ELI5 - How do trains stay on the track?

  1. They are extremely heavy. And the wheel rims are flanged to prevent them from slipping out/off the rails, but the parts that rest on the rails are also conical which keeps the train centered between the two rails (

  2. Trains are very heavy, so gravity holds them onto the track. They can't slide off the track because the wheels have flanges which hold them on, and they can't bounce out because the train is too heavy. They have to hit something very heavy to push the wheels out of the tracks.

  3. the wheel has a flange, meaning the inner part is considerably larger than the outside, this basically means it’s almost impossible for the wheel to go over the track as the flange prevents it from going over the rails unless something goes really wrong

  4. Train wheels aren't disks with a flat rim. They're shaped more like a slice off the bottom of a cone (pointing to the inside of the track), so they curve in. The train's very considerable weight then causes the wheel to sit in the lowest point in the middle. Moving to the left or right would cause the train to slightly lift, which it's weight counteracts. This keeps the train in the middle of the track. There is also a flanged edge on the outsides of the wheel, which would have to skip off the track completely for the whole train to come off the track. Lifting a train that high is very difficult, and would take a significant impact to do.

  5. Trains' wheels are slightly cone shaped, so that they are always aiming toward the middle of the track. They each have a lip inside, too, so the tracks act like bumpers on a bowling lane.

  6. Can I provide a bit of video evidence? Here's a small passenger train (only three cars) that flings a semi and its loaded trailer off the track with ease.

  7. On top of how the wheels work and the difference in masses, it turns out that it's actually pretty hard to derail a train even when you remove chunks of track. The

  8. Other users have discussed how the wheels are shaped and how the weight keeps it on the tracks, but I wanted to add another bit of information to help soothe your anxieties (courtesy of my dad, who works for the railroad, though I took what he told me and translated it into ELI5).

  9. People have mentioned flanges, and they help, but that's a safety feature. If it touches the rail you get a nasty screeching noise.

  10. The wheels are shaped with a slight angle that forces the train to ride in the center of the rails, the rails are spaced and secured in a multitude of ways that make it extremely difficult to come off the rails. It works

  11. They stay on the tracks because there is a flange on the inner side os the tacks that stop them from sliding off.

  12. I don't think they reinforce the front cabins though so it's potentially bad news for the driver. Modern trains have a dead man's switch so if the driver does die it'll stop.

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