Putting coins on railroad tracks

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December 10th, 2010 at 3:32:06 PM permalink
EvenBob
Member since: Jul 18, 2010
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Quote: Wizard
Also, what about all those devices that flatten pennies to make a souvenir? Aren't those in violation of that law?


I used to put coins on the RR tracks near my house when I was a kid. Should I turn myself in?
"I've been around people and I've been around dogs. I prefer dogs.." Charles De Gaulle
December 10th, 2010 at 3:39:20 PM permalink
Wizard
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Quote: EvenBob
I used to put coins on the RR tracks near my house when I was a kid. Should I turn myself in?


Me too! However I did it well into my early thirties. Once I taped the coin to the track so it would get REALLY flat, but the tape didn't seem to have any effect. After the first wheel rolls over I think the coin is propelled backwards, and the tape is not sufficient to stop it. Maybe Doc, our resident physics expert, can explain.

Anyone hear that urban legend that putting a coin on the track could cause the train to derail?
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
December 10th, 2010 at 3:52:34 PM permalink
EvenBob
Member since: Jul 18, 2010
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Quote: Wizard
Me too! However I did it well into my early thirties. Once I taped the coin to the track so it would get REALLY flat, but the tape didn't seem to have any effect. After the first wheel rolls over I think the coin is propelled backwards, and the tape is not sufficient to stop it. Maybe Doc, our resident physics expert, can explain.

Anyone hear that urban legend that putting a coin on the track could cause the train to derail?


Sometimes we put 10 pennies on to see how many would remain, and none ever made it. Once some bad neighbor kids put a big chain on and it just flattened it and cut it in half. Those were the days when they shipped autos from Detroit on open cars and kids would line up on the hill and throw rocks at the new cars. Now they travel in enclosed cars.
"I've been around people and I've been around dogs. I prefer dogs.." Charles De Gaulle
December 10th, 2010 at 5:06:46 PM permalink
Wizard
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Quote: EvenBob
Those were the days when they shipped autos from Detroit on open cars and kids would line up on the hill and throw rocks at the new cars. Now they travel in enclosed cars.


No wonder the auto makers went bankrupt.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
December 10th, 2010 at 5:19:15 PM permalink
FleaStiff
Member since: Oct 19, 2009
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Urban legend for sure.

Back in the days of street cars it was common for nickles to be squashed down into quarter-sized slugs since vending machines weren't so discriminating at the time. Happened a great deal, no streetcars derailed though. The different sections of track often meet with a height difference of more than a penny-width.
December 10th, 2010 at 5:23:36 PM permalink
AZDuffman
Member since: Nov 2, 2009
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Quote: Wizard
Me too! However I did it well into my early thirties. Once I taped the coin to the track so it would get REALLY flat, but the tape didn't seem to have any effect. After the first wheel rolls over I think the coin is propelled backwards, and the tape is not sufficient to stop it. Maybe Doc, our resident physics expert, can explain.

Anyone hear that urban legend that putting a coin on the track could cause the train to derail?


Heard it on Mythbusters but seemed completely silly. For the record I put a quarter, dime, nickel, and penny on one track in my mid 20s killing time between sales appointments. The nickel was unharmed and merely was thrown from the track. Showed it to a guy at the office and he insisted it was a mint mistake. I told the guy what it was and he said, "No, it is a mis-strike." The guy was an idiot.

I think you would have to REALLY tape it down with duct-tape but I also think there would be a limit to how flat it would get since the pressure would not be increasing after the engine being the heaviest car. Think filling a cooler of ice with beer. The ice will get it to 32 degrees or so, but no longer how long you leave it in or how much more ice you add it is still 32 degrees at its coldest.
I'm Leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours.
December 10th, 2010 at 5:37:17 PM permalink
Doc
Member since: Feb 27, 2010
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Quote: Wizard
.... Maybe Doc, our resident physics expert, can explain. ...
Well, Mr. Wizard, I think we're once again getting into some careless use of terms. Way back here, I had to chastise mkl654321 for sorta referring to me as an "authority" on something or other. I don't think I can let you get by with calling me a "resident physics expert" either. Someone might ask me a serious question, and I could wind up really embarrassing myself if I tried to live up to that title. I once had a month-long energy consulting job with the United Nations Development Program in Cyprus. The official position title was "Technical Expert", and I was seriously uncomfortable with that.

With regard to a cent being propelled backward after it is squashed under a wheel, I could only apply some wild speculation. Although the coin undergoes extensive permanent deformation in that process, it probably still exhibits the customary elasticity of the metal. Once it is relieved of the stress imposed by the wheel, it probably snaps back the amount it has been elastically deformed (much less than the permanent deformation), which could cause it to jump as it comes free of the pinch. At the moment of release, backward is possibly the only direction it has available to move, since the wheel and track would obstruct forward motion. Does that seem like rational speculation? That's all I think I can offer. For better answers, check with whatever rocket scientist you know best.
December 10th, 2010 at 5:50:30 PM permalink
EvenBob
Member since: Jul 18, 2010
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Quote: Doc
At the moment of release, backward is possibly the only direction it has available to move,


I've seen enough of them, they usually just fly off the track in any direction, depending on the speed of the train.
"I've been around people and I've been around dogs. I prefer dogs.." Charles De Gaulle
December 10th, 2010 at 5:53:38 PM permalink
AZDuffman
Member since: Nov 2, 2009
Threads: 199
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Quote: EvenBob
I've seen enough of them, they usually just fly off the track in any direction, depending on the speed of the train.


I think the nickel I once put on flipped mostly forward since the train wheel caught it like a tiddly-wink piece. The others got crushed, so I would guess coin thickness would be involved.
I'm Leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours.
December 10th, 2010 at 6:07:56 PM permalink
EvenBob
Member since: Jul 18, 2010
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Quote: AZDuffman
I think the nickel I once put on flipped mostly forward since the train wheel caught it like a tiddly-wink piece. The others got crushed, so I would guess coin thickness would be involved.


I think they have a tendency to bounce, actually. If you look at it, only a very small part of the wheel is in contact with the track at any given time. Its not unlike hitting the coin with a heavy hammer, and that will make a coin bounce.
"I've been around people and I've been around dogs. I prefer dogs.." Charles De Gaulle
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