Challenges of Thawing/Freezing Conditions

Maintaining smooth rail operations can be a challenge during the month of March. The weather can fluctuate between mild temperatures during the day to overnight temperatures below freezing.  An area with good footing during the day may be covered in ice later on.  A switch in a low spot will fill with water when melting temperatures are present, then freeze solid overnight.  Of course, there is nothing we can do about the fluctuating temperatures, but if you are prepared for the thawing and freezing, operations can continue uninterrupted. If you trench the switch so it drains, it will not be frozen during night or early morning operations.  If trenching is not possible, having ice melt on hand to keep the moving part of the switch free, will prevent operation disruption.  Reminders for your operations people to check and inspect switches prior to use may prevent an injury as well.  If you have areas of concrete over rail (for vehicular traffic) combined with a low spot, you may have an isolated spot with an inch of more of ice over the track when it freezes. This is a prime location for possible derailment.

Another hazard with this thaw/freeze weather is having good traction during the day and an icy walkway at night.  Again, ice melt or sand in known areas of concern will help and safety briefings about ice forming will help keep people aware.

You can use the gathering water in low spots to your advantage.  This time of year will point out where your low spots are.  Make note of them and commit to repairing them when the weather warms.  A switch may be raised or drainage installed for future thaw/freeze weather.