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Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters Hardcover – September 18, 2012


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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: 9 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 38 customer reviews
If you like trains, you MUST read this book.
George
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.
Jeffrey N. Fritz
This is such an interesting book, even to someone like me, who hasn't read any physics for a long time.
Happy Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. C Clark VINE VOICE 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey N. Fritz VINE VOICE on November 17, 2012
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.
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6 of 6 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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