Railroad Embankment Failure

Photo Credit: Karl Jansen

Pictured here is the aftermath of an embankment failure. The spring of 2011 has brought record amounts of rain to the midwest, and this rain has to go someplace. This railroad track in Ann Arbor was supported by approximately 30ft of earth and aggregate embankment. Water from rain runoff flows along side the embankment, and slowly infiltrates into the ground. However, with all the rain this spring, the water wasn’t able to infiltrate quickly enough and a pond formed. This pond of water had the strength to push approximately 2000 CYD of earth and trees onto the adjacent Plymouth Rd. It left nearly 200 ft of railroad track suspended like a roller-coaster about 25ft above the washed-out ground. Fortunately, no trains were scheduled to use the track before emergency personnel were notified and responded to the situation.

  • Jake Clay

    Karl, this failure is the subject of a semester long project for me in the Civil Department at U of M. And I was wondering if you had sources for the information you present here.

  • Karl Jansen

    Most of the information I got here was from various articles on AnnArbor.com
    There may have been a few small details I included that I got from some worker at the site who was making sure people weren’t wondering too close because it would have been dangerous (there where some utility poles with live electricity that where barely in the ground – see utility pole in middle of photo).

    That’s cool that you’re involved in a semester long project on this local disaster. Hope it turns out well for you.