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Dutch trains may soon have lasers that zap debris into oblivion

The Dutch are testing an awesome safety feature.


Mike Fenn


Posted on Dec 4, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 1:37 am CDT

Dutch Railways trains are about to become much safer—and a lot more awesome.

According to NewScientist, Holland’s chief transportation service is testing a unique new way to clear the rails of fallen leaves and other small debris: by mounting lasers on the fronts of locomotives. The lasers will cause the leaves, which produce a condition commonly referred to as “slippery rail” in the fall and winter months, to vanish in a puff of air.

Most transit agencies, including New York’s Long Island Railroad, use power washers to clear the tracks of debris. While effective, the method has the drawback of “[damaging] the rails and the substrate below,” according to the NewScientist article.

What’s more, power washers aren’t nearly as awesome as lasers.

While impressive, the method is not without its own drawbacks. According to NewScientist, the lasers will automatically deactivate when their required precise focus is interrupted by the train’s vibrations. Such vibrations were what caused a similar program in the UK to abandon the laser idea in 1999.

If the laser idea becomes implemented and widespread, it will give dimwitted thrill-seekers even more reasons to stay off of active railroad tracks.

H/T NewScientist / Photo via Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Dec 4, 2014, 7:50 pm CST