Behind the scenes: CTA keeps trains running in brutal cold - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Behind the scenes: CTA keeps trains running in brutal cold

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Transit Authority has been working overtime to keep its trains and buses running during the bone-chilling cold plaguing Chicago this January.

The CTA says there were just a few minor problems Monday morning, most dealing with doors that would not close. The conductors had to get out of their booth and walk back and manually work.

The CTA gave FOX 32 News an inside look at what it takes to keep these trains running.

On frigid winter days, about 10% of CTA trains are equipped with special de-icing gear. Gallons of de-icing fluid are stored in roped off sections of the passenger areas. The de-icer is spread evenly on the third rails to make sure there's no icy buildup.

"Once we lose that connection to the third rail we basically have lost power to the train," CTA's Thomas Dietrich said. "That is what propels the car, that's what keeps them moving."

It's essentially the same type of system that you use for your windshield. The other key to keeping that third rail clear. Ice scrapers, again, similar to those that you use on a windshield, eventually get worn down and need to be replaced.

When the problem is deep or blowing snow, the CTA relies on what's essentially a giant snow blower - the kind some of would love to have for our driveways.

"We've found we can handle the snow pretty well," Dietrich said. "The ice on the third rail is probably the most significant problem that we face."

Those giant snow blowers like this one are used mostly in the rail yards, because this is where the snow tends to pile up. On the main lines, the CTA trains are consistently in motion, which keeps the snow from piling up.

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