The cool, crisp autumn days that lead to colorful foliage also present a potential problem to commuters who take the train.
NJ Transit is gearing up to fight a historic, seasonal railroad condition, "slippery rail," according to a release from the agency. When falling leaves are crushed by train wheels, the decaying leaf material creates an oily residue that coats the rails, resulting in poor traction for trains and resulting delays.
To help prevent this issue, NJ Transit is using AquaTrack, a high-pressure power-washing system.
“Though the fall foliage makes for a scenic commute when the leaves are still on the trees, after they fall onto our railroad tracks, they can become quite a nuisance for us and our rail customers,” said NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein in a press release.
“AquaTrack continues to play a vital role in helping to combat slippery rail and keep trains running on time.”
NJ Transit first introduced AquaTrack in October of 2003, according to the release. The system is pushed or pulled along the tracks by a diesel locomotive and includes two 250-horsepower diesel-engine units mounted on a flat car with an operator control cab. Two pressure-pump unites operate up toe 20,000 pounds-per-square-inch at 17 gallons per minute, delivering water directly to the top of the rail, the release explained.
AquaTrack will be used constantly through mid-December to try and keep rails free from the oily residue leaves leave behind. To supplement the high-pressure washer, NJ Transit sprease sand on the rails in advance of peak travel times to increase traction. Trees have also been trimmed along the tracks to help reduce the number of leaves falling onto the tracks, according to the release.
AquaTrack operates primarily on the Morris and Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines, washing the rails twice a day Monday through Friday. On the weekends, the AquaTrack cleans up the Pascack Valley and Main/Bergen County lines.
According to the release, despite NJ Transit's efforts the combination of wet weather following a period of leaf-fall may still result in traction problems and delay trains.