Why train services have problems in winter ?

Go Transit and CN seem to have great difficulty with frozen switches during the winter in Canada. Don’t understand why there are more problems in recent years. Canada hasn’t turned colder than it has in the past. Winter is not a new phenonema. And trains are not new methods of transportation. Why does a train service have so many problems with frozen switches in the winter in Canada?

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62 Responses to Why train services have problems in winter ?

  1. booge says:

    its all in maintenance

  2. Kyo_kusanagi says:

    obviously trains arent that frost-resistant so the effect of winter is the freezing of all the moving joints and bolts in the system of switches aswell as doorknobs or window panes

  3. quay_grl says:

    Because it’s still extremely cold!

    My brother lives in central Alberta (not north!) and it was down to -40 deg already this winter. My sister lives in SOUTH Alberta and it was down to -30 deg.

    That’s fricken cold….!!

  4. mt_hopper says:

    Because it’s cost-effective.

    Having the aditional equipment and personnel on hand to keep switches clear and equipment thawed out would be expensive for the time they’re not in use.

    It used to be there were a lot more track workers befroe mechinization of track work. They were quickly shifted to clearing track of snow and ice when it got freezing. They’ve not there anymore.

  5. Conductor Budgie says:

    I agree, there are many problems with frozen, stuck, and snowed-in switches in the winter. It’s just a fact of life on the railway.

    Some winters are worse than others, and the type of weather, not just the temperature, has an effect. Wind levels, the type of snow that falls, the amount of ice that forms, and how much snow falls all play a part.

    But, as someone else has mentioned, decreased manpower has a lot to do with it as well. It’s no secret that railways in North America stand to lose a good chunk of their workforce due to retirement in the next several years. In many departments and locations, it’s already started happening. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to bring new employees online as fast as they’re leaving.

    On top of this, the modern railway is about as lean and efficient as it’s ever been. This means doing less with more, and people are no exception. In a perfect world, the switches would be clean and thawed long before any trains needed to use them. But, such is not the case, hence why we all suffer the inevitable delays.

  6. HOGHEAD says:

    I’ve railroaded in the mountains of California all my life. All of the controlled main line switches have propane or electric heaters to keep them free of ice.

    Industrial spur switches and yard track switches are another story. It takes people to keep these operating, which are no longer available as today’s work force is too lean to meet the demands of the service.

    In addition, extreme cold plays hell with the locks that accompany many of these switches, freezing them as well. But, that’s why God invented fusees. Strike, apply heat, thaw lock, throw switch.

    But, it is not just the switches that have problems with extreme cold. Much of today’s main lines are composed of CWR (continuous welded rail), aka “ribbon rail.” In extremely cold temperatures, there is no way for them to contract from the intense freeze and they literally “pull apart”.

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