WINTER IS SOCKING the East Coast, and the good folks who keep New York’s public transit system running are hustling to keep people moving. That means fitting chains on bus tires, firing up hundreds of snowblowers, and assembling platoons to shovel snow off staircases. That’s all preventative work, the fight to get snow and ice out of the way before it causes any trouble.
If #Blizzard2016 lives up to the hype, those efforts may be overwhelmed. The snow could pile up in feet instead of inches, threatening to bring the entire system to a halt. If that happens, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority will deploy its most powerful weapon.
No, not the Sith lord. The Jordan Spreader Ditcher. The 53-foot-long, 15-foot-tall, 160,000-pound monster rumbles down train tracks behind a massive black plow that swats aside snow drifts as high as 16 feet. One look and you understand the nickname.
This beast, built by South Carolina’s Harsco Rail, also is handy in warmer months, when it spreads ballast (the gravel you find between the ties) and dig ditches alongside the track (hence the name “spreader-ditcher”). That massive plow has a spread of 12 feet on each side, and it’s pushed along by one or more locomotives at up to 50 mph.
Don’t expect to see Darth Vader cruising along the D line, though. The MTA plans to use it on the Long Island Railroad, but only if necessary. For now, it’s sitting in a rail yard in eastern Long Island, where snowfall tends to be heavier, biding its time. It’ll let the JV team take care of things with trucks and such. But if the drifts top two feet, a crew of three will fire it up and rumble out to clean up Mother Nature’s mess.