Jack and Sam's

Dangerous thing #20: Squash Pennies on a Railroad Track

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Leverage the force of a locomotive.

West Texas holds many opportunities for dangerous thing-ing. Including an accessible and safe opportunity to test more speed related experiments. An active commercial railroad passes through the center of town day and night, with ample and obvious warnings, via train horn, crossing bells and gates. So we were safe and ready to go.

Location: Marfa, Tx.
Date: March 13, 2010
Speed: Unknown
Object: Penny

First time, Sam and his buddies all placed a single penny on the rail. We failed to tape it down since, surprise!, I didn’t read the instructions. We discussed what results we thought would occur, and got 3 different answers:

1. The train will totally squashed the penny
2. The train will knock the penny off the rail
3. The train wheels will collect the penny and take it away

All three thoughts were verified! The coins were indeed (1) totally squashed, the ones we easily found. One coin eluded our search until 67 rails later (2) it was discovered… totally squashed. And on the second run, after I read the taping down the coin thing, the train seemed to have melted the penny onto its wheel. For a length of the track we saw tiny impressions of rounded shapes on the rails, but no penny. We concluded that (3) the train took the coins with it.

Some coins were so squashed that no traces of the penny’s design remained. But on some you could still identify Abe Lincoln, etc.. We attempted squashing a quarter as well. The result was similar, but delighted in the discovery that the grooved edges remained. Cool stuff.

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