EuroStar wrote:Also, remember that in an accident, the pantograph can tear off, or tear down energized wires. At 12,000 to 25,000 volts, that's no picnic, either. Apparently the car was pushed almost an entire train length up the line. Since there is no third rail in the crossing roadway, that means the SUV, being pushed sideways, would have encountered third rail end-on, which may explain why the rail was dislocated and pierced the car and the first MU.dnelson wrote:Two immediate questions come to mind: if this train was led by a typical locomotive or some sort of passenger-less spacer instead of MU cars with passengers sitting beginning directly behind the cab, would any passengers have died? If this train wasn't powered via third rail which ignited the fire, would any passengers have died? I'm not actively criticizing third rail powered MUs, but this is a horrifying number of deaths for what appears to be an otherwise typical grade crossing accident.There are multiple reasons why the leading cars have passengers: (1) you will need extra track length at Grand Central for that car (not necessarily platform, but track), (2) maintaining yet another type of car costs money (more than you think) and every timethey break and you do not have such a car as a spare you will need to cancel the train, (3) operating a non-revenue car (actually 2 of them on each end) costs money to move the dead weight back and forth (again a lot more than you think), (4) when people are crowding in the rest of the cars you will get political pressure to let them in these "spacer" cars to alleviate the crowding. The reality is that it is much cheaper and effective to grade-separate (but it is still tons of $$$ which nobody is willing to pay to get done) and then there is the NIMBY.
As for the third rail, we will need to wait for the results of the investigation. Catenary wire cannot pierce a car shell, but the standard 25kV can cause sparks and fires too if the right conditions occur. The reasons why catenary is practically exclusive in new construction are cost (most important) and height (it is out of reach of pedestrians).