Subway Rails Get Bent

Posted on March 18th, 2008 by The SUBWAYblogger in Transit Failures, Video

The tracks or rails of the subway are actually supposed to flex to some degree as the trains run over them. They bow and bend slightly in response to the stress placed on them.

If they were to ridged, they would literally snap when rolled over. So they need to bend somewhat.

Well, the tracks at one of my subway stop bend a LOT! The bend down easily 6 or 8 inches when the train passes. The whole track dips including the wooden stretchers. The tracks are laid over gravel stones instead of concrete, so there’s space under neath them.

Then the train comes, they bend. There’s also a rail joint at that same spot. So when the train goes by and hits the joint, there’s a very loud bang.

I tried to get this video to show it. You can somewhat see the rail move if you look closely. In person, you can really see it.

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  1. Nick Bastian said on March 18th, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Here in Phoenix, they are installing the new lines for our upcoming Light Rail syatem.. Some morons used a torch to make some cuts in the line and we had some cracks months before the scheduled opening. Should be fixed soon and open on time though. :-)

  2. Tom McManus said on March 19th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    The Track Inspector is probably aware of this condition already, but in case he isn’t please report it to New York Transit. Use the survey marker on the column ( the yellow sign with the numbers )in your video and the track #. On the I.R.T. The tracks are numbered as follows, Downtown local is track #1, Dt exp #2, Up town exp #3 and up town local #4. On the lettered lines it’s D/t local #1, D/t exp. #3 up town exp #4 up town local #2. Customer complaints get handled faster than you would think. While this situation may not be an emergency, it still needs attention. Good looking out.

  3. Leon said on March 19th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    This happens all the time. im surprised no trains ever derailed yet

  4. Flapjacks said on March 26th, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    I think it’s actually an optical illusion caused by the traction power shoes, which are blocking the line of site between you and the rail. If you look at a train passing by from the other platform enough, you’ll think you’re seeing it everywhere.

    The only way to actually tell if it’s bending a lot is to be closer to the level of the tracks so that the traction power shoe isn’t blocking your line-of-site.

    There used to be a place where you could kinda do this — the back of the uptown local platform on the 1 train at 59th street. The east-side rail of the downtown express track would bend a bit into the ballast when a train went on it. But since then, the MTA has replaced the pebble ballast with concrete and there is no bending.

  5. The SUBWAYblogger said on March 26th, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    No no, it is defininately flexing a ton. The wooden beams drop 6 inches.

    This is the exact place you are talking about. It’s still gravel over there, not concrete. The downtown express track bed has been replaced with concrete. But from the uptown 1 platform, you can see the uptown express track. It is that uptown express track that is still “pebble ballast” and bends like hell.

    I think there’s space under the pebbles that the wooden blocks drop into when the weight of the train passes over it.

  6. Scott said on November 5th, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Was there a stopage or halt to the Uptown 6 train service tonight in NY around 11pm or so? I heard that there was a police investigation somewhere down the track line and that hundreds of people were stranded inside the train for almost an hour. I think they said train was stopped around 86th st. Can anybody confirm??

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  38. N Subway Train Detrailed at 57th Street said on May 4th, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    [...] it’s not really a huge shock.  I posted this video over a month ago about a section of track at 59th street that sags 6″ or more when the train passes over it.  [...]

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