erkunden (erkunden) wrote in little_details,

Train heists: Car order, doors, and decoupling

[EDIT: Wow, thanks for all the responses! Looks like I've got my research cut out for me, but this is an awesome starting point. :)]

Setting: Near-future (modern technology), Midwestern or Eastern United States

I'm trying to figure out the answers to a few questions about trains; however, my Google-fu has apparently deserted me, since the only answers I've been able to find are all for model-train enthusiasts. A scene I'm working on involves the main characters performing a train heist, decoupling the cargo cars while the rest of the train (passenger section) moves onwards. A few questions come to mind:

1) I don't know how train cars are usually ordered - is cargo typically placed in front of or behind the sleeper cars? (If it helps any: This train is being used as a crude form of prisoner transport, with the prisoners chained in the freight cars. There is a small security detail, but I'm hoping to have most of them spending the night in the sleeper car, given that the heist will be happening at night.)

2) I've found several references on decoupling of train cars on older locomotives via a lever-and-lynchpin setup, but I can't find how this looks like in more modern trains. Does anyone know if modern train cars can still be decoupled by hand, or is some extra heavy machinery needed?

3) In movies, at least, rear doors of each car open onto a narrow area open to the elements from which cars can be decoupled. Any clue if these doors are typically locked while the train is in transit - and how easy they might be to open from the outside (since I'm assuming that's the only way to enter the train externally?)

Many thanks in advance for the help - this community is a fantastic resource!
Tags: usa (misc), ~trains, ~travel: ground & rail

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