I've got it all figured out.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ask the Magic internet a Stupid Question No. 0050.

Growing up I was always fascinated by trains but not in the way you think. I wasn’t one of those kids that went around in stripy over-alls and conductor hat talking about how I was going to be a train conductor one day.

Listen Casey Jr. Real train conductors don’t even dress like that. You need to get yourself a short sleeved dress shirt and a clip on tie and a water bottle full of Prince Igor.

I may have had a train set at one point but I was never one of those model railroad enthusiasts.

You know what’s worse than being on a train that’s delayed due to construction? Spending all your free time setting up a tiny plastic work crew to delay a tiny plastic train full of nobody going nowhere.

And speaking of train nerds, I also was never a train spotter.

I think I just spotted a CSXT 4617 pulling three cars of utter loneliness.

I was just a kid that grew up near a set of railway tracks. Despite all those film strips and safety videos they showed us at school most kids played on or near the railroad tracks back then. In fact one of the main reasons we used to walk along the tracks was to look for those explosive signals that the safety films warned us not to touch.

We had no idea these things existed until we saw those films.

I don’t remember ever actually finding any. Those safety films were so out of date that they probably stopped using them before I was born. Either that or the big kids got them first. When you’re a little kid you know that the big kids get everything first.

Screw you big kids! I’ll never get to meet Freddy Krueger or have a Walkman.

I do remember finding flattened pennies though.

Those stories your parents told you about a penny on the tracks derailing a train… lies, all vicious lies.

Sometimes we’d find flattened animals too. And sometimes we’d find just weird piles of foul smelling goo on the tracks that seemed to come from the passing trains. Some of the kids said that it came from the train’s toilet and that the trains just dumped all the pee and poo on the tracks while they were in transit. I probably believed them even though it was more likely some toxic chemical that leaked out of one of the tanker cars that would turn anyone that touched it into one giant melanoma in 10 years time.

Rocky, I want you to stay away from that Spicoli boy. He’s a bad influence on you. And what’s that on your face? Have you been playing by the railway tracks again?!

Oh well, it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. At least the train toilet legend kept us from touching whatever it was. But recently I read something that might prove that it is true. A woman in India was on a train when she gave birth in the toilet and the baby slipped down through the toilet chute.html onto the tracks. Seeing as the Magic Internet has already given weight to Joe Dirt’s space peanut theory, I figure it’s high time we learned more about the lavatorial secretes of trains.

Question 50: Do passenger trains dump their toilet waste on the tracks while in transit?

Magic Internet Answer: There are 3 standard types of toilets in use on trains today. In most modern carriages and trains running in more wealthy and densely populated areas a chemical retention tank is used. This is similar to the types of toilets used on commercial airliners. The human waste is stored in tanks and removed at terminal stations or during long stop-overs.

Hey are you guys gonna eat that?

The major problem with chemical toilets is that they limit a carriage’s in-service time. The railway company must pull the carriage out of service to remove the waste regularly or run the risk of the toilet retention tank filling up and the toilet overflowing.
Uh oh. I ate too much.

A solution to this is the second type of toilet in use on trains, a composting toilet. This type of toilet uses bacterial actions to break down human waste before releasing it onto the tracks byway of a chlorine sanitizing tank. It still leaves waste on the tracks but is much more hygienic.

Caddyshack File Photo: World’s largest chlorine sanitizing tank.

The third and final type of train toilet is found on older carriages and trains in use in more rural parts of Europe and Asia. It is known as a hopper toilet and it disposes of waste directly onto the tracks through a drop chute or simple hole in the floor.

So to answer your question, yes some trains do still dump human waste directly onto the tracks. Most modern rail companies however are turning away from using carriages with hopper toilets do to the environmental impact of leaving untreated human waste on the ground and in some areas there are regulations forbidding it. They are still widely used in other parts of the world such as India where railway regulations are far more lax.

Thanks Magic Internet. Your scatological knowledge is vast as always. I wonder it old Doc Brown ever took a dump right into his train’s Mr. Fission to get himself back in time? If he didn’t, I bet his creepy kid did.

Smell Ya Later people.

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