Fay Engineering was retained to assist two railroads in the analysis of a baffling at-work fatality involving a conductor who dismounted his parked locomotive to do a 'roll-by' inspection of an approaching train, then stepped right into its path.

Interviews with the moving train's conductor revealed critical details for the reconstruction. The conductor could be seen putting on his coat as he dismounted, but he did not have gloves, lantern or a radio. The lantern and radio were needed for the inspection, and the gloves were needed for protection from the elements. These details helped the team to conclude that the conductor may have been disoriented as he walked in front of the oncoming train.

Fay Engineering used human motion capture in combination with aerial photography, nighttime videography, witness testimony and actual railroad equipment to produce a realistic visualization of the event.

The view from the approaching locomotive, with scaling markers between the tracks, shows a computer-generated figure descending the steps of the parked locomotive, then turning to walk front of the train. The second half of the movie shows a side-by-side comparison of Patrick Fay wearing a motion capture suit and performing the actions, and the computer-generated figure performing the same actions.

Human motion capture enabled a scientifically accurate reenactment of the accident using actual equipment without producing a second fatality. The visualization helped all parties understand how this workplace fatality occurred, leading to an out-of-court settlement.

For more information, download our whitepaper, presented at the Digital Human Modeling conference held by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in 2008.