Speeding Trains and Distance Problems are Unstoppable! (And easily solved.)

B&O train leaves Portville NY at 7AM. On the opposite end of the track, Norfolk train leaves Pittsburgh at 8AM. If Train A travels 60 mph and Train B travels 45 mph, what speed will safely get the Norfolk train to the rail switch in time? Sound familiar?

If I had to guess, I’d say that students will have more word problems in McKean Co., Pennsylvania in the weeks ahead. The Tony Scott move “Unstoppable” has a cult following in Bradford, PA and surrounding theaters due in large part to filming of the movie in north central Pennsylvania.

Also a PA native, my wife Tina demanded the movie was at the top of our “must see” list. We found the time and watched the movie on the big screen last weekend. Sure enough, we easily recognized scenes at familiar railway intersections of our neighboring childhood home towns. The cast of characters did a fine job of depicting the culture of the region. The opening scene with Denzel Washington’s characterization toward keeping things they way they are, the resistance to change, and resentment toward a privileged name hits the nail squarely on the head. Local residents may recall similar conversations while enjoying the traditional Friday night fish fry.

Tina and I were caught up in the game of who can recognize a valley, road crossing, or section of rail. I hope this isn’t a spoiler, but one highlight of the movie was a collision with a horse trailer in route through Turtle Point, PA. Some town names were changed, but Turtle Point was retained and not only mentioned but highlighted several times on the rail map at the Corp headquarters.

From Movie Plot to Real Life Homework Questions

I couldn’t help but wonder if our tutors will see an increase in homework extra credit questions challenging students with time and distance calculations. Teachers are always quick to take advantage of current topics that gets kids engaged. I can almost hear the teachers encouraging students

“Ok class, how many of you saw the runaway train movie ‘Unstoppable’ with your family over the break?”


“How many of you were able to calculate the speed to get to the side spur and avert a collision?”

Maybe the teachers even awarded some bonus points if you brought in your printed Tutor.com transcript to show them how you got the extra help?

These math problems involving time, distance, and speed can be difficult to solve because there are many numbers and variables to work with. But don’t worry – there are lots of resources that can help you solve them correctly and quickly.

Here’s a few to get you started!

Need more help? Connect to a tutor.

This post is from Pennsylvania native and current Texas resident Ed Ponikvar. Ed is Tutor.com’s National Director of K-12 Schools and is thinking twice about train travel.


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