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Collision Safety Comparison of Conventional and Crash Energy Management Passenger Rail Car Designs

[+] Author Affiliations
Kristine J. Severson, David C. Tyrell

U.S. Department of Transportation, Cambridge, MA

A. Benjamin Perlman

Tufts University, Medford, MA

Paper No. RTD2003-1657, pp. 83-90; 8 pages
  • IEEE/ASME 2003 Joint Rail Conference
  • Joint Rail
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA, April 22–24, 2003
  • Conference Sponsors: Rail Transportation Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-3666-5
  • Copyright © 2003 by ASME


In conjunction with full-scale equipment tests, collision dynamics models of passenger rail cars have been developed to investigate the benefits provided by incorporating energy-absorbing crush zones at the ends of the cars. In a collision, the majority of the structural damage is generally focused at the point of impact for cars of conventional design. In contrast, cars with crush zones, or crash energy management (CEM), can better preserve occupied areas by distributing crush to the ends of cars. Impact tests of conventional equipment have already been conducted, which consisted of a single car and two coupled cars colliding with a rigid wall. Corresponding tests are planned using CEM equipment. This paper presents preliminary predictions of the one- and two-car CEM tests, and compares them to the results of the respective conventional equipment tests. The comparison will focus on loss of occupant volume, secondary impact velocity (SIV), and lateral buckling, as measures of occupant protection. The modeling results indicate that the occupant volume can be preserved in both the one-car and two-car tests of the CEM equipment, while 2 1/2 and 3 feet of occupant volume were crushed in the respective tests of conventional equipment. In the two-car model, the CEM design is able to distribute the crush between both cars, whereas the conventional design incurs nearly all the crush at the point of impact. The CEM design can absorb more energy without crushing the occupied area because it requires a higher average force per foot of crush at the vehicle ends. The trade-off associated with this higher crush force is generally a higher SIV for occupants in the CEM cars. Secondary impact velocity refers to the velocity at which an occupant strikes some part of the interior, in this analysis the back of the seat ahead of the occupant. The greatest SIV penalty is in the impacting car. The difference between the SIV for cars in a conventional and a CEM consist decreases in each trailing car. That is, the SIV generally decreases in each trailing car of a CEM consist, while the SIV remains approximately the same in each trailing car of a conventional consist.

Copyright © 2003 by ASME



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