Staying on Track With Propane Railroad Switch Heaters

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Railroads In Winter

Railroads are built to take a real beating through rain, snow, sleet, hail, or extreme temperatures. The railroad industry does not have the luxury of taking time off during poor weather. We rely upon trains to keep cargo and passengers moving along day after day, all year long. There is one rail section that is extremely vulnerable to freezing temperatures… railroad switches. If it gets cold enough, and especially if there’s plenty of snow to cover the track, these switch points will freeze and their movement will be impaired. As a result, railroad switch heaters have become the lifeblood of the railroad industry during winter.

Frozen railroad switch

What Are Switches?

Track switches are transition points that determine the direction a train will take. Train wheels are coned to keep them in connection with the track so they can be guided to change directions. Switches rely upon that contact to correctly guide the train toward its destination. A frozen and faulty switch can bring the rail to a halt or catastrophically send trains in completely the wrong direction. So in essence, a railroad is only as good as its weakest switch point.

Historic Railroad Switch Heaters

In the past, railways companies tasked employees with sweeping rail switch points with brooms to keep them clear of snow. For stubborn ice blockages, they were equipped with hand held gas torches. Some of these methods are still employed today for smaller operations.

Modern Railroad Switch Heaters

The industry standard for dealing with this problem is to heat the switch points in order to keep them from freezing. Because track switches come in many shapes and sizes, there are many different types of switch heaters. These heaters are powered by either electricity or gas.

Electric Switch Heaters

Electric track switch heaters can take many forms. Some rely on conduction and directly transfer heat into the rail via metal plates, blades, or tubes. Other electric heaters blow high pressured hot air across the switches to melt and clear ice and snow from the rail. This clearing process also prevents ice melt from pooling and re-freezing between the rails and blocking switch points.

Gas Switch Heaters

Fueled by either propane or natural gas, these rail switch heaters also take multiple forms. These heaters work in 2 different ways. They either power high pressure hot air blowers similar to their electric counterparts, or run fuel lines to space out a series of small flames directly on the rail.

Chemical De-Icers

Some rail companies will also apply non-freezable solutions or chemical de-icers to sections of rail. For particularly troublesome tracks, these de-icers sometimes are used in combination with other heating methods.

Rail-side Gas Storage Problems

Gas powered heaters require on-site fuel storage in large tanks to make sure heaters stay running. When left out to endure the cold long enough, low temperatures will cause these tanks to lose pressure. Liquefied, low pressure gas tanks can bring a productive rail line to a screeching halt.

Powerblanket Railroad Switch Heating Solutions

Powerblanket specializes in keeping operations running all winter long. Our highly efficient railroad heating solutions provide safe and even heating for equipment and materials needed to keep your rail running.

Gas Cylinder Heaters

That’s why Powerblanket created our Gas Cylinder Heaters. Our revolutionary products use patented technology to deliver uniform barrier of heat over the entire service area. Now railroads can protect its gas stores that keep their switches heated. Our gas cylinder heaters solve cold weather pressure and flow problems while providing heavy duty, weather resistant insulation.

Custom and Hazardous Location Solutions

Powerblanket is proud to offer the fastest turnaround time for custom orders. No matter the size of your gas storage tanks, our world class engineers will create a tailor-made heating solution for your needs. We also have the most advanced hazardous area heating solutions available. With C1D2 certification options, you can be assured our heating blankets will operate safely and efficiently.

Contact us today to find the right railroad heating solutions for your needs at 844.557.4482 or [email protected]


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