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Fire Safety of Passenger Trains: A Review of Current Approaches and of New Concepts (TN 1406)



Richard D. Peacock, Richard W. Bukowski, Walter W. Jones, Paul A. Reneke, Vyto Babrauskas, James E. Brown


Recent advances in passenger guided transportation, fire test methods, and hazard analysis necessitate re-examination of requirements for fire safety. Several studies have indicated nearly random ability of current tests to predict actual fire behavior. Fire safety in any application, including transportation, requires a multi-faceted approach. The effects of vehicle design, material selection, detection and suppression systems, and emergency egress and their interaction, on the overall fire safety of the passenger trains are all considered. All of the technologies being considered for U.S. operation have evolved under different types of regulations and standards. This report presents a detailed comparison of the fire safety approaches used in the United States, France, and Germany. The strengths and weaknesses of current methods for measuring the fire performance of rail transportation systems are evaluated. An optimum systems approach to fire safety which addresses typical passenger train fire scenarios is analyzed. A rationale is presented for the direction in which most fire science-oriented organizations in the world are clearly headed - the use of fire hazard and fire risk assessment methods supported by measurement methods based on heat release rate (HRR).
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1406
Report Number


passenger vehicles, railroads, fire research, heat release rate, large scale fire tests, smoke, small scale fire tests, standards, systems approach, test methods, fire risk assessment


Peacock, R. , Bukowski, R. , Jones, W. , Reneke, P. , Babrauskas, V. and Brown, J. (1994), Fire Safety of Passenger Trains: A Review of Current Approaches and of New Concepts (TN 1406), Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 19, 2024)


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Created January 1, 1994, Updated November 10, 2018