Cuddly Lez asked in Cars & TransportationRail · 1 decade ago

Has anyone actually died or gotten severely injured from contact with the third rail?

as in subway tracks.

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  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    Yes, I had an assembly at school years ago. These cops came to tell us how the hardest thing they've ever had to do in their career was going to a house to tell the parents that their children came in contact with the third rail and passed away. They even showed us a metal baseball bat, which a kid was holding as he was crossing the tracks, and he was holding it down, and it was swinging, and hit the third rail, and the electricity traveled up the bat, through the rubber grip and into the kid, killing him instantly. It was also so much electricity that the charge shot out the other end of the bat, and pretty much melted it.

  • 1 decade ago

    It can happen but it is quite rare. In southern England as well as on the London Underground there are a lot of lines that use the 3rd rail system and warning notices - 'Danger! Do Not Touch The Live Rail!'.

    Most casualties on these lines however are due to people being struck by trains rather than electrocuted.

    When running steam trains the crew have to be especially careful that no tools or other metal objects on the engine touch the live rail. In this case the engine could go live. Again this is extremely rare. I did read a book written by a driver in which he described how a pipe hanging from the engine made momentary contact with the live rail. There was a bang and an orange flash, but nothing else happened.

    Not so lucky unfortunately are the many animals which cross 3rd rail lines and are electrocuted when they step on the live rail with another paw on the earth or the adjacent running rail. Animals are smart enough to realise when there isn't a train coming but sadly don't know about the high voltage in the live rail until it's too late.

    This used to happen to badgers frequently until the railway management realised that they always crossed in the same place, because their trail was there before the line was electrified (or possibly before it was built). They put gaps in the live rail at the crossing points, thus saving many badgers' lives.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes, they have.

    In November 1919, nearly 100 people were killed when a speeding subway train hit an "S"-curve, jumped its tracks and smacked into the tunnel. The mostly wooden cars impaled passengers and wiped out lights along the tunnel wall. As passengers tried to make their way out, crews restored power to the third rail, unaware of what was happening in the tunnel. Another dozen or so passengers were electrocuted until the third rail shorted out again. This time, power was not restored.

    Since that time, the Transit Authority eliminated the "S"-curve and modified the route. Covers run the length of the third rail to keep it dry. One hundred years later (that's right), accidents involving the third rail do happen, but they are few and far between.

    Source(s): "The Subway: A Trip Through Time on New York's Rapid Transit" by Stan Fischler
  • 1 decade ago

    Oh sure. It's 600 volts DC, and DC electricity is much more hazardous than AC.

    (your power outlets in your house are 110 volts AC and they also can kill.)

    Most places the third rail has insulated coverboards to help protect people from it. In some setups, the train picks up from the bottom of the third rail, and all the other sides are covered, so it's easier to protect.

    Of course the way circuits work, you have to touch an enegized wire and also something else for a circuit to complete. That's why birds can land on high-tension wires, so long as they only touch one wire. That's also why, on streetcar lines, crews can go up on an insulated platform and work on the overhead wires while they're electrified. Still, all it takes is one small mistake...

    Politicians say "Social security is the third rail of American politics"... touch it = you're dead.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I had a friend who worked for a time for London Underground. He told stories of drunken guys who would open the connecting doors between the cars and urinate as the train went along. If they hit the third rail - KERBOOM! But I suspect this is an urban myth. However, you certainly can get killed from contact with the live rail - but, of course, if you stand with both feet on it, you are not earthed and you will be safe. But, again, how do you get both feet on at the same time, without one being on the ground? As they say on the television - don't try this at home!

  • 1 decade ago

    yes, it is a huge amount of electricity, people have died from sticking metal into outlets, so of course the amount of energy required for a train to run would kill someone.

  • 1 decade ago

    I remember an incident in NY years back, it may have been a suicide.

  • 1 decade ago

    most of the time it kills the person or theu get burned really badly

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    i died in 1985 in the NY subway. In NY a couple of people die every year...

  • 1 decade ago

    No, I seen this one on MYTHBUSTERS on discovery channel it is a very good show

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