Wind Induced Tip-Over

An operational safety issue facing railroad operators is wind induced tip-over. Multiple studies were completed using CFD to develop a database of tip-over tendencies for a variety of car types within various railway fleet. The use of this database in the development of a speed restricting system for the Sandusky Bay Bridge is also discussed.

wind induced train tip-over


High winds have caused a number of accidents involving freight trains. Select examples include:

  • 11 February 2003: Norfolk Southern Railway,
    Train derailed on Sandusky Bay Causeway in Sandusky, OH
  • 6 October 2010: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway,
    Two trains derailed due to high winds in Bellemont, AZ
  • 17 June 2013: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway,
    71 rail cars that were double-stacked with shipping containers derailed near Hereford, TX
  • 18 September 2013: Union Pacific Railroad,
    7 cars derailed near Chicago, IL
  • 13 March 2019: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway,
    26 cars derailed off a bridge near Logan, NM
  • 24 April 2019: Union Pacific Railroad,
    25 loaded tank cars detrailed, leaking 74,000 gallons of denatured ethanol in Fort Worth, TX
  • 18 August 2019: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway,
    Two trains derailed with over 100 rail car derailments near Walton, KS


Airflow Science's work includes:

  • Develop database of railcar rolling moment to predict impending tip-over conditions. Analysis included box cars, hopper cars, well cars, gondola cars, autorack, 53' trailer/flat cars.
    • Wind tunnel test data of CFD simulations
  • Supply relations to integrate aerodynamic database into a vehicle dynamics modeler's VAMPIRE simulations.
  • Develop real-time computer algorithm to alert train dispatch center of appropriate speed reductions in possible tip-over conditions.
  • Select and locate wind sensor and configure system to display appropriate speed restrictions.


Tipping Moment Data:

Power Plant Ductwork

Figure 1

Power Plant Ductwork

Figure 2



Results of Study:

A Speed Restricting System was developed which is installed alongside the tracks at the Sandusky Bridge. The system measures real-time wind conditions and communicates with dispatchers to provide immediate recommendations for safe speeds based on wind speed and direction for multiple car types.


Speed Limit


Speed Restricting

Learn more:

Watch CFD Modeling for Rail Car Tip-Over on YouTube.