, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 409–421 | Cite as

An analysis of failure mechanism constraints on pre-failure rock block deformation using TLS and roto-translation methods

  • Emily RoweEmail author
  • D. Jean Hutchinson
  • Ryan A. Kromer
Original Paper


Rockfall hazards increase the risk of train derailment along railway corridors in western Canada. In this study, repeated terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) datasets were collected every 2–3 months at three different sites along the Thompson and Fraser River corridors in British Columbia, referred to as the Goldpan, White Canyon, and Mile 109 sites. A total of 207 rockfall events occurring across all three sites between November 11, 2014 and October 18, 2016 were recorded in a database. For each of these rockfalls, pre-failure deformation was measured using a method of three-dimensional roto-translation block tracking. Each rockfall was classified by its deformation behaviour and further categorised based on failure mechanism, volume, lithology, and the roughness condition of the failure plane. Results reveal that detectable levels of deformation were measured in 33% of the total number of rockfall events using the present methods. Rotation deformation was most commonly observed in toppling failures with relatively steep joint orientations. Conversely, planar sliding blocks generally exhibited the least measurable deformation, with the majority not showing any precursory translation or rotation. It is postulated that overhanging rockfall configurations may suppress the expression of deformation in rockfall source blocks, though additional research is required to confirm this.


Rockfall Deformation Kinematics LiDAR Laser scanning Roto-translation 



The authors would like to acknowledge CN Rail for their generous data sharing and fieldwork support throughout this study. As a study conducted within the Railway Ground Hazard Research Program, this work has been funded by CN Rail, CP, and NSERC. These contributions are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017
Corrected publication September/2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geomechanics Group, Geological Sciences and Geological EngineeringQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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