Heat impacting some VRE trains

heat advisory photo

It’s hot outside.

At 3:00 p.m. Tuesday the National Weather Service was reporting 87 degrees at Dulles Airport, 88 in Manassas and 90 in Leesburg.

That heat is affecting train schedules on VRE’s Fredericksburg line. Heat restrictions were imposed at 1:00 p.m. and that means slower trains.

According to VRE, trains begin their trips on time then heat-related delays accumulate over the course of the trip. So, the farther you go the longer the delay becomes. If your destination is Franconia/Springfield, you will likely not notice the two-minute delay. However, if you travel all the way to Spotsylvania the delay will be about 14 minutes.

What are “heat restrictions?”

Here’s how VRE’s website explains it:

Just as automobiles are sometimes requested to lower speeds for various road and weather conditions, trains are subject to similar restrictions. Heat restrictions are orders given to railroad engineers to reduce their speed over a given section of track.

Steel rails slowly expand and contract as temperatures rise and fall. Careful engineering measures are taken when rail is installed to account for rail expansion and contraction. The ties, rock ballast, and rail anchors, which hold the rail longitudinally, must be strong enough to keep the rail solidly in place instead of expanding or contracting. Under extreme heat, the rail, on rare occasions, will experience a “sun kink,” which causes the track to shift laterally causing a curve in the track.

When a “kink” or high tension is found in the track, the track is taken out of service, repaired, and then put back in service. That is why there are times that we are limited to one track during the summer as repairs are made.

Heavy rain may also be on the way

The National Weather Service expects a front to stall over the DC area Tuesday afternoon and evening. That could kick off thunderstorms over Fairfax County this evening. The forecast calls for 1 to 3 inches of rain and a Flash Flood Watch is in effect through the evening.


About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C. He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.