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Slippery Rail And How It Affects Your Commute

Updated Apr 25, 2018

In autumns past, you may have heard our train crews mention “slip-slide” to explain minor service delays. This condition is created by a Teflon-like substance left by crushed leaves on our rails that gets even more slippery when it rains.

When a train attempts to speed up or slow down, this slippery substance - called pectin - can cause the wheels to slip or slide along the rails. In severe cases the train will automatically make an emergency stop to ensure the train stops in a safe distance.

All this slip-sliding and emergency braking can create flat spots on the train’s wheels forcing us to take much needed equipment out of service for repairs.

However, thanks to our proactive approach, you’ve been experiencing the negative affects of slippery rail less frequently. This is due to a number of changes we have implemented.

We’ve reprogrammed the software of our M7 fleet to allow the braking system to better adjust to slip-slide conditions. We instructed our engineers to report slippery conditions immediately to our Operations Center. We have also trained them how to operate through these “slippery” areas.

In addition, we have enhanced our computerized train-tracking system to allow for automatic, real-time reporting of low adhesion conditions from our M7 fleet, enabling us to take corrective action more quickly.

One thing you will notice is that under extreme conditions, we reduce speeds through problem areas out of concern for your safety. While this may result in a slight delay to your service, it ensures a safer operation while also preventing a greater delay because of wheel damage. No flat spots on train wheels also means we can operate at regular speeds in non-problem areas.

Along with training and technology, we are also combating the affects of seasonal slippery rail - we use power washers to remove the pectin and apply an anti-slip substance to the rail. On-board sanders on our diesel trains drop sand on our tracks to help improve traction when wheel slippage begins to occur. We are also doing our part to manage vegetation along our tracks as a preventive measure.

Remember: We can reduce the severity of the slip/slide phenomenon, but we cannot eliminate it. We will continue our efforts to try to minimize any delays and inconvenience slippery rail may create for you this autumn. If your train is being delayed by what your train’s crew tells you are “slip/slide conditions,” you’ll understand - your safety is our highest priority. As always, we appreciate your patience.

Click here to watch Falling Leaves Mean Slower Trains video