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In this image from the 2023 earthquake in Turkey (and many others online), the railway is badly deformed, but structures around it (e.g., the concrete wall to the right and berm to the left) seem unaffected. What's the mechanism that causes this kind of seemingly-isolated damage to railroads in a earthquake?

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  • $\begingroup$ this must be a result of ground compression,do you have a source for the picture? $\endgroup$ Feb 19 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ I found the digital version here: news.yahoo.com/surreal-photos-show-exactly-where-140000275.html, but I original saw in a the 19 Jan 2024 issue of Science. It says "deformed by the quake’s ground shaking and liquefaction" but that doesn't explain why it's so localized. $\endgroup$ Feb 19 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ I keep wondering if the ballast under the track was thicker, and/or the middle part has a slightly greater slope downhill to the right, causing that specific area to move when disturbed, and not return. (it seems different from the picture in John's answer, in which it only seems the rail shifted, whereas everything moved here) $\endgroup$ Feb 21 at 7:50

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this is what liquefaction looks like, the ground acts like a liquid, this is not ground flow, this is the ground as a whole doing the chacha (s-wave) and the rail going along for the ride. but the rail is strong enough to hold the tailings in place as the ground returns to normal but the rail remains bent. you are basically looking at a freeze frame if what the ground was doing at time time but the rails kind of lock it in place. you are just looking at where the rails bent but did not return.

also remember a rail like this is essentially one continuous piece of steel for miles, there could be a lot of stress being transferred from other areas.

This is what happens when the rails are not as well anchored. and pull themselves away from the soil as the ground returns to normal. enter image description here

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B9780857092687500050

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    $\begingroup$ So, then to explain why the wall is on the right is not damaged, it could be that rail was under strain, the ground liquified and the track buckled. The wall, however, is probably not under strain, so it didn't move. Is that plausible? $\endgroup$ Feb 21 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ that or both moved and the rail prevented the tailings from returning to their original position. its hard to tell from one photo alone $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 21 at 0:50

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