Train Wrecks 17 Nov 2012
By Jeffrey N. Fritz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Let's face it--although we regret the damage, the loss of life and the injuries that they cause, train wrecks are fascinating. All that power and momentum has to go somewhere and that makes train wrecks quite dramatic and frankly interesting. We want to know what caused them, what happened due to the wreck and, happily, what can be done to prevent them from occurring in the future.

Train wrecks are fascinating. Books about train wrecks--well not so much.

Books on this subject have appeared previously. For the most part, they have tended to be dry, overly technical in detail and, frankly, boring. That's what makes "Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters" so different. Yes, there is definitely some dry scientific material contained here, but the way that George BIbel has presented the material and how he ties the facts into the bigger picture makes the material interesting and engrossing.

The book highlights the advances made in rail safety and makes it easy for the non-technical reader to understand how the different kinds of train wrecks occur. Coupling the material with actual incidents makes this even a stronger read.

You don't need to be a scientist or a train fanatic to enjoy and gain benefit from reading "Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters" and that is what puts this book several notches above the rest.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part history lesson, part physics lesson, all about trains. 16 Nov 2012
By Joshua Senecal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you're on the geeky side (or just like science) and also like trains this book could be a pleaser. I offer my 4-star rating with the understanding that it's a 4-star book if you really like trains and don't mind approaching them from a scientific or intellectual standpoint. If you don't find trains all that fascinating, don't care much for science, or are looking to be entertained then the book probably won't hold your attention.

The book's chapters each cover a particular topic that relates to railway disasters ("Broken Rail", "Moving at the Wrong Speed"). Each chapter retells several rail disasters, along with an explanation of what went wrong and how circumstances affected the outcome. Mixed in with this is an explanation of related train technology and procedure and how that technology and procedure have evolved. When applicable the related physics principles are explained, complete with equations and diagrams.

Since I love science and like but know little about trains, I had a good experience reading it. I learned quite a lot and found much of the book's content to be very interesting.

If there was anything that detracted from the book it was the writing often seemed a little fragmented and was not always clear. It just didn't flow smoothly at times. For instance, page 110 at the start of the first paragraph under the heading "Stopping a Train": "Braking is simply not a repeatable process. Microscopic examination of the steel surfaces involved shows sharp peaks and valleys. Every time a train moves over the track the surfaces are microscopically polished into different surfaces."

The sentences quoted above are awkward and the author never explains why braking is not a repeatable process; the reader is left to figure it out on their own (I think in this case he means the rails and wheels are constantly changing so you cannot get the same exact set of circumstances twice). This sort of thing wasn't enough to keep me from reading it, but it did make reading a little more of a chore.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A SCHOLARLY AND INTERESTING LOOK AT TRAINS 12 Nov 2012
By Schuyler T Wallace - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
TRAIN WRECK is a scholarly look, as the subtitle suggests, at the forensics of rail disasters. Dr. George Bibel has written and lectured extensively on both train and airline disasters and he is a well-regarded expert. I am a railroading fan and even wrote a book about a lengthy train trip. After reading Dr. Bibel's book, I know much more about the difficulties in planning and designing safety measures to mitigate disasters. Although accidents still occur, I'm okay with riding the rails because Dr. Bibel is so reassuring as to their safety.

TRAIN WRECK is not an easy read. Supposedly, high school science is adequate to understand the physics and mechanical engineering aspects in the book. I must have missed those classes because I struggled with the theories and equations that are presented. However, I did understand the complexities of how trains operate, the multitude of factors that enter into the design of railroad equipment and systems, and the improvements made to railroad systems over the years. A system such as that needed to handle the hundreds of daily trains through the maze of tunnels making up the track systems in New York City's immense Penn Station boggles the mind. One has to remember that even a little nudge by a mishandled train can produce massive damage with possible death and injury. It's not OK to make even a small mistake.

So I was fascinated by the information presented by the author. Aside from the myriad of theories and formulas that I struggled through, I was somewhat distracted by the professorial practice of adding metric equivalents in parentheses, i.e. 107 mph (172 km/h) or 22 feet (6.7 m) or 19 million foot lbs (25, 760 kJ). This convention throughout the book caused hiccups in my reading rhythm. There were also some editing and proofreading gaffes, but in the complexity of the subject matter the mistakes went by with small notice.

There is a lot of information in the book, most of which is very interesting. There is much perspective introduced that explains the economic woes always suffered by railroads. Research, design, construction, logistics, planning, scheduling, litigation, and administration are all parts of running a railroad that have huge economic impacts. But a national train system's importance to commerce and passenger service is without question. In reading TRAIN WRECK I was struck by a wreck of a different sort - the loss of our railroads due a lack of funding. While not a focus of Dr. Bibel's writing, the expense is tremendous and some mechanism for financial support must be created and maintained.

I recommend this book for the insight and intelligence it contains.

Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES
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