Tuesday, October 23, 2012
It's Slippery Rail Season Again!
The engineer of my train is seriously good at what she does. In the midst of Slippery Rail Season, where wet leaves are ground by rail traffic into a dried slime on railheads, trains sliding past stations on locked wheels is an all-too common occurance. I was on one train the other day that slid an entire car length past where it should have stopped, so that the first door was well past the platform. We all had to walk back to the next set of doors.
This morning the sun was just beginning to burn off the fog and shiver-inducing cold as 410 slid into Lincoln. Not rolled, slid. Every wheel was locked as the first few cars passed me, filling the air with smoke and the scent of burnt leaves. Ah, Slippery Rail Season.
Luckily, this happens every morning in the fall, and engineers are prepared. The train slid nearly to a stop almost a full car length short of its targeted berthing point, a fifteen-foot-wide paved crossing over the outbound track. Then, with air brakes whooshing and the locomotive revving, the train moved the rest of the distance to a perfectly-placed stop on rolling wheels, all without stopping. Now that's what I call sticking the landing!
Any competent engineer can stop a train in a fifteen foot window under normal conditions. It takes a great one to slide 200 feet and still make a perfect station stop.
And that's why I thank my train crew after every trip. They seriously deserve our respect.