Switch systems and winter precipitation

Thursday, January 03 2019

Switches and snow

How we protect switches in winter

What do switches do?

A switch is a movable rail that connects two tracks. When the switch receives an electronic signal, it moves to the left or right to “switch” the train to another track. If this system doesn’t operate correctly, two trains could collide!

The seasons are rough on switches!

As the switch must move to the left or right on the ground, in an open-air environment, it is at the mercy of weather conditions.

In winter, the snow and ice can prevent it from moving, and during periods of thaw, it is flooded with melting snow and rain.

In these situations, the switches can malfunction or stop working altogether because of a short circuit. Rest assured that for safety reasons, we stop rail traffic in order to resolve any situations that occur.

Technology to the rescue!

It used to be that train conductors would have to free the switches from ice and snow themselves.

These days, the switches are protected by:

  • A switch warming system that melts snow and ice
  • A blower that removes snow and water

However, these systems are not always powerful enough to combat harsh weather. In collaboration with our partners, we’re currently upgrading our switch warmers to make them more effective.

In the meantime, exo is deploying additional staff to ensure the switches operate correctly and improve services throughout the network.

Read our other articles to learn more about the actions exo is taking to prepare trains before and during the winter.