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Comment: All profits go to Housing Works -- NYC's largest HIV/AIDS organization. Minimal wear to cover. Pages clean and binding tight. Hardcover.
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Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters Hardcover – September 18, 2012

45 customer reviews

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Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters + Railroad Signaling + North American Railroad Family Trees: An Infographic History of the Industry's Mergers and Evolution
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Editorial Reviews

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)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421405903
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421405902
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Phelps Gates VINE VOICE on November 2, 2012
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Schuyler T Wallace VINE VOICE on November 12, 2012
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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Senecal VINE VOICE on November 15, 2012
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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. C Clark on January 24, 2013
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.
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