Yes, these train tracks are on fire. But why?


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No, this is not the train trestle over the River Styx. It’s not even the tracks running adjacent to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” This is Chicago. Chi-Town. The Windy City. And these burning tracks have nothing to do with the Great Chicago Fire.

You see, it gets so cold in Chicago that they use flames to keep the trains running — and no, I don’t mean the engines. The tracks have things known as switch heaters, which are gas burners engineered to keep moisture out of the track switching systems so they don’t freeze.

I don’t know about you, but I was yesterday years old when I learned that this is how Chicago does mass transit in the dead of winter.

It’s a simple and ingenious fix for a big problem, but most importantly for our enjoyment, it looks kind of amazing! It’s like something out of a punk band’s music video from the early 1980s. Or the underworld itself.

Metra, a commuter rail system, recently posted this Facebook video of the burners in action as captured by a Railstream camera.

It’s pretty fascinating to see for the very first time.



Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing. She has served as a digital producer at NBC Nightly News, Senior Producer at CNBC, Managing Editor at ICF Next, and as a tax reporter at Bloomberg BNA.