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LIRR sees 30 delays Monday as wet leaves land on tracks

Autumn leaves scattered along Long Island Rail Road tracks continue to cause service problems for commuters.

Wet leaves were to blame for 30 delays Monday morning, as engineers slowed trains to avoid sliding uncontrollably on the tracks.

"Rain and high winds knocked a lot of leaves down, making for slip-slide conditions and a difficult morning," said LIRR spokesman Sal Arena.

After leaves fall off trees and land on tracks, they are crushed by trains or disintegrate on their own, leaving behind an oily residue on rails known as pectin, Arena said.

Pectin can cause trains to continue sliding forward, past a station platform, even after an engineer applies the brakes.

"Safety, of course, is always our top priority," Arena said. "On a day like today [Monday], train engineers know to report slip-slide conditions immediately."

Arena said the LIRR works year-round to prevent and address slip-slide problems, including by maintaining trees and shrubs near the tracks, power-washing pectin off the rails, reducing train speeds and adjusting brakes.

The LIRR said it has enhanced its computerized train-tracking system to automatically report slipping incidents as they occur and take corrective action more quickly.

The railroad also runs special work trains in the fall that crush leaves and apply an anti-slip substance on tracks.

Fallen leaves can also take a toll on LIRR trains. When trains slide on the tracks, steel wheels can develop flat spots that require cars to be pulled out of service for repairs.

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