Research to develop new technologies for increasing the safety of passengers and crew in rail equipment is being directed by the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA’s) Office of Research, Development, and Technology. Crash energy management (CEM) components which can be integrated into the end structure of a locomotive have been developed: a push-back coupler and a deformable anti-climber. These components are designed to inhibit override in the event of a collision. 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. These components are designed to improve crashworthiness for equipped locomotives in a wide range of potential collisions, including collisions with conventional locomotives, conventional cab cars, and freight equipment.

Concerns have been raised in discussions with industry that push-back couplers may trigger prematurely, and may require replacement due to unintentional activation as a result of loads experienced during service and coupling. Push-back couplers (PBCs) are designed with trigger loads meant to exceed the expected maximum service and coupling loads experienced by conventional couplers. Analytical models are typically used to determine these trigger loads. Two sets of coupling tests have been conducted that validate these models, one with a conventional locomotive equipped with conventional draft gear and coupler, and another with a conventional locomotive retrofit with a PBC. These tests allow a performance comparison of a conventional locomotive with a CEM-equipped locomotive during coupling, as well as confirmation that the PBC does not trigger at speeds below typical coupling speeds. In addition to the two sets of coupling tests, car-to-car compatibility tests of CEM-equipped locomotives, as well as a train-to-train test are also planned. This arrangement of tests allows for evaluation of the CEM-equipped locomotive performance, as well as comparison of measured with simulated locomotive performance in the car-to-car and train-to-train tests.

The conventional coupling tests and the CEM coupling tests have been conducted, the results of which compared favorably with their pre-test predictions. In the CEM coupling tests, the PBC triggered at a speed well above typical coupling speeds. This paper provides a comparison of the conventional coupling test results with the CEM coupling test results. The next test in the research program is a vehicle-to-vehicle impact test. This paper describes the test preparation, test requirements, and analysis predictions for the vehicle-to-vehicle test. The equipment to be tested, track conditions, test procedures, and measurements to be made are described. A model for predicting the behavior of the impacting vehicles and the CEM system has been developed, along with preliminary predictions for the vehicle-to-vehicle test.

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