US NEWS | When its this cold, Chicago sets its train tracks on fire

US NEWS | When its this cold, Chicago sets its train tracks on fire


US NEWS | When its this cold, Chicago sets its train tracks on fire Chicago residents are a hearty bunch. They know how to keep things moving when the weather turns cold.But what about when its this cold? Lik… Chicago residents are a hearty bunch. They know how to keep things moving when the weather turns cold. But what about when its this cold? Like wind chill of 50 below zero cold? Getting around is lot tougher. When that happens, the folks who keep the commuter trains running in the Windy City employ a hot idea: They set the train tracks on fire. Flames were seen sprouting from the tracks of Chicagos Metra commuter rail system on Tuesday. Metra isnt literally setting the tracks ablaze, spokesman Michael Gillis told CNN. The flames actually come from gas fed heaters that run alongside the rails and keep them warm. Metra also uses a tubular heating system and hot air blowers to heat up cold track. “Anytime its below freezing were using these,” said Gillis, who said other rail systems in North America use similar systems. Why? Tracks are affected by extreme cold in two ways. In some cases the tracks experience whats called “pull aparts.” This kind of rail defect occurs when two rails separate at their connection. The extreme cold shrinks the metal and the rails literally pull apart from each other, Metra said in a recent Heating the tracks with fire expands the metal until the two rails can be put back together again. Railroad switch points can also become clogged with ice and snow in subzero conditions, so the heating system is used to unclog them. Maintenance crews light the heaters by hand and can control the flow of the gas, Metra said. The crew members, working 12 hour shifts, remain in the area when the heating systems are being used so they can monitor the flames. A few railroad ties are sometimes damaged by the heat, but this method is a lot safer than the one the rail system used to employ to thaw frozen tracks. Crews previously used pots filled with kerosene, stuck them in spaces between the track ties and lit them by hand. “We all used to carry this stuff. I called it skunk oil,” John Meyer, Metras director of engineering, said on the . “We poured it in a 2 gallon can, poured it out, and threw a match in it, and itd start a fire along all the rails. Were talking in the mid 70s. Nowadays youd get in big trouble doing that.” Metra says its safe to run the trains over the flames because the diesel fuel in the trains “combusts only with pressure and heat, not open flames.” 1751 Highway 52 NorthRochester, MN, 55901 USA112 N. Pennsylvania Ave.Mason City, IA, 50401 USA135 East Williams St.Albert Lea, MN, 56007 USARochester MN 1 800 323 4883Albert Lea MN 507 369 0256Mason City IA 641 423 2540

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