Monster Machines: Snow Trains Fight Old Man Winter With Jet Engines

Even as parts of the US and Canada digs out after the snowstorm brought on by nor'easter Nemo, New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority isn't worried about maintaining service along its northern New Haven Line. That's thanks to a fleet of turbine-powered, slush-slinging, jet trains.

Last weekend's storm dropped anywhere from 28cm to 101cm of snow along the northeast corridor of the US, once again proving that Mother Nature gives not one shit about your commute. The MTA, however, does. When blizzards blow in, the transit authority unleashes a trio of 14,000kg snow melters to prevent berms from building on the tracks. These self-propelled vehicles are driven by a Cummings diesel engine and can speed along the tracks at up to 50km/h when not actively working.

These trains were recently retrofitted. Their original, government-surplus J57 turbine engines -- taken from decommissioned B-52 bombers -- were swapped for a set of high-efficiency, also-military-surplus Rolls Royce Viper aircraft turbine engines. "If the jets do the job right, all you see is steam coming off the steel," Peter Hall, Foreman of the Maintenance of Way Equipment Shop in North White Plains said in an MTA press statement. "They produce 2500 pounds of thrust, which makes them very good at getting under heavy, wet slush, ice and crusty snow." Though at 315C, they don't so much melt snow as vaporise it.

The trucks' engines might run on diesel but their turbines run exclusively on kerosene, and lots of it. At their most economical, these turbines still suck down 380 litres of kerosene every hour. Luckily, these berm-beaters carry 6800 litres of jet fuel, enough to "run continuously without having to stop to refuel in the middle of a storm," Hall said. That is, of course, assuming the storm lasts less than 18 hours.

The jet trains are not alone in their snow blowing endeavours. The MTA also fields an array of other powder-pulverising vehicles including five cold-air blowers. These commercial-duty road rail vehicles are equipped with with both rubber-rimmed and steel wheels for travelling both road and rail. They're also outfitted with cold-air blowers for dislodging fresh powder from tracks and station platforms. What's more, these blowers can be raised to plough snow from roofs where it can interfere with the train's pantographs (the mechanical bit what keeps the roof-mounted catenary wires engaged to the overhead power lines).

Don't bother looking for these along the J line, however. Much like NASCAR's track driers, these kerosene-powered snow ploughs are LaGuardia-level loud.

[Neatorama - Core 77 - MTA]