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On Railroad Tank Car Emergency Braking Performance

[+] Author Affiliations
Kevin J. Renze

National Transportation Safety Board, Washington, DC

Paper No. JRC2017-2245, pp. V001T02A003; 14 pages
  • 2017 Joint Rail Conference
  • 2017 Joint Rail Conference
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, April 4–7, 2017
  • Conference Sponsors: Rail Transportation Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5071-8


Crude oil and ethanol unit train derailments sometimes result in the release of large volumes of flammable liquids which ignite and endanger the safety of persons, property, and the environment. Current methods to reduce the probability and mitigate the consequences of High-Hazard Flammable Train (HHFT) derailments include operational speed constraints, enhanced tank car design/build requirements, improved car and track inspection and maintenance, and use of advanced braking systems. The train brake system can dissipate more energy in a derailment scenario if the brake signal propagation rate is increased, the brake force against the wheel tread is increased, or a combined approach is used.

This paper describes a simplified energy conservation model used to determine the emergency braking stopping distance and energy dissipation benefits available for three advanced train braking systems. A 3×3 matrix of brake configurations was defined by three brake signal propagation rates and three car net braking ratio (NBR) values. The brake signal propagation rate was modeled for trains with conventional head-end locomotive power, pneumatic car braking, and no two-way end-of-train device (CONV); locomotive distributed power with pneumatic car braking (trailing DP); and locomotive power with electronically-controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking. Car NBR values of 10, 12.8, and 14 percent were selected to reflect the expected brake force range available from older equipment in the existing tank car fleet (10% NBR) to the maximum acceptable value for new or rebuilt cars (14% NBR).

Various in-train emergency brake application scenarios for loaded unit trains were modeled while accounting for the gross effects of derailment/collision blockage forces. Empirical data from four trailing distributed power train derailment events were used to estimate an average derailment/collision blockage force (ADF) and simulate the trailing consist braking performance. The ADF results were subsequently used in a more general tank car unit train parametric study to evaluate the effects of train speed, track grade, and in-train derailment position for each brake configuration in the matrix. The simplified energy conservation model was used to 1) quantify the number of trailing consist cars expected to stop short of the derailment location and 2) compare the car-by-car energy state of each car in the trailing consist that was calculated to reach the derailment location. Results for the empirical and parametric study cases are compared graphically and observations are discussed relative to two assumed baseline brake configurations.



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