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Thursday, 16 March 2017


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That's why locomotives still have cowcatchers on the front. The Seattle version of this is pedestrians standing next to the street during a downpour, and then shrieking with terror and running (too late!) when a passing truck soaks them by driving through standing water.

Mike wrote, "The woman in the foreground is apparently unaware of the world around her until the last seconds."

My take is that she was making a video as well.

I know next to nothing about trains but I would fault the engineer (train driver?) for driving so fast through the snow next to a platform filled with people.

It's an Airbus ...

Summary of work: construction, branding and on-site flying of a radio controlled Airbus A320 slow flying model with a 5 meter (16 ft) wingspan.


Humans are certainly inventive when it comes to ways to earn a living.

Quite a few years ago, about half a dozen of us were out on our motorcycles and we managed to get into one of the pair of airship hangers at Cardington, near Bedford. They housed the R100 and R101 airships.

When we were there, ultralight model aircraft were being flown around inside the hanger. Constructed from simple wire frames with some sort of thin polymer (I think) stretched over them like a soap bubble, they progressed around the still air of the hanger, propelled by relatively huge wire frame and polymer propellors that turned very slowly.

We also saw a set for part of a medieval castle that looked most convincing until we looked round the back to see the wooden framework.

Now, one of the hangers is used by film companies and huge sets are built there.

Kirk Tuck would have set his white balance before cleaning the lens.


My local weather blog has a followup.

It sounds like it was intentional (Amtrak was using it as a plow), that several people were knocked to the ground, and there was at least one minor head injury.

That still leaves the question of why Amtrak allowed passengers onto the platform if they were planning to do that.

@stephen Waiting for the train is a boring non-event, as risk prone as watching paint dry and just a tiny bit less exciting. It's the opposite of an impact zone, more like the zone-out zone.

Except, obviously, this time. But then again, probably more impact occurs when people fall asleep while holding an ebook reader in bed.

I hope nobody got hurt, it's really nobody's fault not paying attention to an incoming train, while waiting on the platform.

Oh, one thing - an approaching train doesn't make much noise. Additionally, the snow considerably silences everything, and the flying snow is also next to silent. The people who did not happen to look at the incoming train didn't notice anything until the snow came down on them.

I totally agree on the frustration that arises from a lack of follow-up. That's been bugging me for years.

That said, I have a few things to add about this video (of the train and the snow). First, if you look closely, you'll see that the woman with the phone doesn't actually have her nose buried in her phone. You can see by the way she's holding it that she's actually taking a photo or video of the train. (Observe her motions as the train approaches, and how she holds the phone straight up, in a plane perpendicular to the ground.)

Second, here is another video that shows the event in "real time" and slow motion, plus a real-time clip at the end from a different bystander who was standing a bit farther back. You can see that there were actually three people shooting photos/video of the train (including, presumably, the creator of the original slo-mo video).

You can see that the snow seems to have knocked people over. Hopefully no serious injuries.


I'm pretty sure the woman in the foreground was just getting video of the train's arrival (as were at least two other people visible in that clip). A quick look at that clip on YouTube yields a couple of others of the same event:

This is not crowdsourced reporting this is "a cool video". It doesn't pretend to be reporting. But like you I'd like to see a video of the aftermath.

I notice several people anticipate the issue and move out of frame to the right as the train arrives. There's at least one guy with a coffee who does this.

The two women in the foreground are videoing the event. Ah, social media and photograph. People get injured or killed doing all sort of "cool shots". They're both aware of the snow and the train arriving. Both have their smartphones out and pointing towards the train (and both are videoing vertically ... FFS).

So a back of the envelope calculation ...

People always underestimate the weight of water. It's 1 tonne per cubic meter (or 62 pounds per cubic foot). Imagine that now. A 1 cubic meter or 1 cubic yard block right next to you. That's as heavy as a small car but a bit softer. Now imagine a one meter cube 5 meters (16 feet) above your head. When it drops on you it'll hit you at about 20 mph. Umph.

Snow density (though it varies a lot) is typically about 1/10 of liquid water for fresh powdery snow. That's 100kg per cubic meter (or 6 lbs per cubic foot). I suspect this snow is a bit denser as it's packed down over a couple of days but not too much.

The train is about 2.5m wide and the platform is 1.2m above the top of the rail (and the snow overtops the platform by about 0.3m) so that's about 3.75 cubic meters of snow in each meter of platform (or 41 cubic feet per foot). About a third of a tonne of snow per meter and the train ploughs through, say, 10 meters or so (a nice round number).

The train moves about three tonnes of snow into the air at perhaps 20 mph (10m/s) (you can see it moves ahead of the train). Perhaps 1 tonne of that lands on the platform. I wonder if that much snow might have an impact if some of it hit someone? It has about the same momentum as FIFTY 100kg (220lb) guys walking at 4mph. Imagine a guy like that walking into you when you didn't expect it.

If you look closely before the the images is whited out the women in front get hit by a wave of snow and is visible pushed by it before she disappears into the snow. I suspect she ended up on the floor but wasn't hurt but may have been a bit surprised. A bit like getting walked into by a fluffy linebacker.

Another way to phrase this might be: would you stand under the eves of a house roof with a 1 meter of snow that would fall about 5 meters (two story house would do) onto you. That would be a similar sort of impact.

Water. It's heavier than you think. When it moves it has more momentum that you think, too.

The aircraft model is an Airbus: see the wing fences on the underside of the wing. That's a very characteristic mark for IDing Airbus versus the "clean wing" Boeing aircraft. I live under the approach to SeaTac (SEA) and do this all the time.

Check also the cockpit windows shape, the lack of a fin extension, the fuselage projection beyond the fin, the flat top at the rear of the fuselage.). All point to an Airbus.

e.g. http://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/1436/how-can-i-tell-apart-an-airbus-from-a-boeing

It's just like doing sparrow ID to a birder: they all look the same but if you look more carefully you can see the differences. That might a good idea for a photographer.

This ain't reporting, it's a ha-h-a-funny incident, sorta an unplanned MTV Jackass stunt.

BTW this is common in the NEC. Rail-Fans shoot a lot of footage of plowed snow.


It looks to me like, rather than having her nose buried in her phone unaware, she was more interested in videoing the scene than safety---like nearly everyone else on the platform. Sorta like the new fad of filming tornadoes when one ought to be in shelter.

On second look of the train video in full screen mode, it looks like everyone was trying to get a picture of the train blowing through the drifts in the station rather than merely being buried in their phones -- a different narrative altogether.

That's the Rhinecliff Amtrack station, a station I have used hundreds of times, first when I was a student at Bard and some years later when I was living at Rokby. It figures prominently in many a weird story. Claimed to be cursed by Kenneth Anger* Really need to finish that book ...

*Accounts are unclear whether he refused to take a teaching job at Bard because the station was cursed, or that he placed a curse on the station after the job fell through. Subsequent events around the station are consistent with both versions.

This is just another example of what you have previously written about. Taking photographs near a train track can be extremely dangerous. Stand well clear of a train when it pulls in to a station, because there is little margin for safety if something goes wrong.

All I could think of when I saw that video was "Hidden blocks of ice!"

I shudder to think what the momentum transferred by a 1,000 ton passenger train to a 10 pound block of ice is.

If I might elaborate a little on my earlier comment. If this had been a news story we would have broken it up into two parts. The first would have been the "runs, hits and errors" aspect of the clip. This would cover the basic journalistic needs of the story, the who, what, where and when of it.
That covered it would open it up to a richer "real people" take on the event. The moment that train hit the snowbank everyone on the platform had a unique story to tell. If you could get to them while they were brushing off the snow you would likely hit gold. My experience in situations like this is that you will first get the predictable (but valid) responses but from time to time you also get something amazing. I like to imagine that if you asked the person lost in their phone what they thought when the train came in their answer would be "oh no, not again". Not likely but you never know until you ask. Sadly that opportunity is now gone forever.

My photography teacher at art school explained once the effect of an ultra wide angle like this: “Don’t use it when shooting a fast approaching snowplow!”

I'm probably the 30th person to point this out, but I think the lady in the foreground isn't oblivious, she's taking a video of the train on her cell phone. Like everyone else of the platform, it looks like.

I think nostalgia about the olden days when newspapers reported the news with high journalistic standards is the same as any other kind of nostalgia. It just wasn't so. I've been disillusioned for a long time with print and broadcast news media and part of this is from frustration when I hear them report a story where they have obviously done little or no investigation of what was behind it. Not a new phenomenon.


You may be interested in Dan Rather's new company "News and Guts" that is using social media, but with old journalistic values of truth and not taking sides. My wife follows it and has respect for it. In this era of fake news and extremely biased news, it is very welcome. When Trump refused to answer a question from a CNN journalist, News and Guts said something to the effect of: the correct journalistic response to that is no journalists ask questions until Trump answers the CNN journalist's question. Instead what happens is journalists all want the limelight rather than banding together for press rights.

Reading about the Airbus model reminded me of a long held fantasy of mine in which one could buy a camera bag with helium filled partitions that made it so much lighter to carry.

It isn't just items like the train video but go to sites like flickr or Instagram and notice how many photos have no captions. On Flickr many photos only have the default filename!

Everyone needs to learn the art of the caption.

The snow on the track has been pushed there from the platform as shown by the sharp vertical edge. Seems to me there could have been some fairly solid blocks in there due to the compaction and I would have beaten a retreat.

Watching closely, I think there must have been a warning to stand clear as about half the people on the platform back off. Those that remain all look like they are trying to video or photograph the scene.

I'm sure getting hit by that wall of snow would have hurt!

They were too busy checking they're arms and legs...then the cameras they were using to do any follow-uo.

Amtrack did comment and said the train was moving at the proper speed for snow removal so engineer was not at fault"
Others commented that the platform had been previously cleared of show which was probably thrown onto the tracks, resulting in far more snow being on that section of track, which resulted in the explosion we all saw.
Still looked like he was going a bit fast for the conditions to me.

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