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Two High-Powered Units Clean Leaves and Residue to Prevent Wheel Slippage on the Rails

October 10, 2023

NEWARK, NJ — NJ TRANSIT has begun utilizing two AquaTrack machines to clean and remove leaves from the rails throughout the fall season.

The AquaTrack equipment is a high-pressure power washing system that removes the oily residue left behind by fallen leaves on the tracks to prevent train delays caused by “slippery rail” conditions.

“Wet leaves on tracks can be extremely disruptive to rail service, especially in the fall,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “AquaTrack can alleviate problems before they even occur, while taking the proactive steps to keep our service operating efficiently.”

“The AquaTrack system is a proven solution to a seasonal challenge affecting railroads not just in the Northeast, but globally,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “By using high-pressure washing, we’re able to remove the oily residue left behind by fallen leaves, preventing delays and ensuring a safer, more reliable commute for our customers.”

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 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 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.

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 cause poor traction. The decreased train speeds, in turn, create delays.

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 number of leaves on the tracks. 

For more information and to view the AquaTrack in action, click here:


NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 925,000 weekday trips on 253 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 19,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.