NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Long Island Rail Road riders are being crammed into fewer cars during rush hour, and it’s all because of wet leaves on the tracks.

While nice to look at during the fall, leaves become silent train car wheel destroyers once the season turns, reports CBS2’s Marc Liverman.

“They crush up into a sludge like slime,” said LIRR spokesperson Aaron Donovan. “The slime coats the rails enough that it causes a reduction in traction.”

The big concern is the top part of those rails combining with leaves and causing train wheels to slip and potentially flatten.

Once that happens, trains have to be yanked out of service – meaning big delays and fewer cars on some trains.

“A few days ago I had to stand like the entire half hour so that was kind of annoying,” said Woodside resident Julian Mak.

The LIRR ends up repairing out of service wheels and clearing vegetation around tracks, but like the delays, the leaves just keep piling up.

The LIRR uses two trains to power wash away all that sludge, a minor solution to something that isn’t exactly a new problem.

“At every level we’re working to reduce this problem and it is still too much of a problem and we recognize that,” said Sullivan, noting the LIRR is looking at new technologies as an alternative solution.

“We’ve looked at using lasers to zap the slime away,” he said.

Until then, customers might have to be content with looking at the beautiful foliage from the comfort of their delayed trains.


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