A railroad conductor steps into the path of an oncoming train

The In-House Graphics Department at Fay Engineering Corp. in Denver, CO uses a human motion capture system to aid in the reconstruction of accidents that involve people in motion. In April, 2014, Patrick Fay and his team traveled to a railyard in Boone, IA to analyze an accident involving a railroad conductor who was severely injured when he stepped into the path of an oncoming train. The motion capture suit allowed the team to reenact the dangerous event without putting anyone in danger.

The accident occurred in the middle of the night when a railroad conductor was assembling a freight train in the railyard. He was working next to the main line where a through-train was headed toward him at 50 mph. The team reconstructed the conductor’s actions as he dismounted his stopped locomotive, with his back to the approaching train, and raised his arm to signal a crewmember with a lantern.

Five locomotives in the yard had cameras that captured different parts of the accident, but none of them told the whole story. Fay and his team studied them all frame-by-frame, especially the video that showed the conductor’s actions leading up to the accident.

Since he happened to be the same height and weight as the conductor, Fay himself wore the motion capture suit for the reenactment. With the trains stopped and staged in place for the reenactment, he climbed down to the ground, turned, and raised the lantern, bringing his arm in contact with the other locomotive. The resulting motion data, along with the pertinent videos and train speed information were all combined into a single movie that shows what happened.