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 service loads. Push-back couplers (PBCs) are designed with trigger loads meant to exceed the expected maximum service loads experienced by conventional couplers. Analytical models are typically used to determine these required trigger loads. Two sets of coupling tests have been conducted to demonstrate this, one with a conventional locomotive equipped with conventional draft gear and coupler, and another with a conventional locomotive retrofit with a push-back coupler. These tests will allow a performance comparison of a conventional locomotive with a CEM-equipped locomotive during coupling. 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 coupling tests of a conventional locomotive have been conducted, the results of which compared favorably with pre-test predictions. This paper describes the results of the CEM-equipped locomotive coupling tests. In this set of tests, a moving CEM locomotive was coupled to a standing cab car. The primary objective was to demonstrate the robustness of the PBC design and determine the impact speed at which PBC triggering occurs. The coupling speed was increased for each subsequent test until the PBC triggered. The coupling speeds targeted for the test were 2 mph, 4 mph, 6 mph, 7 mph, 8 mph, and 9 mph. The coupling speed at which the PBC triggered was 9 mph. The damage observed resulting from the coupling tests is described. Prior to the tests, a lumped-mass model was developed for predicting the longitudinal forces acting on the equipment and couplers. The test results are compared to the model predictions. Next steps in the research program, including future full-scale dynamic tests, are discussed.

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