He's totally trained to restrain trainwrecks.
"If a train traveling at 250 miles per hour is stopped dead, the passengers will continue to travel at that speed (that is, double their terminal velocity). In other words, unless you stop the train slowly, they will have more chance of surviving if you had dropped them out of an airplane without a parachute. A safe stopping distance is several miles."
A train is out of control!
— The Superhero Handbook by Michael Powell
It's up to a Superhero
to stop it!
This trope is usually used because it doesn't need a supervillain (although sometimes one does exist to derail the train). It shows, thus, that the superhero does more than just fight useless battles against supervillains
, actually providing a visible good to society outside of his own rivalries.
In addition, it allows the hero to showcase his Super Strength
, and to save the lives of innocent people. It's also a good method of comparing heroes' relative power levels or gimmicks/gadgets. Superman
just holds the train until it stops, while Spider-Man
has to use webs attached to lampposts. So, stopping the train is almost like a graduation for a super hero. A bit like The Worf Effect
, except Worf is a train. You're a nobody unless you can stop a large moving vehicle.
Used more in The Golden Age of Comic Books
, when trains were a popular means of transportation in the US (where most Superhero
stories come from), but still alive today. One could put on a tinfoil hat
to mention that, if not for the supers, there would be a lot of train crashes, and it seems the train regulation committee forgot OSHA Compliance
when they noticed some dude in a cape
always appeared to save the passengers. These days, a Flying Brick
with a more "Modern" setting can do this with an out-of-control airplane, and others make do with Subway (Not the sandwich) lines or trucks.
Oh, also, sometimes there's just a hole in the bridge for the hero to fix. He'll usually put himself between the extremities and "act" as the missing rails.
See also Chained to a Railway
, Pedestrian Crushes Car
, & Superhero
. Do not confuse with Trainspotting
, which, yes, this trope's name is a pun off of.
One of the many methods for Cutting the Knot
, as noted on the page.
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Anime and Manga
- In Kinnikuman, the 21st Chojin Olympics had Train Pushing as one of the qualifier events. However, when Terryman sees a puppy has wandered into the path of his train, he immediately gets ahead of the train and stops it. Unfortunately, because the qualifier had rules about touching the train more than once, the act of heroism gets Terryman disqualified from the games.
- Near the end of the GSC arc of Pokémon Special, Red makes his Big Damn Heroes return by calling out Snorlax to forcibly slow the runaway Magnet Train down to a stop before it crashes into a deadend.
- In One Piece Franky tries to do this in order to rescue Tom, but he fails. He manages to live, though.
- In the Unbreakable Machine Doll, the two main characters pull this off in the first chapter.
- In Pretty Cure All Stars New Stage, Fusion launches a tanker boat down a railroad-like ramp. The Suite Pretty Cure ♪ and Smile Pretty Cure! teams stop it, but barely... until Fusion swats them aside and sends it flying. Waiting at the bottom? Cure Black, Cure White and Shiny Luminous, who stop it effortlessly.
- Multiple episodes of Anpanman have had Anpanman and some of his other superhero friends save SL-Man, a living steam locomotive, this way.
- Wonder Woman in More Fun Comics #1.
- Green Lantern's first appearance.
- Superman loves it, and was probably the Trope Maker.
- Trainstopping is the obvious way for Superman to demonstrate that he's "more powerful than a locomotive."
- In the rebooted Action Comics #1, the first issue of Grant Morrison's run, Lex Luthor causes a Metropolis bullet train to go out of control. Superman is able to stop it, but being as this is set in his early days, when he was weaker and couldn't even fly yet, stopping the train almost kills him, allowing Lex and the military to capture him. (Added Stealth Pun: Superman has to be faster and more powerful than a speeding bullet locomotive!)
- Parodied in a Sergio Aragonés drawn MAD strip, where Superman stops a train without moving an inch. The final panel shows the entire train derailed, with people lying everywhere, and Superman's got a Oh, Crap expression on his face. In a similar gag, Superman lifts an ocean liner out of the water to save it from danger. It promptly breaks apart from having all of its mass supported by only his hands, with passengers falling out of the wreckage.
- A miniseries of Spider-Man called: Spider-Man: Power of Terror introduced a new Deathlok character (Deathlok is a Legacy Character of Zombie Cyborgs) that at one point was chasing Hydro-Man down the subway system, and he met up with a metro train about to ram in another one. He stopped it in a splash page, cementing his level of strength for the book.
- There was an issue of X-Men in the late '90s that paired up Gambit and Bishop, and involved them stopping a runaway train. It let the writer have fun with the combination of powers, where Gambit (an Energy Maker) pumped the engine full of kinetic energy, and Bishop (an Energy Taker) absorbed all of it into himself, before riding the rails to slow the train.
- A late '80s story had Rogue (with some help from Longshot's fabulous luck) stopping a train before it could plough into a pit made by the Juggernaut, leaving Psylocke and Dazzler to try and stop the Juggernaut on their own.
- In Ultimate X-Men, Colossus is ordered to do this by Wraith, even though Colossus isn't even sure he'll survive it.
- Big Bertha of the Great Lakes Avengers is shown doing this with a runaway semi. While the kids are happy to not die, the crossing guard laments being saved by such an unsexy superhero.
- In The Avengers volume 1, issue 1, The Hulk is tricked into destroying a train trestle. As a result he has to hold the tracks up so a train can pass safely.
- In a 1902 strip of Hugo Hercules, the eponymous character uses his Super Strength to stop a street car so a woman can get on.
- The Brubaker & Fraction run on Immortal Iron Fist culminates with Danny Rand punching a bullet train loaded with explosives.
Films — Animated
- In The Incredibles, Mr Incredible stops a train from riding over an exploded railtrack, although several people sue him for the resulting injuries. Still, Mr. Incredible visibly cringes in preparation of the incoming slam; it won't kill him, but it is still going to hurt.
- The imagination portion of Toy Story 3 plays with this: Woody fails to save the runaway train filled with Trolls before it falls over a destroyed bridge... only for Buzz Lightyear to fly up from the ravine, train, Trolls, Woody and all.
- The Iron Giant has a variation, where the Giant must fix the rails... that he himself broke. Then he spends so long making sure the fix is perfect that the train ends up crashing into his head.
Films — Live-Action
- In Spider-Man 2, Octavius does this by disabling an 'L' train's brakes, and leaves Spidey to stop it. He jumps to the front of the train, and gives it three tries: First, he tries brute force via putting his foot down on the tracks to generate friction. This doesn't work, and hurts, and ruins a good number of ties. Then he tries firing weblines on either side. The train quickly breaks out when they stretch too far. Then he fires a dozen weblines on each side, to spread out the force, which eventually does stop the train, but only after nearly pulling Spidey apart, and the first car is left hanging precariously off the structure.
- In Hancock, Hancock saves Ray by stopping a train from hitting his car. Somewhat like the trope picture, Hancock is a Flying Brick and straight up halts the train rather than slowing it gradually. As a result, he causes the train to derail into a messy pileup that will probably cost hundreds of thousands in damages and cleanup - Ray points out that it would have been much easier to just lift the car off the track.
- Subverted in Batman Begins. Batman deliberately intends to cause the train (built by his dad, no less) to crash. He doesn't take the enemy in the train with him when he leaves, apparently killing him.
- Done (in the last method) in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie - "Angel Grove" (Sydney) Monorail, Giant Villain Foot breaks section of track, teens inside lead monorail car can't stop the train, Sixth Ranger mecha flies down and uses wings & back to substitute for the missing track before going off to join the others.
- A rare villain example occurs in Heroic Trio. The Dragon takes over a station and sends the train out of control. The heroes fight him until the train plows through the station wall, heading right for him. He tries to stop it a la Superman but ends up getting pinned to a wall.
- Inverted in Unstoppable, where NORMAL PEOPLE have to stop the train. Furthermore, it's (mostly) Truth in Television.
- In Superman (1978), the title character does the "replace the rails with his body" bit to save a train from derailing after an earthquake rips a hole in the tracks.
- Raising Steam: Constable Bluejohn, a troll even bigger than Detritus, stops a runaway train he's on (while going up a mountain, the locomotive is separated from the train) by reaching out a hand and grabbing the cliffside.
Live Action TV
- In Lois and Clark, Superman has to do this. However, this is in the 90s, in the scheme of things not terribly long Post-Crisis, so he has great difficulty doing it (when his Power Creep, Power Seep is at its most ridonkulous, the man who can move planets with his bare hands doesn't worry too much about trains. But this Supes ain't that Supes.) Naturally, in the end he does prove to be 'more powerful than a locomotive.' The fact that it's hard for him averts the usual problem of horizontal Not the Fall That Kills You: the train definitely slows down gradually instead of being stopped instantly (which would rightfully result in as much passenger squishification as being stopped with equal suddenness by a crash.)
- In Sentinels Of The Multiverse, one of the hazards in Megalopolis is an out-of-control train. One of the heroes has to take damage to stop it, or it deals enormous damage to everyone on the team.
- Subverted in WarioWare Touched... Wario as Wario Man tries to stop the train, then gets smashed halfway across the horizon and into a sewer.
- In the strength-test arcade game Sonic Blast Man, one of the scenarios that has to be resolved by punching things as hard as you can is stopping an out-of-control train.
- Jonathan and Charlotte must team up to do this to a ghost train at one point in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.
- Subverted in Star Fox 64. How do you stop the gigantic Forever Train? You blow it up. Starting at the back.
- Subverted in Uncharted 2 Among Thieves. Perhaps to highlight Nate's accidental action hero status, the train he happens to be on at first starts off unscathed, until you are attacked by a Hind-D attack chopper, at which point the explosions start. The entire back end of the train is cut off, and the only reason you survive is because you go under a tunnel at the last second. The train gets stopped for good later when Nate shoots some propane tanks in a last stand, blowing the train up off the tracks, and it ends up dangling over a thousand foot deep Himalayan valley.
- In Final Fantasy VI, Sabin suplexes the Ghost Train. Or throws some magic bird feathers at it.
- You have to shoot a runaway subway train into scrap in at least one Metal Slug title.
- According to its Pokedex entry, Hariyama from Pokémon actually has this ability.
- In Sonic Shuffle, the fourth stage's final game has Sonic and his friends stop a train with their bare hands. They're in a dream-like world, so it works.
- Villainous example in Contra: Hard Corps against the blue mecha, one of the bosses. It outruns the train then pushes it to a halt. A similar instance also occurs with another blue mecha boss in Shattered Soldier
- The Heavy does this at the climax of Team Fortress 2's "End of the Line" update video against a train headed for the bases's explosives stockpile. Even with the Heavy's Stout Strength and the Medic's ÜberCharge, some of the train cars get derailed and destroy some outlying buildings, but everyone survives in the end.