If your South Shore commuter train has been late the last couple of days,
during the afternoon rush hour, blame the heat.
John Parsons, spokesman for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation
District, told the Chesterton Tribune today that the extreme
temperatures have forced South Shore conductors to slow train speeds.
“It’s really precautionary in nature,” Parsons said.
In fact the heat has two effects on the commuter line’s infrastructure. The
overhead, or concatenary, wire between Michigan City and South Bend—which
has not yet been upgraded—“gets very soft and loose when it gets warm,”
Parsons noted. “The heat can also cause problems to rail and switches,
potentially misaligning them.”
“So we operate at lowered speed to reduce the likelihood of problems,”
How much of a lowered speed? A pretty substantial one. “In 79 mile-per-hour
territory, we’re dropping to 50 mph,” he said.
Parsons added that the threshold temperature at which speeds are lowered is
anything above an ambient 95 degrees. That means that morning rush-hour
trains aren’t generally under a low-speed order. It’s only in the early- to
mid-afternoon, when the day has really started hotting up, that the order
Low speeds, however, have two results: the obvious one that your train takes
longer to get from Point A to Point B; and a less than obvious one, namely,
that any delay to a scheduled meeting between an eastbound train and a
westbound one in single-track territory—where one of them is shunted to a
siding so that the other may pass—tends to have cascading effects up and
down the line.
cascading effects have been doing a number on the afternoon rush-hour,
delaying trains usually on the order of 20 to 30 minutes, Parsons said.