Switching Things Up for Winter Operations

December 19th, 2016

With the impending colder weather, Metro is piloting some new track equipment to fight the snow and ice and maintain overground rail service.

Snow on tracks at Twinbrook Station

Snow on a track switch at Twinbrook Station

As a pilot project funded through Metro’s Sustainability Lab, we have replaced the switch heaters at Glenmont Yard with a new energy efficient heater that not only reduces energy consumption, but is also easier to install and maintain.

Switch heaters are vital to winter operations, providing radiant heat to track switches to prevent them from icing up and restricting train movements. Within the Metrorail system, each rail yard controls its heaters on an individual basis, and heaters are frequently in constant operation during the winter to allow tracks to remain operational.

Glenmont is Metro’s smallest yard and also has one of Metro’s more expensive electricity rates, so it was an ideal candidate to pilot the new heaters. Should testing prove successful this winter, we could adopt this new style of switch heater as standard across 58 miles of surface revenue track and 8 Metrorail yards.  This could save Metro over $110,000 annually in energy costs.

Each year the Sustainability Lab tests out new ideas such as these switch heaters for large-scale deployment, and we would love to have your help in finding ways to reduce resource consumption and improve service. Whatever the idea, we’d love to hear your thoughts and consider them.

So help us think big! Submit your ideas online or email them to planning@wmata.com.

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  1. Rick
    December 19th, 2016 at 23:23 | #1

    The sustainability lab link is dead.

    • Dan
      January 13th, 2017 at 09:47 | #2

      Thanks for noticing this. The links are operative now.

  2. Mark P
    December 20th, 2016 at 09:37 | #3

    In what year will you start to see the 110K annual energy savings as a net gain? Surely it will take several years of savings to cancel out the initial capital cost of all the new switch heaters.

    • Dan
      January 13th, 2017 at 09:58 | #4

      Thanks for your comment Mark. Should testing prove successful this winter, the flat style switch heater would then become the new design standard for heater replacements on the system. Energy savings would then be realized over the course of the regular replacement cycle.

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