Oblivious Locomotives

For some reason, engine drivers in movies are sometimes so preoccupied that they sleep right through the craziest events. In the recent Sherlock Holmes movie, for example, a train is riddled with machine gun fire, set on fire, and subjected to explosions…and yet on it rolls merrily.

In Back to the Future III (IIRC) the time machine is leveled by a freight train, and yet the train keeps moving even though it’s sounding its horn furiously before the crash.

What’s up with that? And any other examples?

In ye olden times steam locomotives were so incredibly noisy that I could believe the Holmes scenario. But for the end of BTTF:III you just had to suspend disbelief. There’s no way that train wouldn’t have stopped asap. Only reason they got away with it was since it was at the very end of the movie, if you’d hung on that long you’d forgive that (rather enormous) transgression…

Don’t forget Stand by Me, where there’s no sign the short mixed freight even attempts to slow for the boys trapped on the trestle.

If a locomotive engineer notices a car or person on the tracks several hundred feet ahead, isnt it futile for him to try to slow down or stop before hitting the person? It takes a freight train traveling at 30 mph over a half mile to come to a complete stop. That’s about two minutes after the obstacle on the track has become toast. Leaning on the horn is about the only thing the engineer can do.

Even if you’re guaranteed to hit someone, you’re going to want to hit the brakes ASAP since it’s not as though you want to stop three towns down the line. “Oh, hey, FYI I hit a kid about ten miles ago.”

Yeah, if someone is on the tracks you pretty much hit the brakes, distance or not. The feds will want to look at the record.

To answer the OP, I once saw a train dragging a telephone pole by snagging some loose wires somewhere. It was happily bouncing along leveling everything it hit. The engineer did not know it. :eek:

Don’t stand near the tracks. They’re not kidding about that.

I didn’t mean to imply the engineer won’t put the brakes on as soon as he sees someone on the tracks. But of course, the train is still going to keep moving a great distance. I’m addressing the OP and post #3. The train takes so long to come to a stop, it won’t be noticeable that the engineer is bringing it to a stop as quickly as he can. It doesn’t mean the engineer is being oblivious to the danger.

What, you want the engineer to stop and ask the guy why he is shooting at him?

In Silver Streak, the engineer doesn’t notice a thing … until Big Bad busts in on him.

That’s the whole plot of Stand By Me, though. The kids are looking for the body of a guy who was hit by a train, and the engineer didn’t stop until he got to the next town. Not sure how realistic that would have been.

For the Sherlock movie, I think the train crew had been suborned (or murdered) by Moriarty’s mercenaries. The train was under his control, and it didn’t stop because he didn’t want to give Holmes the opportunity to escape.

Could be the train was so heavy & fast that it took until the next town for it to come to a full stop?

Could be - but then, the same would apply to the train that almost hits them on the trestle.

I heard from someone that worked for a railroad that the conductors were told that in this situation NOT to attempt to slow down. It was cheaper to hit the person at 25mph and kill them then hit them at 10 mph and maim them.
They’d rather payout one time settlement then make a lifetime of disability payments.
Whether or not it’s true, I don’t know, it’s just something I heard.

I would think that much mass would kill you at any speed.

Going slow enough it would just push the car out of the way as opposed to launch it 10 feet in the air and 25 feet away from the track.

I think the concern is that when it pushes it out of the way, it’s going to break the person’s legs or collapse their ribcage or blind them. It’s still not going to be a nice gentle movement.

I do think “Oblivious Locomotive” would be a good band name. Maybe a folk band.

So hey, in some movies it’s possible the train DOES stop, just way, way off-camera.

Why was my first reaction to this post “oh, cool! I want to see that!” Completely wrong, of course.

Except: “We’ve traced the bullets…they’re coming from* inside* the train.” But fair point.

Completely plausible, and in parallel to something that happens earlier in a restaurant.

I did think that. :slight_smile:

Well, again speaking in terms of movie logic, maybe the engineer was slowing down some as well as blowing the horn. Looking at it from a modern perspective it didn’t seem unusual to me that, as long as he didn’t *actually *hit them, an old '50s train driver wouldn’t stop just because he scared a couple of kerchief-on-a-stick carrying ragamuffins who weren’t supposed to be on the damn bridge to begin with! :smiley:

I must say I’m scared by the movie logic that seems to have been adopted by some of the posters in this thread. When an actual engineer sees a person or vehicle on the track, he puts the train into emergency. And prays.

I’m assuming that Mr Downtown is correct about the engineer’s actual actions. But just on this mention of payouts–fatality or not, why would the railroad be liable for anything for running into somebody who was on the track?