NYC-area railroads prepare to keep operating ahead of winter storm

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A screen capture image from the National Weather Service website shows a composite radar image of a snowstorm beginning to pound the U.S. East Coast on Jan. 4.
National Weather Service website screen capture image

NEW YORK — Regional railroads are bracing for a winter blast that poses to shut down the New York metro area for days. Weather forecasters predict as much as five to 10 inches of snow could fall in the next several days from the Carolinas to Massachusetts alongside wind gusts of up to 50 mph. So far, officials from each of the New York City region’s systems report that they’re ready to forge ahead to keep commuters moving.

NJ Transit
As of early Thursday, there were delays of up to 20 minutes on the Northeast Corridor, with other line delays. The Hudson River Tunnels will be cleared of ice between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and later between 8 p.m. and Midnight, today, resulting in delays as one of the two tracks will be down for this maintenance.

NJ Transit’s emergency operations center will be open and monitoring the track of the winter weather and its potential effects on the Tri-State area. A regular schedule will be followed on rail and light rail services. Hundreds of rail cars and locomotives have been winterized, along with a preventative maintenance program that includes the inspection and winter maintenance of switches and switch heaters, overhead wire systems, 12 moveable bridges and wayside power at storage yards and terminals. Two jet-engine-powered snow blowers are available to remove ice and snow from tracks and critical switching areas, along with snow plow-equipped locomotives. Light rail lines will have extra staff and contractors on hand as needed to assist with snow removal and operation.

Port Authority Trans-Hudson
PATH, while largely a below-ground transit system, does have trackage at- or above grade between Jersey City, N.J., and Newark, N.J. To combat snow-related problems, plow-equipped trains, liquid snow-melting agent trains, and a "jet engine" plow can remove snow from PATH tracks. It is an important connection for Wall Street commuters at Newark Penn Station.


Metro-North managers say they expect to operate a regular, weekday schedule on Jan. 4, deploying an additional 1,500 people and specialized equipment to stay ahead of the storm. Maintainers, track workers, and power personnel will be onsite to deal with weather related issues such as broken rails, catenary problems, and switch failures. Electric trains have been fitted with special third-rail shoes with holes in them to prevent snow from sticking. More than 900 pieces of storm-fighting equipment will wage the battle against the snow storm; including portable snow blowers, rail-bound jet engine powered snow blowers/melters, cold-air (rail) snow blowers/throwers, rail-bound snow broom throwers, and other snow-related equipment.

Long Island Rail Road
The LIRR, as of Thursday morning, is experiencing scattered systemwide delays averaging up to 20 minutes due to winter weather conditions. Long Island is expected to receive 7 to 12 inches of snow during the next 5 days, primarily in Suffolk County, N.Y., along with blizzard conditions that could lead to blowing snow and whiteouts. Railroad officials are taking preventative measures to deal with snow accumulation. Anti-freeze trains will operate as needed to help prevent icing on the third rail and ensure that electric trains can draw power properly.

Long Island Rail Road's electric trains are outfitted with special scraper shoes to help reduce icing on the third rail, allowing trains to maintain contact with the third rail. Station waiting rooms will remain open to the public around the clock due to the cold until Jan. 8, when regular station waiting room hours will resume.

The LIRR also has tools in its battle against the snow, including 1 million pounds of de-icer, 25 cubic yards of sand, three cold-air snow blowers/throwers, four de-icer trains, nine rail-bound jet blowers/snow melters, 12,000 third-rail heaters/melters, 108 track switch heaters/snow melters, two rail-bound snow blowers/broom throwers, one rail-bound spreader, and seven mountable snow plows/salt spreaders.
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