Ground clearance of a locomotive?

A recent article on Yahoo news reported a woman surviving having been passed out drunk on a railroad track as the train moved over her. I appears that she was asleep on the ties between the rails, and not on the rails themselves.

Experts please, what is the average distance between the top of the wooden ties

A recent article on Yahoo news reported a woman surviving having been passed out drunk on a railroad track as the train moved over her. I appears that she was asleep on the ties between the rails, and not on the rails themselves.

Experts please, what is the average distance between the top of the wooden ties to the lowest part of the undercarriage of the train? The article presents the woman's survival as a miracle, but in reality how much space was there? When I stop for the train at my local crossing I can clearly see the bumpers of the cars across the way, so it appears that there is a couple of feet of ground clearance. Please elaborate and explain. The link to the article is below for as long as it lasts:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/oddnews/alle

Best Answer:

Tim: Depends ENTIRELY Upon the locomotive!!!
Some of the larger freight diesels (Like GP40s and GP39s.) have a fairly high clearance compared to other engines. (About 3 feet, maybe 4.
)
But then just look at some older engines…. Tank engines in particular sometimes had central tanks that sat VERY low, and barely left half a foot of clearance!
And some engines built to work on steep mountainous lines have clearances OF UNDER 6 INCHES. (No, I'm not kidding, I've seen an 0-4-0 with the bottom of it's cylinders A MERE 5 INCHES OR LESS from the top of the rail, and a low firebox that couldn't have left more than 6 inches of room between it and the ties.) (Yes getting hit by that thing would be fatal, were it running on main lines!)

Even if a locomotive rides high, there's usually chains, air-hoses, and other stuff that hangs down.
Of course if the engine is carrying a showshovel or cowcatcher, it's clearance becomes a moot point, the same goes for trams that have frontplates.

Around where I live the engines sit about 3 1/2 feet above the rail…. maybe more, maybe less, I'm just guessing, but they often carry snow-plows on the front.
Even without the snowplow, I wouldn't give a wooden nickel for anyone's chances of surviving being passed over by two rusty GP39s hauling dilapidated coal cars with all sorts of chains and hoses and pipes dangling down low! (Not to mention the brake gear system some cars have!)
Just one whack could knock you OUT of that hollow between the rails and INTO the path of the merciless steel wheels under a hundred tons of coal

Whoever survived that was AMAZINGLY lucky…. I'd guess it must've been a freighter, because passenger cars often have air conditioners, water tanks, generators, and other doodads handing down low. Something like a string of boxcars (probably not coalcars because of their hoppers!) JUST MIGHT be able to pass over a full grown woman without touching her….. IT must have also been a large high-set locomotive without a snow shovel or frontplates.

Other answer:

Tim:
All trains are not the same. There can be stuff HANGING down from the locomotive or other cars .Things like chains,brake hoses not yet connected open hatches from bulk arriers and assorted other things.
You can lcearly see the bumpers of cars accross the way when the wheels go by?

Yes it is sometimes possible to survive in the middle. It is a miricale to survive. Easier at low speed. t high speed there are wind currents that move things about under the train. Picking you up so that hanging bit can smack you.

Why do you need to know the distance? Want to practice and try it out for fun? Hint AVERAGE means some are more and others are less. No one here knows what the next one will be.

Claudia:
I work for a railway company but do not live in the US so can not comment on whether it is legal or not. However, if you get hit by a train which is quite likely then the railway company will have no liability for you being there and hurting or killing you. When walking on a railway line, it is sometimes impossible to hear a train approaching depending on winds and direction etc. You might get hit from behind and you will not know a thing about it. (This HAS happened)! I would seriously reconsider taking a walk on a railway line. Take some quiet back country road instead of the railway or main highway.
Samurai Hoghead:
Stateside, most road locomotives have a 4" clearance, bottom of pilot above the top of rail.

Height, top of rail to top of whistle or cab mounted bell is right around 21', on average.

Distance from top of ties to bottom of pilot varies according to weight of rail. 139lbs. rail is considerably taller than with lighter rail, found in yards and secondary tracks, including sidings. That is the distance that counts.

And Rona is quite correct in pointing out that there can be pieces of air brake system (usually a low hose) that can whap a person in the head or face.

.

StephenWeinstein:
It depends on the type of train. Some passenger trains are built very low to the ground to make it easier for passengers (especially if they are disabled or have bikes with them) to get on and off. Some freight trains have cargo that is too long to fit between the front and back wheels, so it has to be above the wheels, which gives a lot more clearance.