Autumn leaves are a nuisance for many of us this time of year. On the tracks of NJ Transit, they turn into a oily, slippery mess that is cleaned by using a big power washer called the "AquaTrack."

NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith said as a rail cars rolls over the leaves, they get pulverized and break down — creating on oily residue on the rails.

"As the trains wheels are trying to gain traction on the rails, this oily film has coated the rails, and it prevents a decent traction for the train. This can lead to what we call wheel slippage, as the trains wheels are trying to gain traction and they are slipping, and the trains are not able to maintain speed," Smith said.

NJ Transit now has two AquaTrack units that will make repeated passes on tracks this fall.

An AquaTrack is "a power washer the size of a flat-bed rail car," Smith said. On top of that car is a 2,250-horsepower diesel engine blasting high-pressure water.

"20,000 pounds per square inch, that water is coming down. And that water is blasting away all of that oily residue from the broken down leaves," Smith said.

Smith said NJ Transit's two AquaTrack units operate during the fall once the leaves start coming down — usually starting around mid-October.

He said it all translates into fewer slower-moving trains and fewer service delays.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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