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Supersonic air keeps train tracks clear when weather sucks

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Unlike forest fires, you personally can't do much to stop trainwrecks. With that in mind, the folks over at General Electric took a break from tracking your brain on BBQ and devised a way to keep one of the oldest forms of powered-transport on track in adverse weather conditions. You see, the Ardennes Forest in Belgium is legendary for its inhospitable conditions and to sidestep them and the mountains, trains were taking a longer, flatter and more expensive route. That wasn't too economical. So, GE implemented what it calls the Advanced Rail Cleaner for trains on the route. Essentially, the ARC is a module that sits at a precise spot ahead of the front axle and uses high-pressure air (rather than lasers) moving at supersonic speeds to clear away any moisture and debris.

What's more, special software detects when slippage starts and automatically engages the tool to blast away any contaminants. The result? European transport firm Heavy Haul Power International says it did something wasn't possible before: pulling a 2,700 metric ton (just under 2,700 imperial tons) train through the "worst rail conditions imaginable." All that to say, supplies should move a lot faster through the treacherous region from here on out. Too bad this sort of tech probably wouldn't work on airplanes to keep runways clear for take-off and landing -- we can always dream, though.

[Image credit: Stephan Rebernik/Flickr]

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