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Extreme heat could cause big trouble for railroads, experts say

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - 9:22pm

RUSK - "People don't realize the rails are really dynamic, each rail gets longer when it's hot, it gets shorter when it's cool."

Dave Schranck is the General Manager of the Texas State Railroad in Rusk. He says he's all to familiar with the extreme heat, and the toll it takes on the railroad.

"When you have a lot of heat, you have what the call a "heat kink". The rail has to move a little bit and it slides over the ties and between the spikes and adjust it self and if it catches somewhere and gets too long you can have a curve where there used to be straight track."

When we see tempetures like we've seen here recently, experts say, rails can get out of line, and once they get out of line, you have a big problem.

"If you hit that out of alignment you can have a derailment."

Reports say railroad tracks can start getting out of alignment at just a hundred degrees if not maintained and, experts say a one-hundred degree day could equal one-hundred-twenty-five degrees on the rail. Which one railroad company says is a level one restriction, causing them to reduce the speed of their freight.

but what about the heat we've seen lately?

At one hundred-ten degrees, reports say, level two restrictions go into effect, which restricts the speed of all freights, not allowing them to go faster than fifty.

As the rails expand, and the heat continues, Schranck says maintenance will have to do what it's always done to stay on the right track.

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