Window Hammers - do they still really exist?

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CC 72100

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Back on day trips to Paignton and West Midlands Day Tripper days out with the family 10 or so years ago, I can distinctly remember that the Mark 2s + 3s had window hammers, as the '3rd option' in an emergency (if you could not move to another coach as option 1, or open the doors as option 2), however recently I've noticed that the small boxes that contained window hammers to be vacant and covered in (such as on FGW Mark 3s) and them not appearing as an 'option' in an emergency on safety information.

Have safety regulations been changed, with a move away from breaking windows in emergencies, or is there another reason why I don't seem to see them much these days?
 
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323235

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Well as far as I can tell from a quick search the Rail Safety and Standards Board did a report and concluded that the breaking of windows should cease to be a designated escape strategy and so they were removed from all UK trains.

Northern removed them probably about 2 years ago from memory.
 

callum112233

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I'm sure they are still present on virgin trains are they not? There are stickers on some of the windows telling you where to strike the hammer.

Seems silly to take the hammers away. I'm sure the passengers on the trains at the ladbroke grove crash were grateful for the hammers.

Callum.
 

transportphoto

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If urgently required as a last resort, staff have a brilliant resource available to them. The carriage key. I can't see why smashing windows is needed anymore, all doors have emergency opening ability.

TP
 

RPM

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A lot of rolling stock is now fitted with laminated glass. It was concluded that in many recent rail accidents, casualties died because they were thrown through train windows on impact, so it would be better to make the window glass stronger. Window hammers won't get you through laminated glass, therefore they are not provided.

Of course, if we now have one or two serious accidents where passengers burn to death because they are trapped inside carriages then we will be waving goodbye to laminated glass and welcoming back window hammers. Such is the reactive nature of railway safety policy.
 

tsr

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Well as far as I can tell from a quick search the Rail Safety and Standards Board did a report and concluded that the breaking of windows should cease to be a designated escape strategy and so they were removed from all UK trains.
That's all very well, but I'd rather not be in a standing-room-only coach of a 442 (to take one example) in the peak, with only 4 small doors for a large number of people, and have to rely on my own equipment to get out in an accident where doors are either immobilised, blocked or jammed (as would probably be the case).

I'm sure this has been considered, but I really don't see how much harm would be caused by breaking the windows to get out if the train has crashed and is on fire. Sorry if I'm being a bit dim here.

Also, another post mentions laminated glass. This is not entirely impossible to break, and is possibly not the type of glass used in the panes marked for breaking.

We forget that the stronger the glass is, the more traumatic the injuries people may have if they are bashed against it - in a sense, it may be a no-win situation: get ejected or get seriously injured anyway. Sorry to be brutal, but that may be the way it is.
 

Royston Vasey

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A lot of rolling stock is now fitted with laminated glass. It was concluded that in many recent rail accidents, casualties died because they were thrown through train windows on impact, so it would be better to make the window glass stronger. Window hammers won't get you through laminated glass, therefore they are not provided.
I thought it was more that in MOST situations, uncontrolled egress onto tracks, falling 6 ft or more onto tracks, into fire, debris and (more in cases of breakdown rather than accident) moving trains, it was deemed safer for passengers to either stay put or move to the adjacent coach until rescued?

This seems to be the jist of the safety notices on FGW these days, move along the train not out of it.
 

hwl

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If urgently required as a last resort, staff have a brilliant resource available to them. The carriage key. I can't see why smashing windows is needed anymore, all doors have emergency opening ability.

TP
I'll check tomorrow morning but I think that 2 windows per side of carriage are removable in a mk4 by pulling a cord embedded in the rubber window surround so the pane falls out, other wabtec refitted carriages might have this too.
 

BestWestern

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I'm pretty sure that some stock somewhere retained a couple of 'emergency windows' which could still be broken, but all others were laminated. Can't remember what stock or where though!
 

thelem

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I think I also remember reading somewhere that it's not just that the glass is laminated, but it's also stronger and therefore adds to the structural integrity of the carriage.

What hwl is saying about removable windows also rings a bell for me. I think FGW Mark 3s have something you can pull in one of the top corners now.
 

Temple Meads

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What hwl is saying about removable windows also rings a bell for me. I think FGW Mark 3s have something you can pull in one of the top corners now.
I think that's just for the internal sliding doors.

I've certainly never seen a pull tab in an FGW Mark 3.
 

reb0118

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ScotRail removed them to stop the "neds" using them as offensive weapons on the North Clyde - likewise axes from the tool cupboard.

Not to worry the wee b*gg*rs just use the fire extinguishers now!
 

Nat the Ned

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I think I also remember reading somewhere that it's not just that the glass is laminated, but it's also stronger and therefore adds to the structural integrity of the carriage.

What hwl is saying about removable windows also rings a bell for me. I think FGW Mark 3s have something you can pull in one of the top corners now.
It is indeed just the internal doors on FGW mark 3s. All windows are heat laminated and cannot be broken by hammer, therefore they have been removed. Strengthened windows designed to stop a carriage filling with ballast should it go on its side at speed....
 

GadgetMan

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The hammers kept getting pinched from the units I work, so they are no longer available in the saloons. There is a hammer for emergency purposes in each cab now instead.

I would guess they are useful for breaking car windows etc.
 

TEW

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I'm pretty sure that some stock somewhere retained a couple of 'emergency windows' which could still be broken, but all others were laminated. Can't remember what stock or where though!
All FGW stock had a couple of emergency windows when laminated glass was first installed. But shortly after all windows were fitted with laminated glass so became unbreakable. A lot of the injuries and deaths at Ufton Nervet were caused by windows breaking and people being dragged along underneath the train. Laminated glass keeps people in the train if the train falls on its side which should help prevent a lot of injuries.
 

michael769

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Laminated glass is not unbreakable! Laminated glass is designed so that when damaged rather that breaking into large and lethal shards (as with normal glass), or small fragments which can take a eye out (as with toughened glass) it will split in large cracks whilst still holding together and retaining it's structural strength..

Laminated glass can be broken by striking it very hard in a certain location (no I am not sharing) that is known to all members of the emergency services, this will cause it to break into 2 or three large sections which a healthy adult will have no difficulty kicking out of the panels frame.

As far as I understand the primary driver for their removal was thefts and vandalism. AIUI many sets still have at least one in their emergency equipment lockers.
 

CC 72100

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I had a feeling there was some sort of change in thinking in the 'Safety world' that I wasn't aware of being the reason behind it. I can also well understand vandals removing them, if it's not tied down, someone, somehwere will take one for no reason!

From what I've gathered from some of the comments on the thread, these days Safety Professionals believe that it is safer to have stronger, non-breakable windows so that people are less likely to fall out of the train in a crash. I can see the logic behind that, although in the event of a fire after an accident (particularly on diesel LHCS/ MU/ HSTs) where it could be a real possibilty, then maybe we may rue the time when we had the change of thinking. However where you gain in one area you use in another - I'm sure someone has done the calculations and worked out that it is best these days, with stronger, non-breakable windows.
 

Monty

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A trainer, had once told me that after an investigation into a derailment, it was decided that was best to keep passengers on board the train unless an evacuation was absolutely necessary and the TOCs were instructed to remove the window hammers from their trains to encourage this. He went on to say it'll only take annother accident for someone else to rule that they should put back in!

SWT had removed their window hammers shortly after, only for someone to point out it was a franchise commitment that we have them! So back in they went along with a nice steel plate to prevent anyone from using them, even the guard and driver. Madness!
 

ainsworth74

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A trainer, had once told me that after an investigation into a derailment, it was decided that was best to keep passengers on board the train unless an evacuation was absolutely necessary and the TOCs were instructed to remove the window hammers from their trains to encourage this. He went on to say it'll only take annother accident for someone else to rule that they should put back in!
Hmm I'm not so sure. Two derailments that spring to mind are Ufton Nervet and Grayrigg.

At Ufton Nervet the report made it pretty clear that the shattering of toughend glass contributed to both fatalities and injuries of passengers. It concluded that at least two and possible four of the six fatalities on the train were caused by being ejected through broken windows. Whilst others were injured when limbs became trapped between coaches and the outside, by being cut when thrown against broken windows and by being hit be debris (large quantities of ballast was found inside the coaches). If the windows had been of current standards at the time of the crash which required all but the emergency egress windows to be of laminated glass the number of severity of injures would have been less.

At Grayrigg (where all but the egress windows were laminated) in the leading coach all the windows shattered but only the egress window actually broke (and a passenger was partially ejected through this window). In the second three windows (including the egress) had broken through with one passenger again being ejected through them (as well as ballast/soil entering the train). In the rest of the train many windows were shattered but only a few egress windows broken through. Both of the passengers that had been ejected through windows suffered serious injuries (though it does make it clear that they are unsure in one case if the injuries came from ejection or not). The report cites the strength of the laminted windows as one of the main factors in the 390s impressive crashworthiness (it draws on Ufton Nervet as an example where weak windows significantly contributed to injuries and fatalities).

So to my mind it would take something pretty significant to lead to a change of policy back towards having emergency windows as passengers being ejected from the train has been a serious cause of death and injury in previous accidents. One accident where having smashed windows made a difference for aiding passengers to escape was Ladbroke Grove where a serious fire broke out in coach H of the HST. However, how many accidents in say the last twenty years have involved a fire bad enough to cause passengers to escape through windows? Then contrast that with how many have been bad enough that breaking windows has caused injury and fatalities (but there has been no fire or only a small one)?
 

Monty

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So to my mind it would take something pretty significant to lead to a change of policy back towards having emergency windows as passengers being ejected from the train has been a serious cause of death and injury in previous accidents. One accident where having smashed windows made a difference for aiding passengers to escape was Ladbroke Grove where a serious fire broke out in coach H of the HST. However, how many accidents in say the last twenty years have involved a fire bad enough to cause passengers to escape through windows? Then contrast that with how many have been bad enough that breaking windows has caused injury and fatalities (but there has been no fire or only a small one)?
Thankfully the rail network is one of the safest in the world and accidents such as these are expectionally rare. I imagine if another inicident like Ladbroke Grove did happen then the RSSB would consider take another look at emergency windows if their were fatalities as a result of people not being to escape coaches via windows.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, the problem with rail accidents is when they do occour so much can go wrong you can't predict what will happen every time. I suppose when thinking about it emergency windows are only really relevent on coaching stock that still use slam doors (ie Mk3s). Though I would like to know what are the chances of an egress failling to open on a power operated door?
 

O L Leigh

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I suppose when thinking about it emergency windows are only really relevent on coaching stock that still use slam doors (ie Mk3s). Though I would like to know what are the chances of an egress failling to open on a power operated door?
Thankfully such accidents are incredibly rare. However, when they have happened and involved LHCS or HSTs, those vehicles most affected have become decoupled meaning that the connecting gangway has become an additional escape route.

But to address your point, the emergency egress is a relatively simple system and the chances of it failing across an entire vehicle are incredibly slim. The greatest risk is that the doors themselves become damaged in some way that prevents them from opening, although again the chances of this happening to all the doors on both sides of a vehicle are incredibly slim. If any accident has been so severe as to render ALL the doors on a vehicle inoperable it is likely that the survivability chances for the occupants of that vehicle would be tiny anyway making the question of escape virtually irrelevant.

O L Leigh
 

yorksrob

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Hmm I'm not so sure. Two derailments that spring to mind are Ufton Nervet and Grayrigg.

At Ufton Nervet the report made it pretty clear that the shattering of toughend glass contributed to both fatalities and injuries of passengers. It concluded that at least two and possible four of the six fatalities on the train were caused by being ejected through broken windows. Whilst others were injured when limbs became trapped between coaches and the outside, by being cut when thrown against broken windows and by being hit be debris (large quantities of ballast was found inside the coaches). If the windows had been of current standards at the time of the crash which required all but the emergency egress windows to be of laminated glass the number of severity of injures would have been less.

At Grayrigg (where all but the egress windows were laminated) in the leading coach all the windows shattered but only the egress window actually broke (and a passenger was partially ejected through this window). In the second three windows (including the egress) had broken through with one passenger again being ejected through them (as well as ballast/soil entering the train). In the rest of the train many windows were shattered but only a few egress windows broken through. Both of the passengers that had been ejected through windows suffered serious injuries (though it does make it clear that they are unsure in one case if the injuries came from ejection or not). The report cites the strength of the laminted windows as one of the main factors in the 390s impressive crashworthiness (it draws on Ufton Nervet as an example where weak windows significantly contributed to injuries and fatalities).

So to my mind it would take something pretty significant to lead to a change of policy back towards having emergency windows as passengers being ejected from the train has been a serious cause of death and injury in previous accidents. One accident where having smashed windows made a difference for aiding passengers to escape was Ladbroke Grove where a serious fire broke out in coach H of the HST. However, how many accidents in say the last twenty years have involved a fire bad enough to cause passengers to escape through windows? Then contrast that with how many have been bad enough that breaking windows has caused injury and fatalities (but there has been no fire or only a small one)?
So going by Upton Nevett, it's safer to have windows that it's impossible to break. Alternatively, going by Ladbroke Grove, it's better to have breakable windows.

I always remember reading about a passenger who was involved in both the Ladbroke Grove and Southall accidents. He took a hammer in his briefcase to work ever since.
 

ainsworth74

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So going by Upton Nevett, it's safer to have windows that it's impossible to break. Alternatively, going by Ladbroke Grove, it's better to have breakable windows.
Going by Ufton Nervet, Grayrigg and any number of other derailments it's safer to have unbreakable windows. I can only think of Ladbroke Grove where it was an advantage to have breakable windows, which was the point I was making. Plenty of accidents could have had less serious outcomes for the passengers/crew if there were unbreakable windows (perhaps two or maybe even four less fatalities at Ufton Nervet for instance). Only one might have been made worse for not having them. Therefore there is quite a strong argument for getting rid of them (especially as OL Leigh points out there are normally any number of alternative exits available).

I always remember reading about a passenger who was involved in both the Ladbroke Grove and Southall accidents. He took a hammer in his briefcase to work ever since.
I think I'd have found an alternative method of commute in his situation :shock: that's amazingly bad luck!
 
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