In almost every movie that I can think of that involves a train crossing with someone getting stuck/pushed onto the track the freight train always comes along to great fanfare and smashes through the vehicle (with the characters possibly escaping in the nick of time) and then keeps going.

Why do they never stop after the collision or at least start braking beforehand?


Inertia. A multiple ton train cannot brake on a dime.

Trains can't stop quickly or swerve. The average freight train is about 1 to 1¼ miles in length (90 to 120 rail cars). When it's moving at 55 miles an hour, it can take a mile or more to stop after the locomotive engineer fully applies the emergency brake. An 8-car passenger train moving at 80 miles an hour needs about a mile to stop. http://www.minnesotasafetycouncil.org/OL/stop.cfm

So the train has to travel about 1 entire train length or more to stop, without causing a catastrophic derailing. Considering the speeds given, and the non linear speed changes, it will take a few minutes to get to a full stop, and may not be immediately detected visually. They would be slowing down, you just can't tell yet.

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  • Although OP is right that they almost never start braking (i.e. blocking the weels) which would be expected in such situations. I guess it is assumed (probably correctly) that the audience doesn't care about such details anyway. – Chanandler Bong Mar 9 '16 at 23:47
  • Really, I am sure that I have seen "braking"- sparks flying from train wheels looks dramatic. – user2617804 Jun 14 '19 at 13:16

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