We recently watched Unstoppable…a movie about a runaway train incident.  It was based on a real train incident.  You kinda laugh at the technical inconsistencies in a movie where you’re familiar with the field.  Ridiculously large needles in medical situations or telneting to an email address.  But since I know nothing about trains, I asked my uncle, who’s a train engineer, how realistic Unstoppable was.  In case you’re interested in trains, he said,

It was VERY unrealistic. The way they used the brake valves while “driving” didn’t make any sense.  You never slide the wheels like that and make all the sparks. If you did, that would “lubricate” the rail with molten metal, and wouldn’t help you slow down. The large handle the engineer kept “pumping” is the automatic brake valve. It operates the brakes on the cars, which had none! Going all the way to the right with it puts the train into emergency mode. Until the air pressure charges back up, you have no air braking capacity. They kept doing going to emergency, then releasing, then back to emergency several times. If you really did this, you’d be in trouble because you’d have depleted all the air pressure needed to apply the brakes. The “independent” brake valve operates the engine brakes. They kept stressing to alternate between dynamic braking and power braking at the same time. You can’t do that. It’s one or the other. The recommendation to do this by the FRA guy didn’t make any sense. The relationship between the old heads and the new hires was overdone, it’s not that bad and we work under a seniority system anyway.  All in all, it was a fun movie, but without the pounding musical score, it wouldn’t have been nearly as nerve wracking!

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