As you're looking out your train or trolley window admiring autumn's vivid leaf colors, SEPTA personnel are also closely watching Mother Nature's handiwork. While we appreciate the beauty of the season, we are more concerned about the effect of falling leaves on track conditions. Every year, SEPTA posts information at Norristown High Speed Line, Trolley, and Regional Rail stations about "Slippery Rail" to remind customers about this annual occurrence and the measures we take to combat it.
Slippery Rail is a condition that occurs when falling leaves, crushed by passing vehicles, deposit a residue on the tracks. This coating decreases the friction of a train's wheels creating slippery rails. When this happens, travel speeds are reduced to maintain safe operations, especially on inclines and declines and when vehicles approach the station platform.
SEPTA has an aggressive maintenance program that employs a combination of water, gel, and sand to remove oily deposits on the tracks. The Authority also uses high pressure washing equipment on Regional Rail to blast away the leaves and leaf residue. This action is effective in removing debris from the tracks, but short of plucking every leaf from every tree, customers may still experience intermittent service delays caused by slippery rail.
The length of slippery rail season depends on fall weather conditions and the quirks of Mother Nature. But until the weather turns frosty and all the leaves have fallen, SEPTA maintains a consistent program of cleaning and removal.
Getting you to your destination without delays or inconvenience is very important, but ensuring that your trip is safe, always takes precedence. So please allow some extra time to complete your trip and be alert if slippery rail causes trains to slide past selected stations.