Commuters in New Jersey may be enjoying a picturesque commute with the colorful yellow, orange, red and green leaves.  But, when those leaves begin to fall from the trees, it creates an historic problem for rails.  In an effort to prevent "slippery rail" and to prevent train delays as a result, NJ TRANSIT will begin using AquaTrack, a high-pressure power-washing system, starting this week.

"Though the fall foliage makes for a scenic commute when the leaves are still on the trees, after they fall onto our railroad tracks, they can become quite a nuisance for us and our rail customers," said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director James Weinstein.  "Aqua Track continues to play a vital role in helping to combat slippery rail and keep trains running on time."

Slippery rail, which is caused by autumn's falling leaves and wet weather conditions, affects all railroads in the Northeast and other parts of the world where deciduous trees are common.  When falling leaves are crushed by train wheels, the decaying leaf material creates an oily residue that coats the rails resulting in poor traction for trains and resulting delays.

The AquaTrack system is pushed along its routes by a diesel locomotive.  It includes two 250-horsepower diesel-engine units mounted on a flat car with an operator control cab.  Two pressure-pump units operate up to 20,000 pounds-per-square-inch at 17 gallons per minute, delivering water directly to the top of the rail.

From early October through mid-December, AquaTrack works day and night to keep tracks free of fallen leaves and residue.  NJ TRANSIT strategically spreads sand on the rails in advance of peak-period trains to increase traction.  The agency also has implemented an extensive tree-trimming program along the right-of-way to reduce leaves falling onto the tracks.

AquaTrack operates mostly on the Morris and Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines, washing the rails twice a day, once during the overnight hours and again during the midday, Monday through Friday.  The Pascack Valley and Main/Bergen County lines are covered on weekends.

NJ TRANSIT officials remind customers to allow extra travel time when commuting during the fall season.