Faulty Train Linkage Causes Massive Injuries

Mechanical EngineeringThis case takes place in Florida and involves a man who suffered injuries while unloading a train car. The man was standing on the juncture between two train cars when the cars suddenly began to pull away from each other. There were locking devices between the two train cars that were supposed to maintain the linkage while the man was working. In this instance, the linkage mechanism broke when the train began to pull away unexpectedly. It is alleged that the lock system was faulty, and the unexpected departure of the train caused the plaintiff to suffer serious injuries.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please briefly explain you experience working with similar train equipment to the pieces in this case.
  • 2. Do you have knowledge of the complications and dangers from a faulty linkage system?

Expert Witness Response E-010099

I am familiar with these linkage systems. There are various designs and each has a functional variable. Some are designed into a complete linkage locking system, others are restraint systems only. There are static and dynamic factors involved, and of course loads vary significantly. Some of these devices have warning systems of various designs, which provide feedback to train operators and train yard workers as to the current condition of the system, and if the linkage is properly locked or not locked. If a holding device failed due to sudden acceleration (shock load) of the vehicle, as seems to be the case here, I would have to look at a few things to determine exactly how and where the failure occurred. This would involve the use of several different techniques: Finite Element Analysis could show the load capacity of this particular device, and of course documentation about the device’s specifications would further shed light on exactly where the failure occurred. I could easily ascertain proper design of this system, so strength of the system and materials in this particular system would be important. A failure of this nature is unacceptable, since this is exactly the kind of dangerous situation that these locking mechanisms are used to prevent.


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