Chicago rail crews use fire to keep trains moving

(FOX NEWS) – As the polar vortex blankets the Chicago area with life-threatening cold temperatures this week, rail crews are literally turning up the heat in order to keep trains running.

Chicago commuter railroad Metra is using a system that runs along rail tracks to generate flames and heat to prevent rail and switch defects from the extreme cold that could halt train service.

Once the metal is warmed up and expands, crews can then reconnect the separated rails, according to Metra.

Metra uses the system to help keep switches clear and from defaulting to  “fail-safe” mode, which Metra explains is when switches fail to make contact with the rail and complete an electric circuit. That halts all train traffic through the area.

“Winter weather will always be a challenge for the railroad, and though no railroad is free of switch issues, innovations like the switch heaters at A-2 help alleviate some of those obstacles,” the railroad explains.

The practice isn’t just used during extreme arctic weather events, but anytime the temperature dips near zero.

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