They're quite common in parts of Europe (essentially a horizontal erector-set-style steel latticework), but they take up a fair amount of track space, no doubt because of the forces that would be involved--looks like at least one car length. Some places have a pair of massive hydraulic plungers with buffers on the ends corresponding to the buffers on locomotives and cars.
litz wrote:Those might stop a car or truck fairly well, but there's a big difference between a 4500lb car, a 50,000lb big rig, and a million pounds of train.
I can picture in my mind's eye an apparatus that would be able to safely absorb the force, however, it would have to be a very large and expensive piece of machinery. You could have a large hydraulic ram with a complicated set of valves that would allow the fluid to escape at varying rates of flow depending on how much force needed to be absorbed. They are able to stop aircraft on a carrier that are landing with full throttle and afterburners running, but it takes almost a mile of heavy cable and pulleys plus the same sort of hydraulic ram. You can always build a solution to any problem, however, will it be practical, and cost effective? I think that one of the previously discussed solutions (i.e. conductor in the cab for the last few minutes of travel into a stub-ended terminal, etc...) would be much more practical.
Typically, passenger cars, (both electric and bilevel) will be taken to the HSF and brought inside for inspection, especially now that we are in winter. Regards to bumper blocks, especially at locations such as Atlantic Terminal and Port Washington or Long Beach, the purpose is to stop the train from moving forward. It is not designed to minimize damage to the trains, and truthfully, survivability of an impact with the bumper block will rely on the design of the rail car itself which should meet the guidelines set by the FRA and DOT. At this point in time, we should not have a train speeding into a terminal doing above 15 mh, but that's what happen in Hoboken. I don't think that there will be many (if any changes) to the design of the bumper blocks that already exist. In Europe, most stations I saw had simple bumper blocks but with hydraulic bumpers that would contact the buffers of the rail cars of the more standard equipment. A high speed train such as the TGV, AVE or ICE would suffer quite a bit of damage to the nose portion of the train if it were to make contact with it. Old school USA railroading simply wants to stop the train very much like a derail is there to derail the train. The assumption is the damage to the train is not as paramount as collateral damage that the train will cause when or if it does not stop where it was suppose to stop. Picture an M-7 making it through to the IRT without Belmont's former connection!!