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Rail lines prepare for heat wave

Dr. Gridlock's hot weather travel tips | Cooling centers
Photos: Coping with the heat | Video: Memories of the snow

1:45 p.m. Update: Virginia Railway Express passengers can expect delays Tuesday as the extreme heat forces trains to slow down.

VRE Spokesman Mark Roeber said CSX has issued heat orders for all Fredericksburg Line trains. Passengers can expect delays of about 10 minutes this evening, he said. Norfolk Southern, which owns the rail used by the Manassas Line trains, had not issued any heat warnings as of noon Tuesday.

Trains must slow during extreme heat because the steel rails will expand, VRE officials said. Although this expansion is taken into consideration during the construction period, there are occasions when the expansion can cause a "sun kink," or a shift in the track that causes a curve in an otherwise straight pair of rails.

Rail officials will monitor the tracks throughout the day and if weather conditions change, restrictions could be lifted, VRE officials said.

-- Jennifer Buske

Original post: Amtrak says it is prepared to take care of passengers if their trains break down and lose air conditioning amid an intense heat wave along the northeast corridor.

Amtrak announced the plans Tuesday as steamy temperatures were forecast along the nation's busiest passenger rail line. Commuter rail trains in the Washington region were traveling under heat restrictions.

Extra water is being stored on trains and rescue locomotives are positioned every 30 to 50 miles along the corridor. Mechanical technicians also will ride trains to troubleshoot problems and restart locomotives.

Are you out riding the trains -- Metro, commuter rail or Amtrak? Post a comment below about the conditions you're experiencing or send an e-mail to transportation@washpost.com.

Amtrak officials will share on-board conditions with the system's operations center to help develop plans.

Amtrak put similar plans into place for MARC after hundreds of passengers were stranded on a hot train last month. ZAAmtrak also operates VRE commuter rail, but will relinquish operations to Keolis Rail Services America beginning this weekend.

MARC's Brunswick and Camden lines and VRE's Fredricksburg line are all operating under heat restrictions today, which means trains will travel at reduced speeds. Rails can kink in extreme heat, necessitating slower travel.

VRE heat order FAQ

By Michael Bolden  | July 6, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Amtrak, Commuter Rail, MARC  
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