Fired up: Metra lights train tracks on fire to keep rails from freezing in Chicago

ByJustyna Syska Localish logo
Monday, March 7, 2022
Metra lights train tracks on fire to keep rails from freezing
During freezing Chicago winters, Metra lights its tracks on fire to keep trains moving.

CHICAGO -- During cold Chicago winters, the Metra will light its tracks on fire to keep the trains moving!

Periodically throughout the winter, little fires can be seen on the tracks, which are meant to keep snow and ice off the rails.

This allows the switch points to be thrown and reversed so that trains can traverse from one track to the next.

Several commuters from the northwest area to the Chicagoland suburbs would be impacted if the trains were to stop moving.

"Something goes wrong every day. So, depending on the time of the day, like now -- this is rush hour, a glitch or something happening with the trains moving can impact at least 10 trains within five minutes. So, you can imagine, that you're looking at 200-300 people on a train. So, that's thousands of people within five minutes," said Signal Supervisor, Alonzo Smith.

It was over 25 years ago that Smith lit his first set of tracks on fire, and he still experiences adrenaline in the process, even to this day.

"My first time lighting the tracks, keeping the snow and ice clear, it was kind of crazy to me just like it is to everyone else. To see the flame rolling up on the rail just in the middle of nowhere, and it's still fun to this day," he said.