Project Summary
            According to the Federal Railroad Administration, derailments are the most common types of railroad accidents, and occur most often on incorrectly-set switches in switchyards.  These derailments account for over $2,000,000 in damages each year, and put many lives at risk.  If a mechanical solution could be found to prevent trains from derailing when running over "switches left foul," it could save railroads and their customers lots of money.

            This experiment tested three different types of track switches to see which had the best response to a train running through it while it was set the wrong way.  The first switch was a fixed switch, which is used on most railroads and is known to always derail trains that foul it.  The second was a spring switch, which does not derail all trains that foul it, is used on some railroads.  The third switch was engineered for this experiment and was designed to improve upon the spring switch's weaknesses.

            The three switches were fouled by a train that traveled at three different speeds and carried three different.  They were tested five times under each combination of speed and weight for a total of 135 tests.  The results were tallied and the statistical significance of the categorical variables calculated by the Chi squared test.  These results showed that the fixed, locked switch A, derailed the train 100% of the time, the spring switch, switch B, derailed it 44% of the time, and switch C, designed by the researcher for this investigation, derailed 0% of the time.  To evaluate if the test results were reproducible, the switch and speed with the most variable results, was selected for additional testing.  Using Switch B, which had variable results, at speed 3, the fastest speed, 30 additional tests were run, 10 at each weight.  The derailing rates in the second trial showed a statistical difference by <0.05.  
            From this experiment, a conclusion was drawn that railroads that experience frequent derailments might consider using this type of modified spring switch, switch C, to help prevent derailments and save themselves a large portion of the $2,000,000 per year currently being lost.

YouTube Video


Project Summary
Fill out the project summary
 and be sure to include your video or presentation.


Judges' Tips An excellent film or presentation will provide a clear, brief overview of the question you are investigating, the stages of your project, what you set out to achieve and how far you succeeded.