Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beware of the little things!!

I recently had a job working at a small rail yard. Few people realize how large and heavy trains actually are. We transferred product from railcar to semi trucks every day. The length of an 18 wheeler from bumper to bumper is about the length of your average railcar. A standard railcar can haul about 4 - 4.5 times the amount a semi truck can legally haul. A modern railcar can have a max weight (including the empty weight) of about 286,000 pounds. (about 129.7 metric tons). To give it some perspective, if you were to make those cute holiday model trains that go around the christmas tree perfectly to scale, one of those model train cars would weigh about 3,000 pounds. The typical train engine that would service our yard could push 50 fully loaded cars with ease! Trains are big!

No matter how big trains can be though, it really doesn't take much to get them off course. We had some deep gouges in the asphalt next to one of our lines where a train had derailed. The story was that while the de-railer was in place, the conductor accidentally switched the train to the wrong track. With all the momentum of a heavy train it wasn't quick to stop, even going 5 miles per hour. When the conductor realized his mistake he called for the brakes to be put on, but it was too late. Within seconds, the de-railer lifted the fully loaded railcar off the tracks and sent it loose. The gouges were only about 20 feet long, and there was very little harm done to anything except the conductor (after his boss talked to him)! The thing that amazed me is that the de-railer is portable! I don't just mean that you can move it with a forklift, or car, but that I can pick it up with one hand! It amazed me how a well designed 40 pound piece of metal could derail a train with millions of pounds of momentum and be reusable. It is also incredible that if the conductor had thought ahead, he could have removed the de-railer by hand and avoided the whole mess.

The point is this. The de-railer did its job and knocked a moving train off course. Do we see Satan's de-railers in time? He is trying to set up those well designed diversions to really knock us off course, no matter how much momentum we have. Satan knows our weak spots, and he has designed these de-railers for each and every one of us. It is up to us to plan appropriately so we don't switch into the wrong track to begin with. If we skirt the boundaries of disaster, we may just get disaster.

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