True Facts (Or Actual facts, Depending) Raccoon vs. Locomotive

Sometime you just have to write about stuff.

I live less than 200 ft from a railroad track and about a quarter mile from a railroad crossing. Several years ago the Canadian National Railroad purchased the tracks behind my house to use to bypass train traffic around CHICAGO. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the HUGELY increased train traffic (which is supposed to get even more huge later this year) because after the engine passes they actually don’t make that much noise. I have an issue with the train horns which sound at all times of the day and night and because I live about a quarter mile from the crossing the trains generally start blowing their horns (they call them whistles but it’s a horn to me especially at 1:00 am, 3:15am, 4:00am …) right at my house. Which brings me to the subject of the raccoon vs. the locomotive.

I was at a neighborhood meeting last night where officials from the village who after some of the usual neighborhood meeting stuff informed the audience that the railroad crossing a quarter mile from my house was finally being improved so that a quiet zone could finally be implemented and that would cut down the number of train whistles being blown AT NIGHT by at least 80 PERCENT. Why not 100 percent: animals on the track. Deer were mentioned, coyotes were mentioned and oh yes raccoons were mentioned, as a DERAILMENT HAZARD FOR A LOCOMOTIVE ENGINE, so occasionally the train engineer would need to still blow their horns. I maintained my composure as I visualized a 20 pound (fat) raccoon derailing a 200 TON (400000 pound) locomotive engine. Now having some experience in listening to BS it is my belief that this particular BS was probably relayed to the various village officials in attendance at the meeting as follows: Let me set the stage, Village officials in meeting/schmoozing with railway official. Village official: why can’t the quiet zone be quiet all night all the time. Railroad official to village official: because animals like  deer, coyotes and raccoons on the track are a derailment hazard so they have to blow the whistle. Now let’s go to the railroad officials “thought balloon”: { I can’t tell this village official that the real reason is because some of our engineers are just jerks and will blow the whistles in the middle of the night because they can. I know, I’ll say it’s animals on the track }.

At this point let’s set aside the actual physics and simply go with the spirit of the statement (aka the raccoon statement). As such I will propose the following method of derailing a locomotive engine with a raccoon.

Get yourself a nice fat raccoon (the one that’s chewing it’s way in to your attic will do just fine). Now take that raccoon and rapidly ACCELERATE it (using any convenient means) in the direction of the locomotive to 32000 meters per second (20 miles per second give or take) this will impart a kinetic energy of 4000000 kJ  to the raccoon which when it hits the locomotive should have sufficient energy to derail it.  It would be best to aim the raccoon high on the locomotives side so when the raccon hits the locomotive it will roll over (thus derailing), If you hit the locomotive too low the raccoon will not be effective in derailing the locomotive (because a 200 ton locomotive will not slide sideways while on the track) and you will have wasted a perfectly good raccoon. Now, things to consider: smaller animals require higher accelerations larger less, however raccoons are the preferred projectile for derailing a locomotive engine.  Also, if you decide to accelerate your raccoon to relativistic speeds in order to obtain the highest possible kinetic energy to derail the locomotive you may run in to time dilation issues depending on the how close your raccoon comes to the speed of light and other factors. In that case instead of hitting the locomotive the raccoon will miss because the locomotive will have long since rusted away to dust defeating the point of the exercise.

Oh well, back to the meeting at least the quiet zone will decrease the blowing of train whistles by 80 percent at night under current conditions. Now let’s see a reduction of 80 percent (now) with an increase in train traffic (later this year) by 2 or three times. I think I need more fingers to figure this out.

Train horn hell isn’t bad, if you like hell.




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