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Metro-North combats 'slippery' rail, posts best-ever November on-time performance


What’s colorful, fun to jump in and affects MTA Metro-North Railroad’s on-time performance in autumn? Leaves — but this year, the railroad didn’t let fall foliage take a toll. Thanks to an aggressive program to reduce “slippery rail,” which is caused by a gelatinous residue from crushed, wet leaves on track, Metro-North posted its best-ever November on-time performance at 98.1 percent.

Slippery track can cause train wheels to skid, often times activating a trains’ emergency brake and causing flat spots on wheels. In 2007, Metro-North reprogrammed on-board computers in its M-7 electric vehicles to recognize train skidding and gradually apply brakes without triggering an emergency stop.

The agency also implemented slow orders at the first sign of slippery track in areas that are more susceptible to low adhesion. In addition, crews operated two water pressure machines to clean slime off the rails nightly, and a rail scrubber — a hi-rail vehicle that features a rotating pair of steel brushes — in trouble spots.

Finally, the agency updated operating instructions for engineers regarding low-adhesion conditions and continually updated engineers via radio on slippery track locations.

The end result: Between Oct. 15 and Dec 9, total delay minutes due to low adhesion stood at 1,425 — a 68 percent decrease compared with 4,467 minutes during the same 2006 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/18/2007