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Photos of track bent by earthquake

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darien-l

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American Geophysical Union blog recently published some photos of a railway line in New Zealand deformed by an earthquake:





Although they come from a pretty reputable source, some of us have doubts about their authenticity, because the photos appear to indicate a significant lengthening of the steel rail over the same ground distance. Can the rail experts here comment on how this may be possible?

Source: http://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2010/11/02/the-canterbury-earthquake-images-of-the-distorted-railway-line/
 
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George Harris

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A powerful 7.1 magnitude quake rocked Christchurch at 4.35am on Saturday 4 September. While there is widespread damage, there were few reports of casualties.
Source: EXPRESS, The KiwiRail Staff Newsletter, special issue, 6 September 2010. Apparently the issue is not publically accessible direct from teh New Zealand Railway web site: www.kiwirail.co.nz . but it is from several other sources. It was emailed to me shortly after the quake by a former collegue. Search the issue title I just gave and you can find it. It is a four page issue with several articles and pictures on the earthquake damage to the railway.

(New Zealand Railway is a 3'-6" gauge system (1067 mm))
 

leemell

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American Geophysical Union blog recently published some photos of a railway line in New Zealand deformed by an earthquake:





Although they come from a pretty reputable source, some of us have doubts about their authenticity, because the photos appear to indicate a significant lengthening of the steel rail over the same ground distance. Can the rail experts here comment on how this may be possible?

Source: http://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2010/11/02/the-canterbury-earthquake-images-of-the-distorted-railway-line/
I don't know if this one is real or not, but I've actually seen worse. The power of moving tectonic plates and earth movement in general is many orders of magnitude greater than what is necessary to do what you see in the picture.
 

George Harris

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I don't know if this one is real or not, but I've actually seen worse. The power of moving tectonic plates and earth movement in general is many orders of magnitude greater than what is necessary to do what you see in the picture.
See my post above. It is very real. The reference in it is to the railroad's in-house magazine, whihc can be found on-line if you search teh name I have given.

The wave is spread over a longer distance than appears here because of the telephoto lens on the camera.
 

George Harris

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if its true then why does it appear that the track is longer then it should be?
Just because we cannot come up with an explanation that satisfies does not mean that it is false.

There may be some lateral ground movement just out of the picture. Maybe the rail was in a certain amount of compression because the temperature was higher than the zero stress temperature of the rail (most unlikely due to the time of day). Having seen building moved several feet sideways in an earthquake, I have no doubt about the reality.

You can ask how and why and what mechanism, but "if its true" is simply not a rational responsse given the nature of the information.
 

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