Third Rail Hazards

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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby MattAmity90 » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:26 am

Just a little something from my childhood regarding third rail danger. My favorite cartoon Ed Edd'n Eddy. Teaching him about static electricity, he went overboard by popping bulbs and sapping all the electricity in the house to where he glowed and created a suction vortex. He pulled him in, touched him, it zapped him and shorted out the neighborhood when his house exploded like a transformer.

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Zappity Zap ZAP!
This station is Babylon, this is the train to Penn Station. Stopping at: Lindenhurst, Copiague, Amityville, Massapequa Park, Massapequa, Seaford, Wantagh, Bellmore, Merrick, Freeport, Baldwin, Rockville Centre, Lynbrook, Valley Stream, Jamaica, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Woodside, Penn Station.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby RGlueck » Mon Dec 25, 2017 9:53 am

Then there's always "Ren and Stimpy's" favorite board game.
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"Don't Whiz on the Electric Fence!"
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby MattAmity90 » Mon Dec 25, 2017 10:02 am

I remember that, watched it as a kid as always. Funny thing is when Ren whizzed on it, the house blew up!

Then the Mythbusters tested the myth that you could get zapped and die if you whizzed on the third rail. Only way that is possible is if you are literally at the third rail!
This station is Babylon, this is the train to Penn Station. Stopping at: Lindenhurst, Copiague, Amityville, Massapequa Park, Massapequa, Seaford, Wantagh, Bellmore, Merrick, Freeport, Baldwin, Rockville Centre, Lynbrook, Valley Stream, Jamaica, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Woodside, Penn Station.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby Triaxle » Tue Dec 26, 2017 6:09 pm

MattAmity90 wrote:It may only be 750 volts, but the amps and current that kill you. In this case 750 volts of DIRECT CURRENT! With the speed of our trains, we have high safety fencing, and even though we still have 293 grade crossings (including one branch where we fully grade-separated it in phases from 1950-1980) most of them are in diesel territory.


It requires less than one amp to create a fatal shock. The high amperage available from the 3rd rail does make it possible for an unfortunate person to actually be cooked, should the current path to ground be good enough. The 3rd rail is located near both the Earth and a handy steel bar connected to Earth via thousands of concrete ties.

There was at one time a law prohibiting grade level electric hazards - no 3rd rail where the public could stumble over it, and a no trespassing sign was not considered a true barrier.**
IMHO, that law should have stayed in force. I was, err, shocked to see 3rd rail at ground level when I first got to New York, and more shocked to see it at streets around the end of the Rockaway line that kids could walk right up to. People who did not grow up around such a hazard do not expect it. LIRR thoughtfully includes a gap large enough to fall through at most of their stations, and conveniently places the 3rd rail on the platform side in places.

** I believe that grade separation was considered enough barrier; one instinctively does not want to climb down from a subway platform to the dark, obviously lethal track in a subway, while at ground level it seems reasonable when you can see a half mile either way.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby Head-end View » Tue Dec 26, 2017 9:34 pm

Triaxle, the platform gaps you mentioned are actually slimmer than some found on other railroads like SEPTA and NJ Transit/Amtrak. Though admittedly those systems do not use third rail. But it just annoys me to hear people badmouthing LIRR for its platform gaps, when other railroads in the Northeast have similar or larger gaps.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby MattAmity90 » Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:16 am

I believe that all stations along the Northeast Corridor, even the ones in catenary powered territory should have high-level platforms to prevent any track hazards. There are a few stations that have the third rail under the platform (Penn Station, Hicksville, Babylon, Ronkonkoma, Jamaica, Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn, Boland's Landing, and every termination in electrified territory except Huntington).
This station is Babylon, this is the train to Penn Station. Stopping at: Lindenhurst, Copiague, Amityville, Massapequa Park, Massapequa, Seaford, Wantagh, Bellmore, Merrick, Freeport, Baldwin, Rockville Centre, Lynbrook, Valley Stream, Jamaica, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Woodside, Penn Station.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby D Alex » Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:35 pm

You know, until the 50's (or even the 60's in Washington), there were streetcars in both Manhattan and Washington that ran on a 600v DC third rail IN A SLOT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET. Not certain how many got zapped by them, but that system existed for at least 50 years before being abandoned.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby Head-end View » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:52 pm

I for one, did not know that. I thought all trolley cars in America always ran from overhead wire. Learn somethin' every day.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:59 pm

A bit OT, but Wikipedia has a good article under Conduit Current Collection describing the process whereby a car en route from central Washington to an outlying destination would stop over a "plow pit" where an employee in the pit would remove the conduit plow and the motorman would then raise the pole against the overhead wire which began at that point, no doubt making sure the plow was removed and the employee in the pit was in the clear before placing the pole against the wire. Talk about third rail hazards ...
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby ErnieM » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:44 pm

D Alex wrote:You know, until the 50's (or even the 60's in Washington), there were streetcars in both Manhattan and Washington that ran on a 600v DC third rail IN A SLOT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET. Not certain how many got zapped by them, but that system existed for at least 50 years before being abandoned.

That was done in the name of safety, and was a good move.

After a series of dreadful electrocutions on overhead power lines (especially when these shorted to low voltage telegraph lines) with gristly pictures in the newspapers NYC passed law forbidding all overhead wiring. So down below grade level it all went.

The trolley center power feed slot was an insulated slot well below the street. I suppose someone may be able to poke a metal object in there and do themselves in but I do not know of any incidents like this, thought they may well exist.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby bellstbarn » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:54 pm

I rode all the postwar conduit lines of the Third Avenue Railway System in Manhattan and most of the conduit mileage in Washington. Only in Washington do I recall newspaper stories of problems, generally a plough getting caught in the slot and a small fire erupting. The photo or photos I saw showed the PCC a distance ahead of the damage, as if the plough had been ripped off. As I recall the forties in New York, a major concern was road salt getting down the slot and causing a short. The worker who went into the plough pit had a nasty job in heat, cold, dirt, and danger. It was sometime in the late fifties that D.C. Transit motorized the pulley for the pole, but that still left the worker down under the street.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby artman » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:13 pm

Back when I was around 9 or so I touched the third rail on the West Hempstead Line with the knuckle of my thumb. On purpose, because I reasoned it couldn't be really be THAT bad, because if it were, people wouldn't be able to touch it, right? (kid reasoning). I got a little burn on my knuckle, but that was it. I still wonder to this day why it wasn't worse.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby MattAmity90 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:36 pm

artman wrote:Back when I was around 9 or so I touched the third rail on the West Hempstead Line with the knuckle of my thumb. On purpose, because I reasoned it couldn't be really be THAT bad, because if it were, people wouldn't be able to touch it, right? (kid reasoning). I got a little burn on my knuckle, but that was it. I still wonder to this day why it wasn't worse.


Don't do that, and I hoped you learned your lesson. Only reason you got burned was because you weren't touching a running rail and you tapped it. Probably the fact that the third rail on the West Hempstead Branch doesn't have that much juice. DON'T TOUCH!
This station is Babylon, this is the train to Penn Station. Stopping at: Lindenhurst, Copiague, Amityville, Massapequa Park, Massapequa, Seaford, Wantagh, Bellmore, Merrick, Freeport, Baldwin, Rockville Centre, Lynbrook, Valley Stream, Jamaica, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Woodside, Penn Station.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby artman » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:49 pm

MattAmity90 wrote:
artman wrote:Back when I was around 9 or so I touched the third rail on the West Hempstead Line with the knuckle of my thumb. On purpose, because I reasoned it couldn't be really be THAT bad, because if it were, people wouldn't be able to touch it, right? (kid reasoning). I got a little burn on my knuckle, but that was it. I still wonder to this day why it wasn't worse.


Don't do that, and I hoped you learned your lesson. Only reason you got burned was because you weren't touching a running rail and you tapped it. Probably the fact that the third rail on the West Hempstead Branch doesn't have that much juice. DON'T TOUCH!


I'm in my 50s now (and still just as contrarian), but I have no plans to repeat my earlier stunt.
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Re: Third Rail Hazards

Postby Morisot » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:56 pm

When I was about that age I stuck a knife in the toaster (the pound cake I was toasting was stuck). No burns, but the jolt threw me across the room slamming me into the opposite wall. I remember sliding down the wall, wondering how I got there! Don't Do That!
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