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Slippery Rails, Slippery Schedules

It's possible our commuter trains and Metrorail trains may be moving slower during the next couple of weeks as the leaves fall on the tracks and make the rails slippery.

It's a fall phenomenon, just like the slow-down orders on hot days are a sign of summer for train riders.

A midday train on VRE's Manassas Line has some difficulties on Monday. Today, Metro put out an advisory warning that we've entered the slippery season.

The train wheels squish the leaves, and an oily residue decreases the friction between wheel and track. The worst spots, of course, are places where the tracks slope and the areas near above ground platforms.

Transit agencies may limit train speeds for safety when they discover this is happening.

Besides making you late, the other problem with these slippery conditions is that the train wheels may wear unevenly. That creates flat spots on the wheels and they have to be taken out of service so they can be rounded off again.

The transit authority says that workers have trimmed back on vegetation in areas that are vulnerable to these conditions, and it sent out its vacuum truck to remove leaves from the tracks.

At this writing, there are no speed restrictions in effect. But if Metro does put them in place, these are the parts of the rail system that would be affected:
-- Orange Line between New Carrollton and Stadium-Armory, and between Vienna and East Falls Church.
-- Red Line between Union Station and Silver Spring, and between Shady Grove and Grosvenor.
-- Green Line between Branch Avenue and Congress Heights.

By Robert Thomson  |  October 29, 2008; 11:54 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Weather , transit  
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