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Train Wreck

, 368 pages

19 halftones, 101 line drawings

August 2012



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Train Wreck

The Forensics of Rail Disasters

Trains are massive—with some weighing 15,000 tons or more. When these metal monsters collide or go off the rails, their destructive power becomes clear. In this book, George Bibel presents riveting tales of trains gone wrong, the detective work of finding out why, and the safety improvements that were born of tragedy.

Train Wreck details 17 crashes in which more than 200 people were killed. Readers follow investigators as they sift through the rubble and work with computerized event recorders to figure out what happened. Using a mix of eyewitness accounts and scientific explanations, Bibel draws us into a world of forensics and human drama.

Train Wreck is a fascinating exploration of• runaway trains• bearing failures• metal fatigue• crash testing • collision dynamics• bad rails

George Bibel is a professor in the School of Engineering and Mines at the University of North Dakota and author of Beyond the Black Box: The Forensics of Airplane Crashes, also published by Johns Hopkins.

"Bibel takes the reader, chattily and with skill, through his analysis of a series of fatal accidents."

"The author succeeds in both science and storytelling."

"A fascinating book."

"Investigations of 17 accidents help show why trains crash and what those incidents can teach."

"... an interesting read to be recommended to anyone who travels by train."


"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."

"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"

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