Watching things explode in slow motion is often satisfying, but it’s not always the post-explosion carnage that's the most impressive. Armed with the largest prop in the history of their recorded experiments, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of MythBusters traveled to Boardman, Oregon to see if it would be possible for a full-sized tanker car to crush itself.
The myth in question, according to Savage, involved a tanker that had been freshly steam cleaned, sealed, and left alone on the tracks, only to suddenly crumble like a soda can. To see if this could actually happen, the team acquired a 30,000 gallon capacity tanker that measured 67 feet long with a 10-foot diameter and weighed 67,000 pounds. After conducting smaller experiments in the lab with steel drums and models of the real thing, they designed a full-sized experiment.
A video segment explains that, if the myth was plausible, it would be caused by a difference in internal and external pressure:
Filling the container with steam pushes out the air. But if the vessel is sealed while it’s still hot and then allowed to cool, the steam condenses and the internal pressure drops, meaning the now greater external pressure pushes in on the surface.
For the grand experiment, the MythBusters duo got a massive steamer to fill the tanker, then sealed it and waited. The experiment ended in a bust, but after simulating “corrosion that a negligent train yard might not catch,” they got the result that they and the fans had hoped for.
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