Chicago Sets Train Tracks On Fire To Survive – Here’s Why
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Fighting The Cold With Fire
What do you do to keep warm when it’s cold – light a fire, of course!
It’s no different for the trains in Chicago as the Polar Vortex settles in with record low temperatures. To battle the ice, the Metra crews have intentionally set fires that run along the sides of the tracks.
It’s so cold in Chicago that workers are setting fire to railroad tracks just to keep the trains moving. The extreme cold — around -22 F Wednesday morning — can cause rail defects. https://t.co/7NG3VKuPYV pic.twitter.com/vzGRJg5AVs
— CNN (@CNN) January 30, 2019
This tactic prevents the tracks from from cracking or separating as the extremely low temperatures can cause them to contract too much. The heat lets them expand and also melts any ice and snow that could clog the switches.
But the tracks themselves aren’t actually on fire. Being in Chicago, Metra is prepared for cold weather with a gas-fed system that releases the flame, so it’s not like crews are out there throwing flaming sticks across the passages.
If the tracks do pull apart, crews can also soak long ropes in kerosene and set those on fire until the rails have expanded enough to be re-bolted or welded back together.
Still, the flaming rails make for quite a spectacle, as do many scenes from this shockingly cold vortex. Planes aren’t flying. Mail isn’t getting delivered. And now we have flaming railways too. Temperatures should climb back up a little bit by the end of the week.