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Units remove residue from fallen leaves to combat wheel slippage



October 11, 2017

NEWARK, NJ — NJ TRANSIT is once again waging its annual battle against Mother Nature and fallen leaves on the rails.  NJ TRANSIT is deploying its two AquaTrack machines 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.


Last year, NJ TRANSIT unveiled its second AquaTrack unit which allows the cleaning process to maintain a larger coverage area in helping to prevent delays.


“While there is no way to completely eliminate the effect Mother Nature has on the railroad, the AquaTrack units have had great success in managing leaf-related slippage on our rails,” said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Steve Santoro.  “By utilizing these two highly specialized pieces of equipment, we can keep the rails free and clear of fallen leaves, increasing safety and keeping trains running on time.”


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 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.


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.  The addition of a second unit last year added cleaning on the Raritan Valley and North Jersey Coast Lines. 


In addition to AquaTrack, NJ TRANSIT strategically spreads sand on the rails in front of peak-period trains to increase traction.  NJ TRANSIT also trims trees to help stem the amount of leaves on the tracks.  The leaf clearing operation runs from mid-October through mid-December.



NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 944,000 weekday trips on 255 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.