Funniest Engineering Fails
Here are the funniest engineering fails you'll ever see!Entertainment
Engineers are responsible for some of the toughest and most necessary jobs around. Without them our buildings would be falling down, our trains wouldn’t run on time, and the answer to every problem would just involve a liberal amount of duct tape.
Considering the difficulty of the job, mistakes and oversights occur from time-to-time. And when they do, they can be hilarious! Let's take a look at some of the most foolish engineering fails ever.
Worst Railroad Tracks
Before we delve into it, you must watch the clip below:
It's a train en route from Ohio to the town of Cecil on a routine cargo delivery. Only, instead of traveling along solid, sturdy rails, the train precariously wobbles across tracks that look like they belong on a rollercoaster, not a railroad! While it looks like a photoshop trick, the melty tracks are a real-if-unusual phenomenon.
Prolonged heat is known to make metal relax and expand, and then contract when things cool off. Usually this isn’t a problem for railways as tracks undergo a process called stressing. This increases the temperature range most tracks can maintain their shape at, and guarantees they return to their original shape if they do expand.
Hastily assembled tracks that forgo the stressing process, however, run the risk of the spaghettification seen in the image below. This is when important ballasts become damaged or dislodged as the tracks expand, and when they contract, they don’t revert back to their original shape.
Some rail tracks in New Zealand likely only had a small weak point along the railing but that was enough for them to become completely spaghettified when the region was struck by a 7.1 Earthquake.
So, despite looking tough, imperfect railroad tracks can be sensitive. And while many areas of the world don’t have to worry about earthquakes, we all need to worry about rising temperatures as summers get hotter and hotter across the globe, potentially spaghettifying more and more train tracks.
Train Crossing Busy Motorway
Vehicles are pretty simple to understand: cars go on the road, trains go on the tracks, not hard to wrap your head around, right? Except, the engineer behind this next mad design decided that this train would go wherever it damn well pleased!
This highway was located along Neftchilar Avenue in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. There are no crossing signs, no barriers, and the tracks are nearly invisible! The only warning the motorists get is a very desperate sounding horn from the fast-approaching train!
It would seem the railway was built many years ago to transport grain from the docks on Baku’s coast. The 7-lane highway was built over the tracks as the city developed, but the engineers didn’t seem to think a warning system was necessary.
Regardless, thanks to ongoing development, the tracks have since been tarred over, though you can still see proof they existed on google maps!
Disney Death Ray
In 2003, Disney decided to add a little more prestige to their name by commissioning famed architect Frank Gehry to design a classy new concert hall for them, to be located right in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. His final proposal was sleek, futuristic, and somewhat trippy.
Obviously, the unconventional design split peoples’ opinions. Even though it’s clearly an impressive piece of architecture, it’s also a bit of an eyesore in more ways than one! This metal abomination was comprised of over 12,500 curvy, stainless-steel panels.
This meant that, while you could safely appreciate the concert hall’s unique design at night, during the daytime it became blindingly bright. The steel panels covering the building were extremely reflective, to the extent where people said looking at the building in the day was like staring directly at the sun.
To make matters worse, the hall is right next to a major road, and its unavoidable glare was responsible for temporarily blinding multiple drivers! Furthermore, the concert hall didn’t just reflect light, it also magnified heat. According to some bystanders, the sidewalk around the metal monstrosity could get as hot as 140 degrees, enough to leave some serious burns if you weren’t careful.
Realizing they had basically installed a permanent lawsuit machine, Disney acted fast. They had each and every one of those 12,500 panels sanded down, making them significantly less shiny. While this means the building isn’t quite as grossly incandescent as Gehry envisioned it to be, it’s a heck of a lot safer.
Because of its death ray abilities, Gehry's project joined the honorable group of "buildings that melt things", alongside London's infamous Walkie Talkie. If you want to investigate more about the latter, you can read our article about the most expensive mistakes in the world.
Our next story takes us back to 2006, and onto The SomethingAwful Forums. If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you’re already holding your breath, because this website is responsible for some classic internet drama.
The tale begins when a moderator for the forums by the name of Grover decided he was going to build his own home based on an MS paint mock-up and despite being completely unqualified. Users let him know this was a terrible idea, but Grover didn’t listen, and soon found himself the architect of the single most memed building on the planet, Groverhaus.
It really was the home that kept on giving, with each image Grover posted telling a different, hilarious story. What you can see in the picture below is Grover’s unique eye for aesthetics. That side of the house has seven windows, in four different styles, and none of which mesh together in a coherent way.
Also, this entire house was built in a place called the Great Dismal Swamp. No, that’s not an area in a Dark Souls game, it’s a real swamp in Virginia that Grover thought would be the perfect place to build a home.
The funny thing about houses, though, is that they need to pass several safety inspections to be deemed livable. As you can imagine, Groverhaus did not pass the safety inspection. This was perhaps due to his septic tank not being big enough to support the waste his family would produce, or the fact he used drywall, a notoriously flimsy substance, as load bearing material.
So, Grover decided to become a qualified health and safety inspector, just so he had the authority to pass his clearly unsafe house. The ultimate fate of Groverhaus is still a mystery, with some claiming it was abandoned while others insist Grover still lives there today, roaming the monstrosity like a mad scientist.
House Falls Into River
If you’ve ever been house-hunting, you’re already aware that waterfront properties tend to be crazy expensive. But how close is too close? How about this house in this clip below?
This house was on the bank of a river running through Yellowstone, Wyoming, when it plummeted into the drink and was swept away by a mighty current. Luckily, no one was injured, as everyone had safely evacuated the house long before it crumbled into the river.
Though it’s a crazy sight, this kind of thing happens all the time when houses are built along cut banks, which are banks that have sudden drop-offs into bodies of water. Because cut banks are exposed to the elements, they’re particularly vulnerable to erosion.
This means that, with enough heavy weather, it’s only a matter of time before your waterfront property becomes a waterlogged property.
Pro tip: always make sure you have a spare tire on hand. After all, you never know when you might get a flat, or need to embed it permanently into a construction site. It always pays to be prepared, I guess.
How did this tire end up there? It may look like these builders were on auto-pilot and accidentally entombed a nice tire into their wall, but it’s there intentionally. The tire actually provides the perfect curved shape and foundation for creating a beautifully symmetrical arch, after which the tire can be removed.
This technique isn’t strictly limited to archways, though! In the next picture you can see some civil engineering students in Ethiopia tasked with constructing a small arched bridge out of local waste. As it turns out, a leftover tire proved to be a great foundation.
Venice's Slippery Bridge
Venice’s impressive Grand Canal is over two miles long and 225 feet wide at its widest point. Despite this, however, in the mid-2000s there were only three bridges crossing it, which could get pretty crowded.
So, in 2008, the city commissioned famed architect Santiago Calatrava to design its fourth Grand Canal bridge. Calatrava was previously responsible for eye-catching architecture such as Sweden’s Turning Torso Tower and Spain’s Auditorio de Tenerife, so Venetians were expecting something breath-taking from their upcoming bridge.
The Ponte della Costituzione, or Constitution Bridge, was the result of Santiago’s hard work. Stark, simple, and bold. Citizens were pleased with the bridge’s elegant, curved design and striking translucency, but there was something these Venetians were blind to.
To get that see-through look just right, Santiago primarily constructed the bridge out of glass. Why is this a problem? Well, Venice experiences around 32 inches of rain a year, distributed pretty evenly across the months, and glass is a notoriously slippery material when wet. This made the Constitution Bridge fairly treacherous to cross all year round. But in winter, it was a death-trap.
In addition to receiving a lot of fog in the winter, the rain that fell onto the cold glass bridge would quickly freeze, making it even more slippery. The bridge soon became infamous among locals and tourists alike, as pedestrians suffered constant slips and accidents attempting to cross it.
Furthermore, Santiago had made this exact mistake before, creating Bilbao’s notoriously slippery Zubizuri bridge, also made of glass. In the end, the cite of Venice had no choice but to cover the Constitution bridge in a series of ugly stone panels, ruining its aesthetic but improving its usability.
Stair Design Fails
Stairs are an essential, if fairly simple, invention that were an essential step in the advancement of humankind. There are even steps found at Gobekli Tepe, one of the world’s oldest settlements dating back 12,500 years.
With that in mind, how is it possible we can still get stairs this wrong today? Despite having over 12,000 years of experience with this, you can still find abominations like the stairs in the image below.
The reason awful, zig-zagging stairs like this exist is frequently down to poor planning. If a series of steps are too large for the stairway they’re meant to occupy, often the only way they can be made to fit without sacrificing their height is by placing them in diagonally.
At least, that’s what happened with the meme-worthy stairs below, designed by Gabriella Gustafson in 2006. According to Gabriella, these panic-attack inducing stairs are both functional and exciting to walk down due to extra steepness.
So accidents happen, and sometimes you have to make the best out of a bad situation. It’s unfortunate, but understandable but then there are ridiculous stairs, which just have to be intentional:
Any builder with a pair of eyes would see there’s something very wrong here, which leads me to think this is a case of malicious compliance. Malicious compliance is the act of following orders as given, but intentionally ignoring any problems or mistakes with those orders. In this case, maybe the contractors got stiffed on the pay and decided to teach their client a lesson.
While some stair design fails are simply not functional, others are accidents waiting to happen. Take a look at the epic slabless concrete stair in the image below.
The Worst Seats
We’ve all lived through the indignity of excitedly sitting down at a sportsball event only to realize you’re seated behind a giant that completely obstructs your view. It happens, but it’s something the stadium can’t really control. What they can control, however, are seats like this in Fenway Park stadium, where the fan’s view is completely obscured by a pillar.
And how about these seats in the tweet below in Yankee Stadium, where half of your field-of-view is obscured by a raised platform? Talk about a class divide!
Finally, there are these seats below that Redditor downriverrowing posted online. You can't deny they are front row seats, though. Maybe these would be okay for a family of giraffes out at a ball game, but other than that, how do you explain them even existing?
Many sports fans theorize that seats like these exist solely so stadiums can advertise a higher seating capacity than they actually have. No one is supposed to end up in these seats, but sometimes computers make mistakes and place people there anyway.
Water Leaking From Electrical Outlet
Pipes and electrical wires in a house are a lot like our own bones and arteries, and just like us, they can break down if you don’t look after them. Case in point, take a peek at the electrical socket that appears to have sprung a leak:
As crazy as this looks, it’s actually a more common issue than you might think. Houses tend to be filled with pressurized pipes, which help water get from one area of your home to another. Sometimes if these pipes are improperly installed or just worn down, they can crack.
This leads to water leaking and pooling up inside your walls and, if you have a loose power outlet, creating an indoor waterfall. If this happens to you, turn off the main water valve in the building and call a plumber as soon as possible. And no matter how bored you get, don’t plug in your phone.
The Great Molasses Flood
Molasses is a thick, sticky, dark brown substance known for its sweetness and extremely slow pouring speed. If you’ve ever heard the phrase slow as molasses, this is why. In addition to being sickly-sweet, however, did you know molasses can also be deadly?
In the 1910s molasses was experiencing a boom in popularity as a cheap alternative to sugar. During this time, the Purity Distilling Company opened up a molasses processing plant in Boston, Massachusetts, and their safety precautions were a little lacking, to say the least.
As the company expanded, they quickly built a new distillery, whose construction was overseen by a man named Arthur P Jell. But Jell was a financial advisor and had no experience in engineering; however, he was cheaper than a trained engineer! It didn’t take long for one of the main tanks at the facility to spring a leak, which was hastily patched up.
However, as more and more cracks began to form, the company had a bright idea; just paint the tank a darker color. They figured if no one could tell the tank was leaking, then there was no real problem! Ingenious, right? Not really.
On January 15th, 1919, the fifty-foot-tall tank finally gave out, letting loose a landslide of over two million gallons of molasses. The wave was apparently 55 feet tall and traveled as fast as 35 miles per hour. As the tank was only 200 feet from the harbor, it caused huge damage to the city and ended up injuring 150 people.
If you’re wondering how something as harmless as molasses could be this damaging, consider the fact it’s 40% denser than water, meaning it’s way harder to swim or wade through. The city was practically buried alive and over 300 people volunteered to clean-up the spill, but it still took weeks to clear the molasses.
The company lied and tried to blame the Boston molasses disaster on anarchists, but a court eventually ordered them to pay $300,000 in damages, about $5.1 million in today’s money. Regardless of how sweet the molasses is, that left a sour taste in their mouths.
Imagine this; you’re an independent bus driver and have just purchased a brand-spanking new vehicle. You’re excited to start your career when, upon driving home, you realize you’ve made a huge mistake: your garage can’t fit your bus.
What do you do? Apply for a larger parking permit? Try to extend your garage? Move somewhere roomier? How about you just knock a wall down and let your bus’s caboose hang free in the air!
The picture above was taken in the Cidade Tabajara district of Olinda in Brazil. According to commenters on a forum this image was posted to, this is actually a school bus that belongs to an independent driver. His garage clearly couldn’t fit his vehicle, so he had a wall taken out. Big brain thinking there.
But this is uncomfortable for so many reasons, like, is the structure of the building on top ok? If he reverses in a little too far, what happens next? And perhaps, most importantly, why on earth did he think this was a good idea in the first place?
Santa Clara's Mysterious Foam Blob
There’s nothing quite like opening your window on a cool winter morning and being greeted by a fresh, crisp blanket of snow. But what if it was not snow at all but foam! Mysterious wobbly, frothy foam was everywhere in Santa Clara, California on November 18th 2016.
For a few hours there was mass speculation as to the cause, the usual internet weirdos were claiming it was sentient, or the work of the Illuminati. The actual culprit, however, was poor design.
Tracing back the foam revealed its origin was a hangar occupied by Signature Flight Service, who repair and run maintenance on jet engines. As you might expect, jet engines are dangerous things to work on. If something goes wrong and one explodes, a fire sustained by jet fuel can spread incredibly quickly.
This is why the company uses an alarm system that dispenses foam when it detects an accident. The foam is designed to spread out across a large surface area as quickly, and thickly, as possible, smothering the fire before it grows too large. But it’s also soap based, so it doesn’t damage the aircraft.
Evidently, however, Signature Flight’s alarm system left a lot to be desired, as it either detected a fire when there definitely was none or just malfunctioned and decided it was time for a foam party. Moreover, once the alarm goes off, there’s no way to kill the foam, so it just kept going and going.
This could be seen as a good thing, after all, you don’t want someone accidentally turning the foam off during a fire but it also leads to situations like what happened in Santa Clara. While the police were called to respond to the bubble and strife, there wasn’t much they could do besides wait for it to dissipate.
While the foam can be somewhat toxic in large doses, no one was exposed to it long enough to cause any harm. It’s a shame it only lasted a day, it would be super fun to play a game of paintball in there, ducking in and out of the foam.
Lots of factors go into determining where ATMs are installed. For example, if you’re a greedy bloodsucker and want to charge a high transaction fee, it doesn’t make sense to put your ATM down outside a store that offers free cash withdrawals.
With that in mind, try to conceive of a reason the ATM in the picture below was placed where it was.
Maybe this guy in the picture is an outlier, and the average height in the area is ten-foot-five? Either that, or a nefarious jokester stole the steps leading up to this ATM and placed them somewhere else. That would explain what the pointless steps in the image below are doing there.
Useless stairs like these are what’s known as hyperart Thomasson’s, which is an absolutely awesome name for a piece of civil engineering that is functionally useless. Hyperart Thomasson’s are typically born when only certain areas of buildings are constructed or demolished, leaving useless relics behind.
They may not have been pretty, but they were a hilarious collection of engineering oversights and failures. I hope you were amazed at the funniest engineering fails! Thanks for reading.