Guard rails

Question: What are the extra rails for?

Extra rails between the rails

EMS has already done this one, but I don’t remember where that post was – if I can find it I’ll add a link.

Passengers looking out the window will sometimes notice (especially along the Banfield) what looks like extra rail laying in the track. It looks a bit haphazardly placed along the Banfield so it’s not as obvious what it’s for as it is when you see it placed symmetrically, like in the above picture which is the overpass just east of Sunset TC.

These guard rails are placed as added protection in case of derailment in high speed areas. Granted, derailment isn’t good under any circumstances, but there are some areas where a derailed train would be more catastrophic than others. So you’ll see guard rails wherever trains go over an overpass, like above..

82nd Ave looking west

…or under them, like here at the NE 82nd Avenue platform. In both cases, derailments would be extremely dangerous and could potentially cause serious structural damage to the overpass – to say nothing of the damage to the people inside the train – so the extra rails are placed as added protection should the wheels leave the rails they’re supposed to be on. Derailment along flat terrain is obviously not ideal, but a train derailing into or off of a bridge is far worse.

Or doing this

Looking out the trailing cab of an eastbound train at Beaverton Central

You can also see those extra rails placed around curves, like in this picture looking west from Beaverton Central, or like this picture I’ve already posted looking east at Gateway. All of these examples are in t-rail, not girder rail.

2008 derailment downtown, SW Morrison & 11th

Trains can still derail in girder rail, but guard rails aren’t used in that type of rail – I think both the physical structure of girder rail and the low speeds that trains travel through areas with girder rail wouldn’t benefit from adding in guard rails.


3 responses to “Guard rails

  1. I love this blog so much! I’d wondered for awhile what those were. And today I took my first MAX ride after reading a crapload of posts here, so I was looking at everything with new eyes and those caught my attention once again. I made sure to sit up front (but not too close) on the left side (I usually sit on the right) so I could see the signals switching from green or yellow aspects to red (our train caught up to the one in front of us pretty quickly – before I knew it, we were getting yellow aspects, then a red not once but twice, and had to wait twice).

    Then, of course, once we got downtown I switched to the right side so I could see the pre-empts :)

    (Did I say all of that right??)

    • Thanks! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed what you’ve been reading here. Comments like yours are a big part of the reason why this blog exists – I think it’s really cool when passengers are interested in what makes the system “tick”, beyond just caring that MAX gets them from point A to point B.

      • :)
        I’m so happy this exists. I’ve always loved the MAX, and wondered about it, but never read up on it all that much. Then with the recent attention from the news, I found this blog and I’ve been reading up ever since! And still am :]

        Thank you for taking your time to explain all of this. You have so much to share!

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