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Cars Without Tires are Trains

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In Real Life, rails are made for trains, roads are made for cars. In fiction, this line gets blurred.

Basically, if you've seen train tracks so far in the film, and then the hero's tires get shredded, you can bet that the car is going on those tracks. There's no explanation for why any car's rims will fit standard-gauge train track as if it were built for the task, except that it's cool.

As well as the obvious gauge problems, there is a more subtle issue with this to do with physics. While it takes less energy for metal wheels to run on metal rails than for rubber tyres to run on the ground, the lower friction means that there is more chance for slippage between the wheel and rail. Since road vehicles are often lighter than rail vehicles, accelerating without causing a wheel-spin and braking without skidding can require great caution.

Examples:

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     Film - Animated 
  • This happened to the villain's limousine in the ending of Oliver & Company as Sykes chases Fagin's scooter into the subway. Roscoe and DeSoto fall off the car in the struggle and land on the subway's third rail, electrocuting them. Sykes' car eventually drives straight into the path of an oncoming train, killing him in a fiery blaze and throwing him and his car into the East River.
  • In Cars 2, one of the activities that Mater drags Lightning into in the beginning of the movie is driving on abandoned railroad tracks without tires.

     Film - Live Action 
  • In Back to the Future Part III, the Delorean fits perfectly onto the train tracks.
  • In the James Bond movie Octopussy, Bond drives across some "severe tire damage" spikes on the Russian/Eastern bloc border. He then drives the car along the tracks to chase Octopussy's circus train. He manages to jump from the car to the train just before the car is struck by a train coming the other direction.
  • In the Get Smart film, 23 takes 99 hostage and flees in a vehicle. After a chase, Max manages to rescue 99, but in the struggle, the car is set on fire and forced onto railroad tracks. Max kisses 23 to distract him, a trick learned from 99. He and 99 are thrown off the vehicle before it collides with a freight train, killing 23.
  • In xXx: State of the Union, Deckert and Cobb abduct Sanford while he is making the State of the Union Address. They escape on a bullet train. Jackson arrives with a car, and Stone uses it to infiltrate the train by driving along the tracks.
  • The "train" at the end of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is a retrofitted truck.

     Live Action TV 
  • An episode of Top Gear involved a car being modified to pull a train. Hilarity ensued.

    Western Animation 
  • In Thomas the Tank Engine, the character of Winston is a track inspection vehicle owned by Sir Topham Hatt, who essentially resembles a convertible without tires. Sir Topham Hatt uses him to travel along the rails.

     Real Life 
  • In Real Life, a small number of Jeeps have been outfitted to work on railroad tracks in military service.
  • Some cars and trucks have been fitted to run on rails, used largely for railroad maintenance. These are called draisines (or "speeders" in the United States).
  • Similarly, during the early years of the switch from steam to internal-combustion, a number of minor railways in different parts of the world converted road buses into railcars, often with little more alteration than changing the wheels.
  • In World War II, the Russians had a variant on their standard heavy armoured car, the BA-10, that had both rail and road wheels. This enabled it to be driven onto a railway track, where the rail wheels were lowered into place and the armoured car then became a self-propelled railway wagon and could be sent ahead to check the track for obstructions, enemy activity and so on. If it also triggered any mines planted by the Germans, the theory ran, it was still cheaper than losing a whole train.

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