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Slippery Rail Condition May Cause Delays
September 29, 2010

Autumn's falling leaves and wet weather conditions have the potential to cause "slippery rail delays," an age-old problem that affects all railroads in the Northeast and other parts of the world where deciduous trees are prevalent.

Slippery rail condition occurs when falling leaves are crushed by train wheels. The decaying leaf material creates a slippery oily residue that coats the rails, resulting in poor traction for trains.

Slippery rails can make it difficult or impossible for the steel wheels of a train to maintain traction and operate normally. This condition is similar to the wheels of an automobile on a sheet of ice; the tires may turn but, without traction, the car won't go very fast. Unfortunately, a train that encounters traction problems can cause delays for the trains behind it, as well.

Doing Our Part

NJ TRANSIT aggressively fights slippery rail conditions with several countermeasures, including:

  • Deploying AquaTrack, our high-pressure rail power-washing system
  • Tree trimming and leaf removal near rail lines
  • Strategically spreading sand on the rails in advance of peak periods

In fact, since AquaTrack was first put into service eight years ago, slippery rail delays have been reduced by more than 50 percent.

However, despite our best efforts, the combination of wet conditions following the leaf-fall period may result in traction problems and delayed trains. As a result, customers may wish to allow extra travel time when traveling during the fall season.

We appreciate your understanding.