Title:
Protective crash barrier for locomotives and highway construction vehicles
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A crash boot attaches to the front of the locomotive. When inflated, the boot provides a shock absorber for absorbing the impact energy produced when the locomotive collides with another object. By absorbing this energy, the boot protects both the locomotive and its crew, and the other object such as a vehicle and its occupants from severe injury or harm. In a highway environment, a trailer is towed behind a vehicle to a work site. The trailer is parked with one end facing on-coming traffic. This end of the trailer has an inflatable boot which is inflated while the crew is at work. If an on-coming vehicle now collides with the boot, it absorbs the impact of the collision and lessens the damage resulting therefrom.



Inventors:
Moses, Linnie L. (Potosi, MO, US)
Application Number:
10/952955
Publication Date:
04/07/2005
Filing Date:
09/29/2004
Assignee:
MOSES LINNIE L.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60R19/00; B61D15/06; B60R19/20; B60R21/16; B60R21/233; (IPC1-7): B61C11/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCCARRY JR, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard, PC (120 S. Central Ave. Suite 1600, St. Louis, MO, 63105, US)
Claims:
1. A protective crash barrier for vehicles including railroad locomotives and trailers used with highway service vehicles comprising: means attachable to an end of the vehicle which may either crash into another vehicle or be crashed into by the other vehicle; an inflatable boot rapidly inflatable when an impact occurs between the vehicle on which the crash barrier is installed and the other vehicle, the boot, when inflated, absorbing a substantial amount of the impact energy created by the two vehicles striking each other, thereby to lessen the resulting damage to the vehicles and injury to an occupant of either vehicle; and, pressurization means for inflating the boot.

2. The protective crash barrier of claim 1 in which the vehicle is a locomotive and the means attachable to an end of the vehicle includes a base plate secured to the front end of the locomotive.

3. The protective crash barrier of claim 2 in which the inflatable boot is attached to the base plate.

4. The protective crash barrier of claim 3 in which the base plate extends substantially across the front end of the locomotive.

5. The protective crash barrier of claim 4 in which the base plate has a notch therein to accommodate a hitch extending forwardly from the front end of the locomotive for attaching a railroad car to the locomotive.

6. The protective crash barrier of claim 3 in which the inflatable boot includes a plurality of separately inflatable boot sections.

7. The protective crash barrier of claim 6 in which the inflatable boot includes a first boot section which is inflated to a first pressure when an impact occurs, a second boot section which is inflated to a second and higher pressure when an impact occurs, and a third boot section which is inflated to a pressure higher than that to which the second boot section is inflated when an impact occurs.

8. The protective crash barrier of claim 3 in which the pressurization means produces a suction to draw the inflatable boot up against the base plate when the barrier is not in use.

9. The protective crash barrier of claim 1 in which the inflatable boot is of a tear resistant material.

10. The protective crash barrier of claim 1 in which the vehicle is a trailer towable behind the highway service vehicle and the means attachable to an end of the trailer includes a base plate secured to the end of the trailer facing on-coming traffic when the highway service vehicle is parked on a roadway.

11. The protective crash barrier of claim 10 in which the inflatable boot is attached to the base plate.

12. The protective crash barrier of claim 11 in which the inflatable boot is inflated by the pressurization means when the utility vehicle and trailer are parked, and deflated and stored when the utility vehicle and trailer are being moved.

13. The protective crash barrier of claim 10 further including a telescoping section extending from an opposite end of the trailer to the end of the highway service vehicle to which the trailer is attached, the telescoping section further acting to absorb the energy of impact of an on-coming vehicle with the trailer.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is based upon Provisional Patent Application 60/508,190 filed Oct. 2, 2003.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

N/A

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to railroad and highway safety, and more particularly to a protective device attachable to railway locomotives and highway vehicles to cushion an impact between these vehicles and other objects so to lessen any damage occurring between the vehicles and the objects.

Railroad locomotives, even when traveling a slow speeds, can cause catastrophic damage to an object it strikes, rather another railcar, or something (another vehicle, a person, or other object) in the right-of-way over which it is traveling. At the same time, the locomotive can sustain substantial damage as well.

In highway environments, particular where road crews are performing work on a roadway, there is also the potential for substantial injury to workers or vehicles because of crashes caused by careless or inattentive, or road or weather conditions. Typically, where workers are working adjacent to the roadway, or on one lane of the road, the only protection they have are plastic barriers (usually orange, barrel or cone shaped dividers) which are placed alongside the stretch of road where the work is being done. While these afford some protection, it is well documented that they do not prevent injuries and death to workers, or damage to vehicles being used at the work site.

Certain types of crash barriers are known and are in use. In many locales, where ramps lead from one road to another, sand filled barrels have been placed. If a vehicle crashes into the barrels, they absorb the force of the impact and so lessen the injury to people in the vehicle as well as damage to the vehicle itself. In passenger cars, air bags, front and side, for both drivers and passengers are now mandatory. These bags are inflatable upon impact and again absorb the majority of the forces of impact so to lessen the damage to people.

It would helpful in both the railroad and highway environments to provide a crash barrier that would perform similar force absorbing functions so to reduce the amount of personal injury or vehicle damage when an accident occurs involving either the locomotive or a highway vehicle.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention, briefly stated, relates to a boot attached to the front end of a railroad locomotive or to a trailer towed by a highway crew work vehicle so to protect either the locomotive or the vehicle, their respective crews, and another vehicle, person, or object from injury in the event of a collision between the two.

For a locomotive, a crash boot includes a frame attached to the front of the locomotive. An inflatable boot is secured to the frame and, when inflated, provides a shock absorber for absorbing the impact energy produced when the locomotive collides with another object. For absorbing this energy, the boot protects both the locomotive and its crew, and the other object (e.g., a vehicle and its occupants) from severe injury or damage.

In a highway work setting the trailer is towed behind a vehicle to a work site. The trailer is then parked with one end facing on-coming traffic. This end of the trailer includes an inflatable boot which is inflated while the crew is at work. If an on-coming vehicle collides with the boot, the boot absorbs the impact of the collision to lessen the damage resulting therefrom. Further, the trailer provides a barrier between the work crew and the vehicle so to protect the work crew as well.

Other objects and features will be in part apparent and in part pointed out hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The objects of the invention are achieved as set forth in the illustrative embodiments shown in the drawings which form a part of the specification.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a railroad locomotive with a protective crash barrier of the present invention attached;

FIG. 2 is an elevation view of a first embodiment of the barrier;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of a second embodiment of the barrier;

FIG. 4 is a simplified representation of a crash barrier mounted to a highway work vehicle to protect a work crew from injury; and,

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the barrier.

Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION

The following detailed description illustrates the invention by way of example and not by way of limitation. This description will clearly enable one skilled in the art to make and use the invention, and describes several embodiments, adaptations, variations, alternatives and uses of the invention, including what I presently believe is the best mode of carrying out the invention. As various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

Referring to the drawings, a protective crash barrier for a railroad locomotive 10 is indicated generally 12 in FIG. 1. The barrier first includes a base plate 14 formed so to conveniently be attached to front end of locomotive 10. As shown in FIG. 2, the base plate is generally rectangular when viewed in elevation, with rounded corners, and a notch 16 formed along the base of the plate for the plate to fit about a hitch 18 extending forwardly from the front of the locomotive. The plate is, for example, eight feet (8′) wide so to extend across the front of the train. The plate can be a flat plate, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, or the plate can be curved to fit about the nose end of the locomotive. The plate is attached to the front end of the locomotive by bolting it to the locomotive, welding it in place, or by some other convenient form of attachment.

Attached to base plate 14 is an inflatable boot 20. The boot is made of a heavy duty, tear resistant material which can withstand pressures sufficiently high which, when the boot is inflated to these pressures, it will not burst or be torn away from the base plate on which it is mounted. When inflated, the height of the boot is three-six feet (3-6′) and the boot projects sufficiently far in front of the nose of the locomotive that upon impact with another object, the boot will absorb the impact energy created by the impact. By absorbing the energy, the boot lessens the damage to both the locomotive and the object struck by the locomotive. This results in considerable cost savings in repair of the locomotive. Further, and more importantly, if the object struck is a vehicle or the like, lessening the force of the impact can prevent serious injury (including death) to occupants of the vehicle. If boot 20 is torn by the impact, it can be removed and replaced by a new boot without having to remove base plate 12.

In FIG. 3, boot 20 is shown to be comprised of three sections 20a-20c. Each section is inflated to a different pressure so that section 20a is the most lightly inflated, section 20c the most highly inflated, and section 20b is inflated to an intermediate pressure. Now, if the locomotive impacts an object, the first boot section 20a will absorb all of the impact if the relative difference in speed between the locomotive and the object is very small. If the difference is somewhat higher, the impact will be absorbed by sections 20a and 20b. If the difference speed is relatively great, then all three-boot sections act to absorb the impact.

A pressurization unit 22 mounted on the locomotive is used to inflate the boot to its operating pressure. When the air bag is not inflated, it can be drawn into a retracted, folded position against the base plate. This can be done by hand folding, or by use of pressurization unit 22 which now produces a suction or vacuum to draw the boot up against the base plate. A shutter or door (not shown) is then used to cover the boot so no clearance problem is presented when hitch 18 is in use.

While described above for use on a locomotive, those skilled in the art will appreciate that boot 20 could also be mounted on over-the-vehicles such as busses and trailer trucks.

Referring to FIGS. 4 and 5, a second embodiment of the invention is indicated generally 30 and includes a barrier unit or trailer 32 which can be attached to the rear end of a highway department vehicle 34 for towing to a work site. At the site, the barrier unit is parked on or alongside a roadway R where a highway crew works to build or repair a road. As shown in FIG. 4, work crewmembers C may be working on the road or to the side of the road. Unit 32 includes a tube 36, which may be formed of telescoping sections 36a-36d. A hitch 38 at one end of the tube allows unit 32 to be attached to a bumper or frame member 40 of the vehicle for towing the barrier unit. A cross-member 42 houses an axle 44 to which wheels 46 or mounted for pulling trailer 32 behind the vehicle. A base plate 50 is secured to cross-member 42 by struts 52. As in the previous embodiment, attached to base plate 50 is an inflatable boot 54. Again the boot is made of a heavy duty, tear resistant material which can withstand pressures sufficiently high which, when the boot is inflated to these pressures, it will not burst or be torn away from the base plate. The boot is inflated to its operating pressure by a pressurization unit 56 mounted on the vehicle. Typically, trailer 32 is towed behind the vehicle to a worksite with the boot un-inflated. When the worksite is reached and the vehicle parked, the boot is pressurized and unit 32 now acts a barrier between the vehicle and crew, and on-coming traffic. When vehicle 34 is to be moved to another site, or at the end of a workday, the pressurization unit is used to deflate boot 54 which is then stowed on the trailer so the trailer can be readily towed.

When parked at a work site, if an on-coming vehicle, for whatever reason, runs into boot 54, the boot will absorb the energy of the impact. This greatly reduces the possibility that the on-coming vehicle will run into one of the crewmembers, or vehicle 34. Further, the telescoping sections of tube 36 acts to absorb energy created by the impact between the on-coming vehicle and the barrier unit, so to also prevent serious injury to the crew. Although not shown, air bags can be installed in each section of tube 36 to further absorb impact forces.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate the crash barrier of the present invention can be implemented in ways other than as described herein without departing from the invention. For example, unit 30 can be connected to the rear of an over-the-road truck to lessen the damage caused when a vehicle strikes the rear of the truck.

In view of the above, it will be seen that the several objects and advantages of the present invention have been achieved and other advantageous results have been obtained.