Extreme cold causing train trouble for Amtrak

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January 23, 2014 3:01:19 PM PST
Amtrak riders will face delays for the fourth day in a row tomorrow, and it is all because the trains just cannot handle the extremely cold weather.

If you are running a railroad, cold causes problems. Heavy couplers freeze up and refuse to open.

How to fix that? A propane torch. The hot flame blasts the frozen knuckle allowing it to open.

The cold also freezes switches, which must be thawed.

And that light dry snow that fell Tuesday, it has caused its own problems. Some of it ending up in the vestibules of Amtrak cars, causing doors to freeze shut.

Craig Schulz of Amtrak explains, "It thaws, it freezes and creates problems for the doors. The crews are doing an unbelievable job of shoveling them out, sweeping them out."

Extreme cold stresses the overhead electrical lines. Locomotives develop more operating problems in the cold. Together these factors have played havoc with Amtrak's schedule.

Yesterday, 23 of its 33 Accelas were cancelled along with 8 of 42 Northeast Regional trains.

Service improved today but still as of Thursday afternoon every train on the board at 30th Street Station was marked either "delayed" or "canceled" - nothing was running on time.

"Nothing's on time, but they're moving. The trains are moving. So people are getting where they need to go. It's taking a bit longer than it normally would, and that's obviously not something we want to happen," Schultz admitted.

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