The Midwestern United States is reeling under extreme cold conditions where forecasters have even warned of “life-threatening extreme cold.” During this people are feeling temperatures in the range of -40s, -50s, and even -60s (Fahrenheit). Millions of Americans living across the Midwest (comprising much of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Dakotas) experienced a freeze normally reserved for the Arctic Circle.
The nearly unthinkable temperatures has led to the collapse of electrical grids and caused airline gas lines to freeze. The dry and frigid air has also led to spontaneous nosebleeds, and made even brief forays outdoors extremely hazardous.
The region’s largest city, Chicago, also witnessed a record low temperature. Given that temperatures are in the range of -50s, getting around got a lot tougher. To tackle this, people who keep the commuter trains running have come up with a hot idea.
They have set the train tracks on fire. The system is used by Chicago commuter railroad Metra that runs along rail tracks to generate flames and heat to prevent rail and switch defects from the extreme cold that could halt train service.
Here is the Instagram post by Metra:
View this post on Instagram
Pull-aparts are rail defects in which two rails separate at their connection. They occur in extreme cold when the metal shrinks and the rails literally pull apart from each other. How Metra forces make repairs is by warming the metal with fire until it expands and the two rails can be reconnected. 🔥🔥 Photo: Mark Llanuza . . . #metra #metrarail #trains #traingram #locomotive #railroad #railway #workingontherailroad #traintracks #hardhatarea #fightingwithfire #railfan #lovetransit #ontherailroad
As per Metra, once the metal is warmed up and expands, crews can then reconnect the separated rails.
To those looking from a distance it may appear that the rails are on fire, but it’s not actually the case. “Despite popular belief, the tracks themselves are not on fire,” the agency said.
The process has given rise to pictures and videos that are now going viral on social media. Check out them:
— ABC News (@ABC) January 30, 2019
Because of the extreme cold in Chicago, crews had to set rail tracks on fire to keep trains moving smoothly. In Chicago alone, more than 1,550 were canceled in and out of the city.@MailOnline pic.twitter.com/8SjM87Ms2f
— Tim Conway Jr Show (@ConwayShow) January 30, 2019
It’s so cold in Chicago that workers are setting fire to railroad tracks just to keep the trains moving. The extreme cold — around -22 F Wednesday morning — can cause rail defects. https://t.co/7NG3VKuPYV pic.twitter.com/vzGRJg5AVs
— CNN (@CNN) January 30, 2019
— KTVU (@KTVU) January 31, 2019
— 𝒜𝓃𝓃𝒶_♡𝓃𝓁𝒾𝓃𝑒 🌐 (@Anna_online) January 31, 2019
The practice isn’t just used during extreme arctic weather events, but anytime the temperature dips near zero.