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Rail News Home MOW

December 2008

Part 1 : INTRO: Railroad Contractor Case Studies

Part 2 : PART 1: All Railroad Services Completes Complex 'Slip-Slide' Project for Long Island RailRoad

Part 3 : PART 2: L.A. Colo Comes Through in the Cold for Iowa, Chicago & Eastern

Part 4 : PART 3: Mass. Electric Makes the Grade at 52 Crossings for North Coast Railroad Authority

Part 5 : PART 4: RailWorks Track Systems Does it's Part to Keep Prairie State Energy Campus Project on Track

Rail News: MOW

PART 1: All Railroad Services Completes Complex 'Slip-Slide' Project for Long Island RailRoad


At first glance, removing trees, trimming branches and clearing leaves from a commuter railroad and its right-of-way might appear to be, well, a clear-cut contract job. But toss in some cramped urban quarters, wary homeowners and a tight deadline, and the project quickly can become a complex one.

It’s a scenario the folks at All Railroad Services Corp. (ARS) encountered when they took on a leaf and vegetation removal project for the MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) this summer and early fall. But with the right equipment and experienced project team, ARS tackled the job and cleaned up the commuter line in plenty of time for leaf season.

“You need extremely experienced crews to do this work. You have to do it in a timely fashion and you have to do it safely,” says Mike Heridia, co-president of ARS, a full-service railroad pole line removal and disposal, and vegetation management company. “We’ve been doing this for more than 25 years.”

LIRR officials sought outside help for their leaf problems as part of a comprehensive program to improve safety and reliability by eliminating “slip-slide” conditions and flat wheels.

When train wheels run over and crush fallen leaves, rails can become coated with pectin, a slippery substance that causes low adhesion between the wheel and rail during braking. Pectin also contributes to premature wheel wear.

Slip-Sliding Away

LIRR service was severely impacted in fall 2006 by a significant number of slip-slide incidents and cars taken out of service to repair flat wheels. Additionally, flat wheels affect customer comfort and can cause noise, vibration, and train and track damage.

ARS was awarded contracts of $2.2 million in 2007 and $1.2 million in 2008 to clear trees from areas near the track, and back to the railroad’s property line borders. For the 2008 work, ARS typically used four 10-person crews, working from late July into October, Heridia says.

With LIRR carrying an average of more than 280,000 passengers a day, ARS needed to complete much of the project on weekends and off-peak hours.

In addition, large portions of the railroad run through densely populated areas in the New York City borough of Queens, as well as Nassau County, which made it difficult for crews to get access to trees.

That prompted ARS to use specialized equipment, as well as to do some work manually, Heridia says.

An Exercise in Diplomacy

ARS also had some community relations work to do.

Some residents were none too happy as they watched workers take down trees and limbs that served as buffers, separating the railroad from private property. In some instances, ARS asked to be able to cross through private yards with trimming and cutting equipment to reach railroad property.

“We have to be diplomatic with the community — our guys are very well-versed in how to communicate with the public,” Heridia says. “When we tell them what we’re doing and how it’s important for public safety, they usually understand.”

It also helps to offer to trim a resident’s tree, or provide assistance with planting a non-leafing pine tree. It’s all part of what it means to stay on top of it, trimming and cutting wise.

“There’s difficulty no matter where you go,” Heridia says. “But once you slay the beast, you have to maintain it. We’ve got a lot of experience doing that.”

— By Robert J. Derocher

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