The Office of Research, Development, and Technology of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Volpe Center are continuing to evaluate new technologies for increasing the safety of passengers and operators in rail equipment. The results of vehicle-to-vehicle override, where the strong underframe of one vehicle, typically a locomotive, impacts the weaker superstructure of the other vehicle, can be devastating. Crashworthy components which can be integrated into the end structure of a locomotive have been developed to inhibit override in the event of collision. Recent research has resulted in the development of a design concept, including evaluation with finite-element analysis (FEA), fabrication, and component tests. The design concept developed incorporates two key components: a push-back coupler and a deformable anti-climber. Detailed designs for these components were developed and the performance of the designs was evaluated through large deformation dynamic FEA. Test articles were fabricated and dynamically tested to verify their individual performance characteristics. The tests were successful in demonstrating the required performance of the components. Test results were consistent with finite element model predictions of energy absorption capability, force-displacement behavior, and modes of deformation.
Work is ongoing to retrofit these crashworthy components onto conventional locomotives and conduct full-scale dynamic impact tests of colliding cars, as well as colliding trains. Service tests will be performed to measure the impact speed at which push-back coupler triggering occurs. Vehicle-to-vehicle tests will be conducted to demonstrate the performance of the crashworthy components working together as an integrated system. The vehicle-to-vehicle tests will also allow an evaluation of the crashworthiness compatibility of a modified locomotive with a range of equipment, including conventional locomotives, cab cars, and freight cars. Train-to-train tests are planned to demonstrate incremental improvement, increased crashworthiness, compatibility, and serviceability.
This paper describes the tests that are planned to demonstrate the behavior of these components when they are integrated into the end structure of a locomotive. The tests will demonstrate the in-service and crashworthiness performance of the modified locomotives. This research program endeavors to advance locomotive crashworthiness technology and develop the technical basis for generating specifications for push-back couplers and deformable anti-climbers.