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A Few Feet of Snow Won’t Stop This Train!

January 24th 2013 by Denis Pinsonneault

For those Canadians living in the snowier parts of Canada, the holiday season bestowed upon us an amazing snowstorm, the likes of which had not been seen for a long time.  As the powder piled up, those who were lucky enough to be home could curl up on the couch with a hot chocolate and watch the drifts through the window. But for those who had to travel during the season to be reunited with loved ones, the snowstorm certainly made getting anywhere a challenge!Driving, for most of us, was simply not possible. Roads were closed, and the blowing snow left visibility at near zero. Flights were cancelled, for reasons of safety. But for those smart enough to have booked their travel by train, VIA Rail’s locomotives chugged on… despite a few delays (we never said we were perfect!).

“How do they do it?” wondered many of you, “How do they clear the snow off the tracks and make sure they are safe for train travel?”

You might be imagining the snow-plow train of lore… where an attachment on the front of the train would push the snow in arcing fountains to each side, but times have changed.

VIA Rail currently uses an amazing machine called a “Snow Fighter” to clear the tracks.  Here’s what it looks like:

It’s a powerful thing, and was used very successfully this season, removing many centimeres of snow to clear the path for our trains. Furthermore, VIA Rail also employed on-site crews to dig out iced switches – by hand! Our switches need to have the ice removed and cleared off to make sure they are in tip-top shape and are fully operational before resuming train service.

It’s an amazing effort for a positive result: though there were delays, not a single train was cancelled due to weather conditions this holiday season.

If you have any snow-related train stories, we’d love to hear them. Drop us a note on our Facebook wall, or send us a comment!

Happy Winter!

About Denis Pinsonneault

Denis Pinsonneault
As Chief Customer Experience Officer, Denis Pinsonneault is in charge of activities directly related to customer experience within stations and on board trains. He also supervises Real Estate to ensure synergy between those who do station maintenance and those who work in stations. Moreover, he oversees Customer Advocacy Teams, which ensure the regular exchange of information as well as consistency of customer experience support activities.
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