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Chugging through extreme weather

Travelling by train can be easy and reliable
Travelling by train can be easy and reliable

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

September 22, 2011 — Train travel can be an easy and reliable way to reach your destination, but certain weather conditions can impact the commute.

Rails can swell as temperatures rise
Rails can swell as temperatures rise

Some commuters rely on the train as their method of transportation. When extreme weather hits, it can be the safer, and sometimes quicker option.

The changing seasons however, bring their own set of problems which could impact the tracks and delay your arrival. Passengers are reminded to prepare for any setbacks or delays under certain weather circumstances.


Trains are known to slow down during the summer months as the tracks become swollen because of the heat.

“Quite often we have rails that break under the train and because of the expansion of those rails they tend to warp,” said Tom Reynolds, traffic specialist at The Weather Network.

When temperatures rise, most trains will slow their services to prevent any warping or damage from occurring.


Most people enjoy tracking the fall colours, but officials say excessive leaves that fall on the tracks can cling to the surface and create what's called “slippery rails.”

“It's a major concern for commuter operators because of the speeds that they need to obtain. It does reduce the tractive effort on the locomotive and therefore slows down the train,” says Mike Cyr with Toronto's Metrolinx GO Transit. Cyr adds that the leaves can compromise the reliability and schedule of the train.

Crews spend time running a high pressure washer on the tracks and conducting daily inspections.

“We also look at the vegetation growing along the sides of the track...making sure that we try to eliminate as much as possible,” explains Cyr.

Snow plans put in place during the winter months
Snow plans put in place during the winter months


Often, the most significant train delays are experienced during the winter months.

Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx says once the snow starts to fly, transit service continually monitors Environment Canada's special weather statements, watches and warnings through The Weather Network. As severe winter storms approach, most services put a “snow plan” in place.

“When we have an extreme weather alert we adjust our service so that we can try to get as much service through on time,” explains McCuaig.

A similar type of plan is used for travellers south of the border as well. Earlier this year, a massive snowstorm that slammed New York City left morning commuters struggling to get to work on time.

“It took me two and a half hours,” said Terry Rodrigez who came in from New Jersey via train. “I waited for the bus only to find out the buses were suspended, then I had a long wait for the train, and then the train at each stop we had to wait and they had to kick the snow out of the door.”

When extreme weather hits, passengers are urged to leave plenty of extra time to make it to the station. Checking the train schedule ahead of time for any possible delays is also encouraged.

You can stay up-to-date on the weather in your area by heading to the Canadian Cities Index.

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