Winter on the Rail

Winter On The Rail

From September through to November, railway operators in Canada work diligently to create contingency plans to overcome potential delays caused by our unpredictable Canadian winter weather. During this pre-winter planning process, operators analyze and study available weather data in order to begin forecasting potential interruptions to the rail, and continue to make adjustments as this data becomes more substantial. The resulting plans are then utilized to deploy resources effectively throughout the winter months. 


So, how exactly does the weather affect the rail?  

Similar to the issues that cars face while driving on a road during a winter storm, the rail can also deal with some unsafe operating conditions. Precipitation on the rails can cause reduced traction (especially on heavier grades), ice and snow buildup can result in delays and destruction of the railway infrastructure, and cold air can increase air leakage within the air brake system. So, while the full impacts of these weather storms cannot be predicted, it is incredibly important for these operators to be prepared for almost anything. 


How do rail operators prepare? 

In addition to seasonal planning strategies, rail operators also follow specific guidelines to ensure that the safety of their teams and their cargo are always their top priority. 


For example, once the temperature outside drops below -25 °C, train operators begin reducing both the allowed length and speed of the trains to account for the additional amount of time required to brake. 


Additional resources are also added to the trains, and deployed across the country to assist in faster resolutions when the winter weather hits. These items include air driers to prevent moisture in the brake lines, snow removers (trucks, backpack blowers, and heated blowers) to clear the tracks, and switch heaters to help keep the trains moving efficiently. Air cars can also be added to trains in order to assist with braking. 


How can this affect my shipment? 

Delays on the rail can happen (especially during these winter months). If your shipment requires protection from freezing, M-O can help with our specialized fleet of heated containers.*   


How can you better prepare for winter shipments? 

Proactivity is best! If you are able to, tender your freight early, and add transit days to your Requested Arrival Date (RAD) to help mitigate the effects of unexpected delays. 


M-O’s protect from freeze service is offered from October 15 – April 15


For more information about M-O’s heated service, please contact: