How Did We Get Off Track? Functional Comparison of Railroad Switch Designs and Derailments

Inventions Innovation
Lauren Hodge – USA

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, derailments are the most common types of railroad accidents, and occur most often due to incorrectly set switches. They account for over $2,000,000 in damages each year …

and put many lives at risk. This researcher tested model trains at different speeds and with varying loads using a fixed switch, a spring switch and a modified spring switch engineered for the experiment. He hypothesized that the fixed switch would derail the train 95% of the time, the spring switch 33% and the modified version 11%. After extensive testing, the fixed switch resulted in 100% derailment, the spring switch 44%, and the modified spring switch 0%. Used on actual railroads, the modified switch could help prevent derailments.

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