Slippery Leaves, Slippery Tracks
Autumn leaves are beautiful on the tree, but can cause problems when they fall, especially on our tracks at MTA Staten Island Railway.
The Railway operates 98 percent in an outside environment, much of it forested. When the leaves fall, they are crushed by the train wheels leaving behind an oily residue on the rail. This oily substance creates a lack of rail adhesion or slippery rail, which makes it difficult for the train operators to come to a stop when entering stations, even at very slow speeds. It does not matter how experienced a train operator may be, falling leaf season challenges even the most seasoned. Think of it like placing oil on the road, it's very difficult to gain traction.
Slippery rails cause delays. Every year Staten Island Railway, along with other properties which operate in an outside environment, experiences this problem. Staten Island Railway engages in a multi-pronged approach to mitigate poor rail adhesion due to residue left on the running rail from crushed leaves. Every weeknight, a train equipped with special cars operates on all mainline tracks applying a thin layer of a traction gel to the running rails to increase the friction between the rails and the turning wheels of the trains.
At sporadic intervals, sand, propelled by air pressure, is sprayed onto the running rails by a diesel locomotive. The light coating of sand helps alleviate some of the build-up of leaf residue. If the situation calls for it, trackmen go out and place sand on the track. On weekends, a special train is sent out with a high-pressure, heated water spraying system to clean the running rails of all the build-up.
We are fighting this problem seven days a week from October to mid-December. Although we make every effort to keep our schedule, our customers may wish to take an earlier train to ensure that they make the ferry at the St. George Terminal.