Skip to main content



Units Clean Leaves and Residue from the Rails to Prevent Wheel Slippage


October 10, 2019

NEWARK, NJ —NJ TRANSIT will begin utilizing two AquaTrack machines to clean and remove leaves from the rails, starting October 13th and continuing throughout the fall season.

The AquaTrack equipment is a high-pressure power washing system which removes leaves and oily residue from the tracks in an effort to prevent train delays caused by “slippery rail” conditions.

The AquaTrack system has been in use by NJ TRANSIT since October 2003.  It consists of two 250-horsepower diesel-engine units mounted on a flat car with an operator control cab.  Two pressure-pump units dispense water up to 20,000 pounds-per-square-inch directly to the top of the rail.  The process uses 17 gallons of water per minute.

In 2016, NJ TRANSIT unveiled its second AquaTrack unit which allows the cleaning process to maintain a larger coverage area in helping to prevent delays caused by slippery rail. 

“Many people are shocked to learn just how much fallen leaves can hamper rail service,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin Corbett. “Most of them may think it would be a minor issue easily solved, but in fact it’s not. Transit systems throughout the world contend with this issue every year. NJ TRANSIT addresses this challenge with the AquaTrack machines, which help us more easily remove the oily residue from rails left behind by fallen leaves and keep service moving for our customers.”

Fallen leaves left on rail tracks can cause a condition known as “slippery rail” – a challenge facing all railroads in the Northeast and other parts of the world where deciduous trees are prevalent.  The decaying leaves create an oily residue that coats the rails and causes poor traction.  The decreased train speeds, in turn, create delays.

The original AquaTrack operated primarily on the M&E and Montclair-Boonton lines, which face particular challenges including the hilly areas around Glen Ridge and Summit stations, washing the rails twice a day Monday through Friday—once overnight and again during midday hours.  On weekends, the Pascack Valley and Main/Bergen County lines are usually covered. 

In addition to AquaTrack, NJ TRANSIT trains are equipped to spray sand on the rails in front of their wheels to increase traction.  NJ TRANSIT also trims trees to help stem the amount of leaves on the tracks. 

To view Aquatrack in action, click here:


NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 925,000 weekday trips on 251 bus routes, three light rail lines, 12 commuter rail lines and through Access Link paratransit service. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 166 rail stations, 62 light rail stations and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.