How the LIRR is keeping tracks free of leaves this fall

JAMAICA, Queens (WABC) -- As the seasons change, the LIRR has to change with them. In the fall, that means contending with falling leaves.

Brad Jenkins runs the railroad's Hillside Maintenance Facility.

"For the engineer, it must be a scary, scary moment to feel that slippage and realize that you're sliding," said Jenkins.

The season begins now and runs into December as the leaves begin to pile up. It is not enough to clear the tracks. The oily residue left behind causes real problems for commuter trains.

The laser blasts the residue off the rails, and the difference is obvious. Once an experimental technique that will be put to use on the railroad for the first time.

Two power-washing trains will also be deployed throughout the system.

"Typically the North Shore lines that have a lot more trees, a lot more leaf droppers, those are the ones that get affected the most," said John Austin.

When a train slides along the rails, that friction creates a flat spot on the metal wheels of the railcar. It is the railroading equivalent of a flat tire, and those wheels need to be made round again.

The railroad is stepping up efforts to repair the wheels faster. Additional machines will allow the work to be completed faster, reducing delays and making for more comfortable rides for passengers.

So, will riders notice a difference?

"I hope so - that's our goal," added Austin.

Improvements intended to make for a safer, more reliable commute.

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