This fall, the LIRR is expanding ways we combat leaf season to keep trains in service and operating safely, including the launch of a new laser technology – the first of its kind used in the U.S.

There’s nothing better than crisp fall days when a breeze kicks up and a rain of scarlet, chocolate and mustard-colored leaves falls to the ground in a curtain of color. Though the bounty of nature is a true joy this time of year, the LIRR Maintenance of Equipment Department can’t get distracted by cold, clear mornings and the riot of color alongside the rails: the department’s team is hard at work clearing leaves, and their oily residue, called pectin, from the rails, to keep your trains running safely and on time.

What damage can a few leaves do? Delays, short trains (train cars are taken out of service to repair, or “true”, damaged train wheels from slippage) and cancellations can occur during the autumn months. Over the past two years, as part of LIRR Forward, the LIRR Maintenance of Equipment Department has transformed how it tackles the negative effects of leaf fall season, including a never-before used laser technology that clears pectin from rails more efficiently. The Railroad is taking an innovative approach to keep trains running safely and on time, and it’s working! Year-to-date the LIRR has reduced cancellations by 42% and short trains by 24%.

Turning the Pressure Up

This fall the department is using two high-pressure water trains with increased PSI, from 4,000 to 20,000, to clear rails of fallen leaves; the speed of these trains has also been doubled, from 20mph to 40mph, allowing the Railroad to cover more territory every day. A new laser train also blasts pectin from the rails – this experimental approach hadn’t been deployed by any railroad until last year. This year the LIRR laser train travels more than twice as fast as it did last year: in 2018 the train traveled at 9 mph, but this year it’s covering more than double the territory at a speed of 20 mph.

When wheels slide on rails, they develop flat spots, and the wheels need to be trued to travel the rails safely. Since 2018, the LIRR has increased its wheel truing capacity by 66% by adding another truer machine to its equipment, one that can true two axles simultaneously. The Railroad can now maintain its fleet on both the east and west ends of the system.

For more information about how the LIRR continues to improve customer experience and safety, please visit