July 2014 Union Strike

A tentative deal between the MTA and LIRR Unions to avert a July Strike has been reached. See this post for more information.

Friday, February 8

How the LIRR Prepares for Snow

By now I'm sure many readers know that the Long Island area is due for some snow pretty soon, and that means there's bound to be some trouble with the trains.  How much snow we're due to get is still a mystery, with speculations ranging from a couple inches to a couple feet! (boy do I hope it's not feet!).  The National Weather Service has issued a Blizzard Warning for our area, so there's definitely something coming.

And when there are forecasts of snow on the horizon the LIRR prepares itself to try and operate smoothly through the snow.  The LIRR says that it will attempt to provide as much service as possible throughout the duration of the storm, as long as it is safe to do so.

The LIRR has quite the fleet of snow-fighting equipment.  As per the MTA, the LIRR has in its snow arsenal:
  • 800,000 pounds of rock salt
  • 15,985 gallons of track anti-freeze
  • 750 switch heaters
  • 200 portable snow blowers
  • 200 chainsaws
  • 9 heavy-duty front-end loaders
  • 9 jet engine hot air snow blowers
  • 4 anti-freeze trains
  • 3 cold-air snow blowers
  • 2 double-ended snow-broom thrower machines (whatever those are)
  • 1 giant dual purpose ballast regulator/snow fighter
And that equipment is all tested and ready to go, and is currently being strategically positioned  to be used during/after the storm.  Here are a couple photos from MTA's Flickr Account of the LIRR's snow fleet:

LIRR Snow Jet (Photo credit: MTA Flickr)
LIRR Snow Fighter (scary looking thing) (Photo credit: MTA Flickr)
LIRR Snow Broom (Photo credit: MTA Flickr)
LIRR Hy-rail Jet (I want one of these for my house!) (Photo credit: MTA Flickr)
LIRR Snow Blower (Photo Credit: MTA Flickr)
LIRR Snow Blower at work out east (Photo credit: MTA Flickr)
LIRR Snow Blower at work out east (Photo credit: MTA Flickr)

But, unfortunately, the snow falls a lot faster than the LIRR can pick it up.  So, if an awful lot of it falls quite quickly, the LIRR often has to curtail service so they can safely get everything working.  The LIRR's rule of thumb of late has been that they will outright suspend service all together when accumulations reach 10 to 13 inches.

Why 10 to 13 inches?  That's roughly the height of the third rail.  When the snow accumulates to the point where the third rail is covered, the M3 and M7 electric trains start to have a tough time picking up power from the third rail.  And when a train can't make contact with the third rail all the power goes out and the train stops dead in its tracks.  That usually results in the people on that train having to sit there for quite a while until they can get another train or another engine out to push it back to a station.  And being stuck in a cold, dark, rail car while snow piles up around you with no clear information on when you're getting out is not pleasant, I bet, so the LIRR just tries to avoid the situation altogether.  However, that 10"-13" rule is not quite set in stone, as drifts can cause trains to lose contact with the third rial anyway, and worsening conditions might cause them to pull the plug earlier.  (large snow drifts can also cause trouble with the diesel fleet too, causing trains to become stranded--often in even more remote territory)

But why is the LIRR so quick to suspend service?  Haven't trains ran through the snow before?  I, for one, think that the LIRR should man up during a snow storm and keep trains running as much as possible.  However, I see where they are coming from.  That whole electric-trains-getting-stranded-when-contact-with-third-rail-is-lost thing I mentioned able is not fun.  It is also not safe for passengers and crews alike when it happens.  So if they're not running any trains they don't have to worry about passengers getting stranded on trains in the middle of nowhere. Also, if people know there are no trains running at all they are not likely to try and venture out into possibly dangerous conditions to get to the train station.  And there are no people to strand at train stations (so we don't have two fools waiting outside in Amagransett for a train that is not going to come and they eventually freeze to death).  Also the uniform suspension helps cut down on confusion.  Saying ALL train service is suspended is a LOT more clearer than going around and suspending individual services and potions of lines.  This leads people to think "Is such-and-such line suspended?  Are trains stopping at my station?"  So having this almost on/off switch with train service does have one advantage in therms of clarity.  But people could use just commons sense and check the MTA website, but there's not too much common sense left out in the world anymore!

The LIRR is planning on running it's Holiday Eve extra service tomorrow (like the Friday getaway trains before Christmas) and is advising people to leave work early in case evening service needs to be curtailed.  A list of extra trains is available on MTA's website.

All in all, during the height of the storm it is best not to try and travel outside, unless it is absolutely necessary.  Don't risk it, stay inside where it's safe.

Continue to check http://mta.info for the most up to date information.

1 comment:

  1. Hey there!

    Just figured out that you linked to my blog - YAY YOU ROCK! Also, I've returned the favor since I discovered your blog a few weeks ago, and have been enjoying it since :)

    - Heather @ ihazachoochootrainproblem.com


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