Frozen precipitation represents the Achilles heel of train operations. It can jam switches, making it impossible to change or “throw” them. When that happens, trains often must stop and wait until the switch is cleared before they can proceed. To avoid service interruptions, when bad weather threatens, railroads often activate all the propane melters in a given area, turning them off a few days after a storm has passed. For Norfolk Southern, the cost of running 4,500 melters at 1,500 locations quickly drives up operational costs.
Norfolk Southern is building a smarter railroad through technology by using hyper-localized weather data from The Weather Company to automate the operation of the propane ice melters that keep its switches operational even in freezing precipitation. In addition to reducing switch-heating costs—and the associated carbon emissions—by 70 percent, the solution will help the railroad run its trains better and timelier, improving customer service.