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Old 02-04-2019, 09:29 PM
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Could a very heavily loaded freight train two miles away make the ground vibrate?

A couple of nights ago I was sitting with a water bottle on the table next to me. All at once I noticed that the water was vibrating inside the bottle, somewhat like what can happen when there's a mild earthquake happening. This went on for about a minute. As far as I've been able to ascertain there was no earthquake anywhere near here (Eugene OR) so I'm very curious about what could have caused that vibration.

The tracks in question aren't the main north-south route that hosts several Amtrak trains and numerous freight trains each day, but a branch line that runs from Eugene to Florence on the coast. AFAIK it is currently in use by freight carriers.

I know already know you can often hear trains that don't come any closer than that, but I'm having a little trouble believing that you can feel one from that far away.
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Old 02-04-2019, 11:30 PM
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It's possible. The ground in some areas conducts vibrations a lot better than the ground in other areas. For example, if you have stiff, clay-type soil and the bedrock is close to the surface, the vibrations will travel a good distance. If you have loose, sandy soil and the bedrock is much further down, the vibrations aren't going to go far at all.

I suspect that your water bottle is much more sensitive to vibrations than you are (in other words, you'll see ripples on the surface of the water long before you'll sense the vibrations with your own nerves). If you happen to be in an area that conducts vibration pretty well through the ground, then those vibrations can easily travel for a couple of miles and remain strong enough to be detected by your water bottle.

The vibrations could have been caused by something else, and it might be difficult to figure out what caused them, but you can't rule out the train vibration simply because of the distance.
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Old 02-05-2019, 02:46 AM
Novelty Bobble Novelty Bobble is offline
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I would imagine so. We have train tracks a couple of hundred metres away and sometimes when it is quiet and still I can feel the vibrations of the passing trains (quite light passenger trains BTW). I would think that you could a have a combination of weight and speed that is more conducive to setting up vibrations and so it may be that the train on that day was within that "sweet spot".
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Old 02-05-2019, 08:45 AM
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The soil in our area has a deep clay base. RR tracks about 3/4 of a mile away. If we've had several days of rain and the ground is saturated, the daily freights will cause noticeable vibration. When dry, no issues at all.
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Old 02-05-2019, 10:45 AM
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Definitely, I live about 2 miles away from tracks and can feel the train vibration sometimes.
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Old 02-06-2019, 03:42 AM
Philliam Philliam is offline
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Yep, where I use to live the Burlington Northern tracks ran right through our whistle-stop town. Several miles south, the north-bound trains passed over a set of 'points' and our old house on its wooden foundation blocks would give a barely perceptible bump. Since visitors would not pick up on this 'signal', one of us would check the wall clock, add 3 minutes and casually say "Well, the old 8:05 oughta' be rollin' by in a few minutes". Lo and Behold, the old 8:05 would rumble past right on time and our guests would marvel that we knew the train schedules so well. It was even more fun when there were several freights passing through of an evening - "Shouldn't the 9:53 be coming soon? Seems like that engineer's a bit slack -he was 2 minutes late Thursday before last". Ah, small town life at its finest
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Old 02-06-2019, 07:02 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fir na tine View Post
The soil in our area has a deep clay base. RR tracks about 3/4 of a mile away. If we've had several days of rain and the ground is saturated, the daily freights will cause noticeable vibration. When dry, no issues at all.
Considering where I am and the time of year this makes a lot of sense. We've been light on rain this season but there's still been more than enough to saturate the ground.



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Old 02-06-2019, 07:55 PM
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I'm a couple dozen miles from the OP, and about a mile and a half from the train tracks here. I can definitely feel when the trains go by, it occasionally wakes me up even when they don't use the whistle.
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Old 02-07-2019, 04:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philliam View Post
... Since visitors would not pick up on this 'signal', one of us would check the wall clock, add 3 minutes and casually say "Well, the old 8:05 oughta' be rollin' by in a few minutes". Lo and Behold, the old 8:05 would rumble past right on time and our guests would marvel that we knew the train schedules so well.
In the book "One-Upmanship" (1952), Stephen Potter describes the corollary for passengers on a train
Quote:
In the dark at speed I have found it possible to convince passengers that I know the position of the train by sounds. I say:

SELF: That loop of the Ouse is on our right now. (No need to say which of the fourteen Ouses you are referring to.)
PASSENGER: How on earth do you know?
SELF: That rattle of the points and then the rap as we went under the footbridge. Cobb's Corner.

Actually this patter was used against me by the dignified driver of the Coronation Scot. It was only afterwards that I discovered there was no footbridge and no Ouse.
Also:
Quote:
During dark, nod towards any small lighted window as it passes and say, "Ah, Tom's in - Tom Norris, head keeper of Lord Gravelstoke in the old days."
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Old 02-07-2019, 02:22 PM
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A loaded train can also make a phone call.

Or at least it could back in the day. My maternal grandfather worked for 60 years for AT&T back when that was the only phone company. One of his favorite detective stories concerned the time he was assigned to troubleshoot a phone line that rang several times a day but there was never anyone on the line.

Back in those days a ring was induced in your phone by a voltage change in the line. After considerable effort, he determined that the times the phone line's stray ringing was not random, but coincided with the schedule of trains on the rail line that passed by the building. Turned out the weight of the passing train would change the ground's electrical potential, and feedback up the grounding line would send a "ring" voltage to the phone.
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Old 02-09-2019, 07:02 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is online now
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Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
A loaded train can also make a phone call.

Or at least it could back in the day. My maternal grandfather worked for 60 years for AT&T back when that was the only phone company. One of his favorite detective stories concerned the time he was assigned to troubleshoot a phone line that rang several times a day but there was never anyone on the line.

Back in those days a ring was induced in your phone by a voltage change in the line. After considerable effort, he determined that the times the phone line's stray ringing was not random, but coincided with the schedule of trains on the rail line that passed by the building. Turned out the weight of the passing train would change the ground's electrical potential, and feedback up the grounding line would send a "ring" voltage to the phone.

Fascinating!


So I take it this happened only when the train was particularly heavy?
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