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Possible train part catapults into Palo Alto car

Original post made on Oct 10, 2012

A mysterious large object slammed into a parked Chevrolet Suburban in Palo Alto sometime on Monday night, Oct. 8, or Tuesday morning, confounding Palo Alto police and the vehicle's owner.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 8:04 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by come one, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:12 am

How far was the truck parked from the train tracks? 1000 feet? How many houses did this thing had to fly over to get from the tracks to the truck? I am very dubious about this story. Maybe some neighborhood punks picked up some loose debris from near the train tracks then carried it to where the truck was parked.


Posted by Mark, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:15 am

UP 9999...

Just start looking for the location of Union Pacific Train 9999

Web Link


Posted by Dave, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

The curved shape with bolts makes me think it could be a brake part. Only other explanation would be construction debris dropped on the tracks near Charleston and hit by a south bound train.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2012 at 11:46 am

@Come One - Park Blvd is only ~150 feet from the track, not 1000.

If you look at the pictures and see how the large heavy piece of metal was deeply embedded into the truck, a couple things are obvious. Neighborhood punks didn't drag piece over. It had a lot of velocity, so it could have cleared the houses. Still, it would be interesting to see the trajectory of the debris to see how it happened.


Posted by Which way is UP?, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

UP also spells the word up. It might indicate which direction to install the part in whatever it came from.


Posted by Jan H., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Jan H. is a registered user.

The article said that the object was made of cement, with large bolts projecting out of it. That doesn't sound like a train part. It sounds more like construction debris. But, how did it get on the tracks? Kids leave things on the tracks all the time to watch the train hit it and see what happens. But this object sounds pretty heavy and unwieldy for kids to drag onto the tracks.

Truly mysterious










Posted by Jennie, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm

UFO landed. Plain and simple.


Posted by Watson, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Kids leave things like coins on the tracks. Not heavy pieces of machinery like this.


UP appears to clearly mean "Union Pacific". UP 9999 is, according to a cursory Google search, a known Union Pacific "road number".

Mr Hunt has some explaining to do.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

@Jan - They may be mistaking concrete for ceramic, which can be used in brake pads.


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm

From the photos, it looks much to thin to be a molded piece of concrete. I'd guess it's some type of metal casting (cast iron or cast aluminum or some other metal). It does seem plausible that it's some railroad or locomotive part, propelled through the air into the back of the truck by a moving train. PAPD should let some railroad experts look it over.

PAPD should definitely prepare and post some high-resolution/quality photos of the object taken from different angles with a yardstick alongside it to allow viewers to gauge its dimensions. If it really is a railroad part, once the word gets out, you can bet someone in the huge network of online rail fans and professionals will correctly identify the object in no time.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Fascinating. Ditto on the request for higher resolution photos, and give the weight also. Doesn't look like a brake pad to me. Also if that UP label is a paper sticker, then it's not a part that's exposed to much weather or heat.


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Ok, upon further study of the photos, the exact location the Suburban was parked <Web Link; -- which you can tell from the first photo is right in front of 4242 Newberry Court (with its back toward the corner with Park) -- I'm growing skeptical that it was flung there from a passing train. The back of Suburban was facing Park and the tracks. If it was "launched" into the air by a passing train, the angle of entry suggests it had to be a north-bound train. If it was hit by a train, it had to be at the level of the rails behind the house at 4253 Park and somehow, very improbably, cleared the fence, the trees, the houses between the tracks and the street in front of 4243 Newberry.

The other problem I have with the train part theory is that the part is too damn clean. Ever really take a close look at anything on a train? Nothing on a train is that clean. There is always a patina of grit/grime/oil or whatever on most any exterior train part(s) -- especially down low in the area of the running gear of locomotives and cars.

The item definitely appears to be a metal casting of some sort though.


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm

The article gave the item's weight at 20 pounds.

The Google Maps link to a street view of 4242 Newberry (the point of impact) got screwed up by Palo Alto Online's weblink mangler. Here it is again Web Link


Posted by Dan, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

The culprit:
Web Link


Posted by Jim Bacon, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm

It is not part of a train. I have spent the last 17 years as a Freight Car Inspector, and am also familiar with locomotive parts. Most, if not all parts found on railway cars and locomotices are made of forged steel, formed steel or cast steel. Sheet metal parts are rolled and formed, punched and welded in place. Assembled parts under modular construction techniques are usually anodized or painted. Most all are ususally filthy with road grime, unless new. I have looked at these pictures and have thought about all the parts I have become familair with over the years, and I cannot make this chunk fit into any scenario.

The tag is a sticker by computer generation, similar to inventory control stickers. Most new parts come this way, but they don't ever desginate railroad ownership, only part numebers or assmbly process controls. UP 9999 doesn't mean that it's from a Union Pacific train, anyway. UP 9999 could mean anything, and it might only be one of several stickers from the part.

In my opinion, the guy backed his SUV into something and this part broke off in his hatchback. Given that it appears to be made of a cast metal or composite ceramice, it would have brittle qualities, making it easy to break apart. If it launched from somewhere into his SUV, there should be 'crumbs' under his bumper form impact, and likely other pieces in the path from whereever it came from. Anyway, I bet he accidentally backed into something pretty hard, like a piece of machinery sitting at a dock or job site, broke the hell out of whatever it was and decide to scram.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I agree that the marking UP 9999 has nothing to do with a train number. While UP may mark their engines with that number, they don't mark every part that makes up the engine. Just like the tires on your car have manufacturer markings that have nothing to do with your VIN, this UP 9999 has nothing to do with a train number.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Why is this news?


Posted by Humm, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Why should we believe nothing happened to the truck the night before?

Where had the truck been?


Posted by Random Railroader, a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm

It should also be noted that Union Pacific #9999 is an EMD SD40-2 locomotive that hasn't left North Platte, Nebraska in over 3 months, and has been based there since 2006. I call BS.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm

We don't know who has access to the vehicle. Someone else may have driven it. But, it could also have been parked in a different location and the owner didn't know that someone banged into his vehicle.

To me, the fragment looks like part of a concrete pipe. There is a lot of utility construction work going on in Palo Alto and Mountain View. Someone from one of the companies involved could have crashed into his vehicle somewhere else and then departed quickly, leaving only this fragment. He could have driven it home and left it overnight, and not noticed until morning.

The "train part" hypothesis is extremely unlikely.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I really have no "concrete" idea what happened, but I will add my two cents. Maybe a Greenwaste truck hit the car with it's bumper. That happened in my neighborhood a few months back, and the damage to the parked car was substantial.


Posted by Win Kwink, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Oh. So THAT'S where it went!


Posted by mystery, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm

one would think a 20 lb object flying at the speed of a train would not only move the vehicle, but also shatter the window


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 10:09 am

SteveU is a registered user.

As others have noted. The part is clean. almost too clean to have been in service very long.

It appears to me as a possible transmission mounted (drive shaft) Brake drum (note the score like marks on the inside) found on some trucks.
The angle of the part and entry along with no bumper damage makes me inclined to eliminate a reversing accident.

The Mystery :)


Posted by Jambi, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:49 am

I wish it was a headlight on a northbound train


Posted by Railroader, a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm

UP Locomotive 9989 is currently in South San Francisco with a failed dynamic brake fan, the fan apparently flew apart during a run up the peninsula early yesterday, causing damage to the roof of the locomotive. Have fun with that information!


Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I think this is actually the broken off end of a concrete truck chute. Either he backed into the concrete truck or the most likely the truck backed into his car while it was parked somewhere. The truck driver most likely would not even feel the collision given the weight of those vehicles.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Video of a brake fan blowing ...
Web Link


Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2012 at 12:07 am

Here is the train part that hit the truck. Not the blades were broken off and the bolts that hold them on are in tact.

Web Link


Posted by able to read, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2012 at 8:54 am

@ Railroader

That's nice. However, this thread is about UP 9999, not 9989.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 12, 2012 at 10:43 am

This thread is about a serious incident where evidence bears a label with a digit or two of questionable legibility.


Posted by Senior RFE, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2012 at 8:52 pm

That part is indeed part of the dynamic brake assembly for that locomotive in question. There is no doubt about these facts, it's not concrete, it's not the drivers fault it's an engine part.


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