It's So Cold In Chicago Right Now, The Railroad Tracks Need To Be On Fire To Keep Trains Moving
January 30th, 2019
In case you haven't heard, it's really cold in the Northern U.S. right now. Like, really cold. Chicago is facing temperatures of around -60º with the wind chill. And when it gets that cold, it starts to affect machinery and transportation, trains included.
Image Source: ABC 7 Chicago
Trains are essential in transporting both people and freight whether local or cross-country. With temperatures as cold as they are, it's not only potentially deadly for humans, but can actually be deforming for railroad tracks. When it hits below freezing, the metal of the train tracks can contract. It actually can pull to the point that it pulls up the bolts holding it in place, or even stress fracture.
Image Source: Metra
In order to help avoid this, crews soak long pieces of rope in kerosene and burn it to warm up the tracks, expanding them back into place for repairs. Once the track is warmed, it’ll be re-bolted, or welding repairs can be affected on the broken tracks. This method is also used at the rail switches. They usually have devices to keep them from freezing shut, but with weather this cold, they’d been otherwise rendered non-functional without this trick.
So a big shout out to all the mechanics, plow drivers, emergency personnel and countless others who are braving the extreme temperatures to (try) to keep things running as usual. Stay warm out there.