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Welcome to Fall, commuters

It's that other most wonderful time of the year - Slippery Rail Season.

Got this e-mail from Keolis:

Fall 2015- Slippery Rail Season

At Keolis, we're working hard to get you where you need to go, even when leaves get in your way.

Fall means leaves, and with that - from October through mid-November - comes a railroad phenomenon known as slippery rail.

Also known as Leaf Slippage, Slippery Rail is a fall phenomenon on railroads worldwide. From October to mid-November, leaves fall on tracks, become wet, and trains run over them, creating a Teflon-like substance called pectin that can cause wheels to lose traction. Engineers are forced to slow down or brake early to prevent this sliding, all in the name of safety.

Here at Keolis we take the prevention of slippery rail seriously, monitoring hot spots throughout the fall and using a dedicated team and specialized equipment to wipe them out.

We operate two "High Pressure" washers that pressure washes the rails, leaving them residue free. We also have sanding equipment attached to each locomotive and control car, allowing engineers to apply sand manually. In addition, Keolis uses specialized trucks that can apply a gritty traction gel, as well as permanent trackside gel applicators at known trouble spots.

When we can't reduce the severity of slippery rail, Keolis engineers are trained to adjust speeds and braking for our passenger's safety, sometimes causing delays. Unfortunately, leaf-slippage and related delays can't be completely eliminated.

For another view on the impact of slippery rail and what Keolis is doing to combat it, take a look at this video: https://vimeo.com/109820783

As always, thank you for riding the Commuter Rail

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Comments

translation - we will be delayed in all seasons

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Isn't there a cocktail called "Slippery Rails"?

If not, can some mixologist create one?

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Last year's version contained Carlson Orchards cider, cranberry juice, local rum (Grand Ten Medford Rum or Ipswich Golden Marsh if you want spice), and maple liqueur from New Hampshire.

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Why does none of this elaborate maintenance involve cutting the trees back away from the rail ROWs so less leaves fall directly onto or near the tracks? The Wikipedia article[1] even says tree-cutting used to be done in the steam era but was allowed to lapse decades ago, leading to this problem.

On the one hand, before posting I would think "certainly professional rail engineers know more than random anonymous Internet guy about this kind of stuff," but then I remembered the debacle last year where we learned the MBTA's vaunted "professionals" weren't even aware of common de-icing chemicals used by other transit systems to keep their rails ice-free.

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Isn't just an MBTA/Keolis problem. It's all over now. In the "good old days" the railroad (then a private company) just went and clear cut their right of way, and usually used some nasty chemicals to spray weed killer, too. Thanks to a combination of environmental rules (which I value, don't get me wrong here) and local opposition to tree removal, the vegetation removal is a lot less aggressive than it used to be. I do see brush cutting along my line (Haverhill) but it doesn't extend much beyond 10-20 feet from the track, at most, and they seem to let the trees grow much closer now.

ALL of the northeastern commuter railroads and Amtrak go through this battle each fall. I'm hard on Keolis and MBCR before them for lots of things, but this isn't one of them.

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not using nasty chemicals for vegetation control, I do not agree with the concept of requiring "Mother May I " permission from a bunch of self-appointed environmental "experts" to remove trees from one's own property because they are affecting the operation of your service.

Perhaps if these do-gooder "woodsman spare that tree" types were forced to consider the larger costs, both in terms of money, time, and productivity lost, that such regulations cause, then they might have a different perspective on the issue.

And I agree with johnmcboston's comment below - Trees are generally nice, and I'm not advocating large scale clear cutting, largely for the reasons he stated. However, the current system where anything other than basic pruning requires review and approval, even if the trees are posing an immediate hazard (aka Riverside Line).

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The communities that resist tree removal for proper leaf control should be sent the bill for the less-efficient, more-expensive methods the T and Keolis are required to now use to control leaves.

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That's kind of like saying you can avoid raking leaves by removing all the trees from your property. You're left with an ugly yard, and you'll get leaves form your neighbors' trees anyway.

You would have to cut back pretty far to get 'no' leaves on the tracks. Plus, there are many many locations where private homes abut the ROW - where you can't cut the trees, and/or the trees & brush provide a sound barrier that people would like to have...

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