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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Let it snow: WMATA, TriMet prepare for winter weather


As winter rapidly approaches, some transit agencies are preparing for the season’s snowy weather.

Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) is installing snow-fighting equipment on the front of in-service trains. In the past, only empty trains were used to clear tracks of snow and ice. The authority also plans to equip 20 six-car trains with de-icing units and special scraper collector shoes to keep ice off electricity supplying third rails.

In addition, WMATA has installed a new heater tape — a cable clipped onto the third rail to keep it warm, and prevent snow and ice build-up — on areas of track with significant inclines. The authority also is taking measures to protect undercarriage motors from snow ingestion and electrical short circuits caused by water/snow and debris ingestion, and coating cars’ traction motors, and motor frames/housings and coils with a protective material.

Finally, during significant snowfalls, WMATA plans to operate six-car trains even after rush hour so workers won’t have to worry about frozen couplers when resizing trains, increase train frequency during non-peak periods to prevent snow accumulation, and sweep car door thresholds to remove snow, salt and ice from train doors.

Tri-Country Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) officials also are preparing for severe weather conditions. During snowfalls, the agency plans to operate trains around the clock to prevent ice build-up.

TriMet also installed ice caps on overhead wires, designed a scraping device to clear tracks in paved areas and installed switch heaters at key locations. On steep inclines, the agency will release a de-icer chemical.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/15/2004