Heating Up the Railroad Industry

Dropping temperatures can slow projects of all kinds. Many industries experience low productivity and profits during the winter months. However, the railroad industry is one that must continue the same productivity year round—regardless of weather. 

Railroad industry winter problems

Winter’s Impact on the Railroad

Railroads are an important industry for the American economy (and for many economies worldwide). When you consider how much freight passes through locomotives every year, you can account for a significant amount of the goods and supplies that many companies rely on. The railroad industry simply can’t afford winter downtime.

Cold weather can stop many different types of fair-weather operations, but the railroad isn’t one of them; there is too much at stake. Yet, despite the continuity demanded of our railways, cold temperatures can drastically affect the materials and equipment needed to keep trains moving.

Freezing conditions cause a wide variety of operational problems for the railroad industry. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these winter woes.

Frozen Track Switches

As ice and snow buildup along the track, switches become points of vulnerability. A frozen switch will bring the railroad to a halt or can catastrophically send trains in the wrong direction entirely. Railroad companies most commonly use electric and gas powered heaters to melt, and drive away ice and snow from these switches.

Reduced Gas Pressure

The gas powered heating systems mentioned above, rely upon on-site gas storage cylinders filled with either propane or natural gas. When temperatures drop below freezing, the gas pressure within the tanks also falls. A drop in pressure will restrict gas flow to such a degree that you can no longer reliably power your critical heaters.

Ice Blockages and Build-up

Wintertime ice build up can happen in a number of different ways. Burst pipes, repeated freeze-thaw cycles, freezing rain, and ice storms can cause ice to build up on any and all vertical or horizontal surfaces. Railroad sensors, detectors, and other pieces of equipment need to remain unobstructed at all times. Wayside, defect, and drag detectors placed along the track can discover problems with the train as it passes overhead. Ice build up prevents these detectors from functioning and compromises safety along the entire track. Ice build up can also cause malfunctions for crossing gates, safety signals, and other pieces of equipment up and down the track.

Ground Heave

Subterranean frost can cause the ground to heave, swell, then sink as it freezes and thaws. For railroads, this can create a serious problem. Ground heave can dislodge and break apart sections of track, making them unusable until they are repaired. In some locations, because ground water can freeze several feet below the surface, these repairs produce a lot of costly downtime. Excavating, leveling, and grading frozen ground is extremely time consuming and difficult.

Unworkable Repair Materials

Rail companies use multiple methods to lubricate their tracks and wheels and prevent destructive friction. Some use wayside lubrication stations placed next to the track right before a curve or switch. These storage containers are activated when a train passes over a sensor, and then lubricant is sprayed over the wheels as they pass. Train cars can also be outfitted with on-board greasers that will trigger lubrication before entering a curve or switch. Some rail companies also use mobile greasing trucks, with lubricant storage mounted at the back, that can easily get around to apply lubrication or re-fill wayside grease storage.

Stored liquids become thicker and more viscous as temperatures drop. Storage drums, buckets, and tanks that produce an easy flow of grease during the summer months can become completely unusable during cold conditions. In general, highly viscous fluids are extremely difficult to pump, spray, spread and work with.

Powerblanket Railroad Heating Solutions

With the high demand to stay operational, how does the railroad industry solve this wide spectrum of winter issues? Thankfully Powerblanket specializes in innovative railroad heating solutions that save time and money, protect equipment, and keep cargo and passengers moving all winter long. Because keeping our railroads running, in turn keeps the economy running. 

Powerblanket infographic on railroad heating solutions

Gas Cylinder Heaters

Powerblanket keeps your gas powered switch heaters operating all winter long. Our gas cylinder heaters solve propane and natural gas flow problems even in the coldest of conditions. Our gas cylinder heaters are UL, CSA, & CE safety certified with additional hazardous location certifications available.

Drum & Bucket Heaters

Here at Powerblanket, we know that cold temperatures can make industrial fluids impossible to work with. Our drum and bucket heaters are the perfect solution for grease and lubricant viscosity issues. Safely and evenly heat railroad lubricant storage containers and restore them to workable temperatures.

Bulk Material Warmers

For multiple containers of varying shapes and sizes, our bulk material warmers are the perfect heating solution. Powerblanket hot boxes eliminate hot and cold spots and distribute heat evenly to all materials and equipment housed inside. Our bulk material warmers are easily portable and can provide heating during storage or transportation.

Ground Thawing Blankets

Powerblanket’s high heat ground thawing blankets provide deep penetrating heat to melt stubborn ice blockages and thaw frozen ground. Heavy duty, weather resistant insulation directs heat exactly were it is needed most and removes frozen obstacles all down the rail.

All in all we specialize in ensuring operational continuity and pride ourselves on solutions that get the railroad industry back to work, no matter what mother nature throws your way. Contact Powerblanket today to find the perfect railroad heating solutions for your needs at 855.977.9657 or [email protected]

Railroad Heating Solutions


The railroad industry takes a beating all winter long. We rely upon trains to keep cargo and passengers moving day after day through rain, sleet, hail, and snow. However, even though we demand rail continuity, extreme temperatures and weather can take a real toll on the equipment and materials needed to keep trains moving. How does the railroad industry cope with the demand during winter conditions? Let’s take a closer look at some of the railroad heating solutions used today.

Frozen track in need of railroad heating solutions

Ice and Snow Clearing

Ice and snow can build up in a number of different rail locations. Freeze-thaw cycles, freezing rain, snow accumulation, ice storms, and burst pipes can create ice buildup on both horizontal and vertical surfaces. Many different track sections are impaired by ice buildup such as: safety sensors, wayside/defect/drag detectors, track curves, track switches, crossing gates, safety signals, and more. Therefore, ice and snow clearing is one of the most critical railroad heating solutions needed during the winter.

Air Blowers

Gas or electric powered air blowers are a common solution for clearing ice and snow. These heaters blow forced hot air over vulnerable sections of track, such as switch points. The hot air not only melts ice blockages but also drives the melted moisture away so it cannot pool and re-freeze.

Other Switch Heaters

Some switch heaters heat using conduction. Electric track switch heaters can also be placed directly on the rail to transfer heat via metal blades, tubes, or plates. Gas switch heaters can also run fuel lines along the track itself and use a series of small flames to melt ice and snow. Both types of gas heaters rely upon on-site gas cylinders storing either propane or natural gas.

Wedge Plows

During winter months, rail companies can also fit their engines with wedge plows. These specialized cars are perfectly shaped for breaking apart snow and ice dams and driving them to the sides of the tracks. Although wedge plows are not technically a railroad heating solution, they can be very instrumental in areas that see large amounts of snow accumulation.

Heating Blankets

When ground heave and ice blockages damage sections of rail, repairs often cannot wait until warmer weather. Frozen ground can be almost impossible to penetrate during these repair sessions. Ground heating blankets can be used to thaw frozen ground in order to excavate, level, and grade ground before repairing a damaged track.

Lubricant and Grease Heating

Of all the liquids one might store in the winter time, oil and grease brave the cold better than most. Both have an extremely low freezing temperature, and they can be stored in many different ways. However, this doesn’t mean that cold weather can’t affect oil and grease. Lubricants need more than just freeze protection, they need viscosity solutions.

Heating Blankets And Enclosures

Because liquids become thicker and more viscous as temperatures drop, they can become completely unusable during cold weather. In order to pump, spray, spread, or work with railroad lubricants during the winter, heating solutions are needed. Whether railroad companies use flange oilers, oiler cars, or mobile grease trucks, grease and other lubricants must be kept at workable temperatures.

Grease storage containers cannot always be kept in a climate controlled facility so they are warm and workable. Most railroad lubricant buckets and drums are stored wayside, on oiler cars, or on mobile grease trucks that patrol sections of rail. Because these lubricant containers are out in the elements, they need heated blankets or enclosures to keep grease warm while on the go.

Powerblanket Railroad Heating Solutions

Powerblanket specializes in highly efficient railroad heating solutions. We provide safe and even heating for equipment and materials that keep operations running all winter long.

Powerblanket infographic on railroad heating solutions

Gas Cylinder Heaters

Powerblanket’s gas cylinder heaters are perfectly suited for on-site gas heating fuel storage. Low temperatures cause pressure within rail-side storage tanks to drop dramatically. As a result, these low-pressure tanks cannot reliably power gas track switch heaters. Fortunately, our gas cylinder heaters provide safe, even heat to railroad gas storage in even the coldest of conditions. Heavy-duty, weather resistant insulation also adds an extra level of protection during the long cold winter months. In addition, our gas cylinder heaters are UL, CSA, & CE safety certified with additional hazardous location certifications available.

Ground Thawing Blankets

Preparing frozen ground for track repairs is a breeze with Powerblanket’s high heat ground thawing blankets. Our blankets drive deeply penetrating heat where it is needed most, and remove frozen obstacles all down the rail. Powerblanket can save yourself from costly downtime and help you complete track repairs all winter long.

Hot Boxes

Powerblanket’s bulk material warmers are the perfect railroad heating solution for multiple containers of varying shapes and sizes. Our hot boxes eliminate hot and cold spots and evenly distribute heat to all materials and equipment housed inside. Because our bulk material warmers are easily portable, they can provide heating during storage and transportation.

Drum and Bucket Heaters

We know cold temperatures make industrial fluids impossible to work with. That’s why Powerblanket’s drum and bucket heaters are the perfect solution for railroad grease and lubricants. Solve your viscosity issues and safely heat railroad lubricant storage containers and keep them at workable temperatures.

All in all we are proud to offer solutions that get the railroad industry back on track, no matter what winter throws your way. Contact Powerblanket today to find the perfect railroad heating solutions for your needs at 877-626-5233 or [email protected]

Learn More About Powerblanket Products

Keep Propane Tanks from Freezing with a Propane Tank Heater

If you rely on propane for year-round operations, then you already know what a headache winter weather can be. If you have a cold propane tank as a result of dropping temperatures, you’re going to lose a lot of efficiency. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution to keeping your propane tank from freezing, and the solution is something some refer to as a propane tank blanket.


thousand gallon propane tank

Propane Performs Best Under Heat

Did you know that propane can freeze up completely if the ambient temperature drops below -44° F? Granted, -44° F is pretty darn cold, but in terms of gases, it’s a rather high freezing point. As cold as this temperature is in general terms, there are regions North America that experience extremes within this range and even lower, and if you operate a propane tank under these conditions without freeze protection, catastrophe is inevitable.

Worst-case scenario aside, propane tank efficiency will fall substantially as the temperature drops, even if it never plummets as low as -44° F. As the temperature drops, so does the pressure in your propane tank, and the pressure in your propane tank coincides with the volume of propane you have to work with. As pressure drops, not only will the volume of your propane deplete, but your extraction rate (how quickly and smoothly you can extract propane from the tank) will suffer as well. If you don’t have a heating source to assist in the pressure maintenance of your tank, then you’re going to have to keep it as full as possible in order to keep it working, even if temperatures are mildly cold.


Keep Propane Tanks from Freezing with a Propane Tank Heater

More On Propane Extraction or Pressure Rate

Cold weather is the most common dilemma facing propane tank failure, but it isn’t the only one. Another cause of propane tank freezing has to do with the rate of extraction, or the pressure rate. If you’re drawing out a substantial amount of propane from your tank in a short amount of time, then you could cause the tank to freeze and ice up. This is assuming, of course, that you don’t have a heat source to assist with the problem.

Filling your propane tank more often isn’t going to solve a problem like this. And to be quite frank, it’s only a Band-Aid for cold weather dilemmas as well. No, the only real solution to both problems mentioned here is to keep your tank at the ideal temperature, regardless of outside forces. The safest, most efficient way to do this is to employ an external heating system that both insulates your tank and adds regulated and controlled heat to the exterior service.

In the case of heating propane, SAFETY IS MOST IMPORTANT. Propane, as we’re sure you know, is a highly flammable gas, so using any old make-shift solution isn’t safe. On the other hand, using a heating solution design specifically for the process, one that is certified and pronounced safe by reputable, third-party testing laboratories is the only way to go. With that said, let us introduce you to the Powerblanket Propane Tank Heater.



Powerblanket Propane Tank Heater

Powerblanket has the best propane tank heating solution on the market. And we aren’t just saying that because we are Powerblanket. No, we’re saying it because we know of no other company that puts more thought, time, and testing into such a product offering.  Our heating blankets will help maintain pressure and efficiency on just about any size tank.

What’s more, if your tank isn’t the common propane unit, well, that’s no problem. Our custom approach to heating solutions can tailor a blanket to fit your specific dimensions and needs. In addition to this, and most importantly, our product is safe! All Powerblanket heating blankets are certified with ETL certification to the highest standards of safety and efficiency.

Keep Propane Tanks from Freezing

Benefits of Powerblanket Propane Tank Heaters:

  • Increase performance and efficiency of propane tanks
  • Provide even heat distribution
  • Save money by optimizing gas and material usage
  • Safety certified by UL/CSA/CE
  • Eliminates unnecessary cylinder refills in cold weather



Learn more about how to care for your propane tanks with our complete propane guide:

Propane Tank Guide