Have you ever wondered what would happen if you placed a penny on railroad tracks? Many people believe that a passing train will flatten the penny into an oval shape or even a thin sheet of copper. In this article, we’ll examine whether this railroad track penny flatten folklore is fact or fiction.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: When a train runs over a penny on the tracks, the penny will flatten slightly under the immense weight and pressure of the locomotive. However, it won’t stretch into a long oval or sheet as is often claimed.
The penny may flatten up to around 50% its original thickness but will remain close to a circular shape.
Why Do People Place Pennies on Railroad Tracks?
Placing pennies on railroad tracks is a curious phenomenon that has fascinated people for generations. While this practice may seem harmless or even amusing to some, it is important to understand the reasons behind it.
There are two main reasons why people place pennies on railroad tracks: childhood fascination and folklore, and the desire for souvenirs and mementos.
Childhood Fascination and Folklore
Many individuals first encounter the idea of placing pennies on railroad tracks during their childhood. The image of a tiny coin being transformed into a flattened, elongated shape by the immense weight and power of a passing train holds a certain allure and sense of wonder.
It becomes a small experiment that ignites the curiosity of young minds. This fascination often stems from the belief that the penny will be imprinted with the train’s wheels, creating a unique and tangible reminder of the train’s force.
Moreover, folklore surrounding the practice further adds to its appeal. Children may have heard stories from older siblings, friends, or even adults about the supposed luck or magic associated with placing a penny on the tracks.
These tales often involve notions of wishes coming true, bringing good fortune, or simply being a fun and daring activity. The mysterious allure of such stories can motivate children to try the practice themselves, perpetuating the tradition.
Souvenirs and Mementos
Aside from childhood fascination and folklore, another reason why people place pennies on railroad tracks is the desire for souvenirs and mementos. For some, it is a way to create a unique keepsake that captures a moment in time.
By placing a penny on the tracks and retrieving it after the train has passed, individuals can obtain a flattened coin that serves as a tangible reminder of the experience. This flattened penny can be cherished as a personal memento or shared with others as a conversation starter or unique gift.
Furthermore, some individuals may collect these flattened pennies as part of a larger collection. Similar to collecting postcards or stamps, collecting flattened coins from different railroad tracks can become a hobby that brings joy and satisfaction.
These collections may hold sentimental value or serve as a visual representation of the places visited or the trains encountered along the way.
It is worth noting that placing objects on railroad tracks is illegal and dangerous. Trains can reach high speeds and unexpected objects on the tracks can cause derailments or accidents. Therefore, it is important to discourage this practice and educate others about its potential risks.
Forces Acting on a Penny on Railroad Tracks
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you placed a penny on a railroad track? It may seem like a harmless experiment, but the forces at play can be quite extraordinary. Let’s explore the two main forces that come into play when a penny is placed on a railroad track: the weight of the locomotive and the pressure exerted by the wheels.
Weight of the Locomotive
The weight of a locomotive is massive, often ranging from several tons to over a hundred tons. When a locomotive passes over a penny, its weight applies an immense amount of pressure on the track. This pressure is distributed evenly across the wheels, but when a small object like a penny is introduced, the pressure becomes concentrated.
As the locomotive rolls over the penny, the weight of the locomotive causes the penny to flatten and deform. The force exerted by the locomotive is so great that it can completely obliterate the penny, turning it into a mere disc of metal.
This phenomenon showcases the sheer power of the weight behind a moving train.
Pressure Under the Wheels
Another force at play when a penny is placed on a railroad track is the pressure exerted by the wheels. As the wheels roll over the penny, the pressure builds up underneath. The force is so intense that it can cause the penny to become embedded in the track or even launch it into the air.
Under the immense weight of the locomotive and the pressure exerted by the wheels, the penny experiences a significant amount of compression. The metal of the penny is no match for the forces involved, and it is often left completely flattened or damaged beyond recognition.
It’s important to note that placing objects on railroad tracks is illegal and dangerous. Trains travel at high speeds and can cause severe damage or even fatalities if they collide with foreign objects on the tracks.
Always prioritize safety and respect the rules and regulations in place to ensure the smooth and secure operation of the railway system.
For more information on railroad safety, you can visit the Operation Lifesaver website.
How Much Do Pennies Flatten?
When a penny is placed on railroad tracks, it undergoes a significant transformation due to the immense force and weight of the passing train. The flattened penny is a common sight for those who enjoy this quirky activity.
Examining Flattened Pennies
Flattened pennies are a result of the immense pressure exerted by the train wheels. As the train passes over the penny, the weight and force cause the coin to deform. The exact amount of flattening depends on several factors, including the speed and weight of the train, the condition of the track, and the location where the penny is placed.
It’s important to note that flattening pennies on railroad tracks is not only dangerous but also illegal. Trespassing on railroad property can lead to serious consequences, so it’s best to admire these flattened pennies from a safe distance.
One of the most noticeable changes to a flattened penny is its reduced thickness. A penny that has been flattened on a railroad track can become significantly thinner compared to its original state. This is because the pressure from the train wheels compresses the metal, causing it to spread out and become thinner.
It’s interesting to observe how the metal of the penny can be compressed in such a way that it retains its circular shape despite the reduction in thickness. This is due to the malleability of the copper-plated zinc composition used in modern pennies.
Retaining Circular Shape
Despite the flattening process, flattened pennies often maintain their circular shape. This is because the metal of the penny is able to flow and redistribute under the immense pressure, allowing it to spread out while still preserving the overall circular form.
While the exact scientific explanation for this phenomenon may be complex, it’s fascinating to see how a small coin can withstand such forces and still retain its recognizable shape. It’s a testament to the strength and flexibility of the materials used in penny production.
If you’re interested in learning more about the science behind flattening pennies or the history of coins, websites like www.usmint.gov or www.coinweek.com can provide valuable information and resources.
Is It Dangerous or Illegal?
Putting a penny on railroad tracks may seem like a harmless act of curiosity or mischief, but it can actually have serious consequences. Let’s explore the potential dangers and legal implications of this seemingly innocent act.
When a train passes over a penny on the tracks, the tremendous weight and force of the train can cause the penny to become a dangerous projectile. The penny can be propelled at high speeds and have the potential to cause injury or damage to people, property, or even the train itself.
It’s important to remember that trains are powerful machines that require a clear and unobstructed path to operate safely.
In addition to the risk of injury, placing objects on railroad tracks can also pose a threat to the train’s stability and derailment. Even a small object like a penny can disrupt the balance of the train and lead to catastrophic accidents.
Property Damage and Theft
Putting a penny or any other object on a railroad track is not only dangerous but also constitutes as trespassing and vandalism. It is illegal to interfere with railroad operations, including placing objects on tracks. Violators can face criminal charges, fines, and even imprisonment.
Furthermore, placing objects on railroad tracks can cause damage to the tracks themselves, leading to costly repairs and potential delays in train schedules. Any damage to the tracks can also compromise the safety of future train operations.
It’s important to educate ourselves and others about the potential dangers and legal consequences of placing objects on railroad tracks. Instead, let’s encourage responsible actions and promote safety around railway systems.
While train tracks can flatten pennies to a degree, they won’t stretch them into thin oval sheets as you may have heard. Physics shows that while the immense weight and pressure of a locomotive can compress the soft copper, the pennies retain much of their shape and thickness.
So if you ever tried this as a kid or dreamed of collecting flattened pennies as souvenirs, be prepared for more subtle changes than you imagined. The myth of pennies stretched long and thin lives on in children’s folklore, but real-world physics proves otherwise.