The Challenges of Winter…


Ahhh, winter. A season young children like, along with skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobiles. However, for adults in occupations which take them outside, it’s not so great of a season.

Mother nature can be brutal in winter, what with severe cold, blizzards, constant snow, ice, freezing rain, or a combination of all of the above. This holds true for railroaders as well. Working on a railroad in winter presents many challenges.

Some of these challenges in train service include ice and snow buildup in switch frogs and flange ways in crossings, dangerous in themselves. On rural short lines overhanging tree branches that snap and fall due to wet heavy snow buildup or ice pose a problem. Of course deep snow in cuts cause a problem.

Many other challenges present themselves, which must be overcome, as railroading never stops. Older locomotives with faulty heaters and drafty windows are quite uncomfortable in winter. Ice covered locomotive steps and freight car ladders pose a serious hazard. There is nothing like riding on the side of a cut of cars being spotted in a cold freezing rain. Of course, we can’t forget about reduced visibility in a blinding snow storm either.

Other problems present themselves in winter, from trying to change frozen air hoses to dealing with frozen, ice coated switch locks. Railroading in winter means being more safety conscious. I always dreaded winter on the railroad, and couldn’t wait until spring. Winter is not a great season for railroaders, but the job rolls on….


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