a user's guide to zero gravity third rail

A User’s Guide to Zero Gravity Third Rail

In Rail & Mass Transit, Rail Lubrication, Zero Gravity Third Rail® by Eric Vantiegham

Learn everything there is to know about our patented technology that prevents ice on third rails and keeps your trains running safely and on time.

Any rail network has to plan ahead for all the difficulties that come with the changing seasons. Winter in particular can be catastrophic, with ice and snow threatening to disrupt entire systems. Fortunately, there are simple solutions that can prevent winter weather from derailing service on your rail system, such as Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc.’s own Zero Gravity Third Rail® anti-icing solution. In this blog post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about our industry-leading anti-icing agent and answer some frequently asked questions from our customers.

What is Zero Gravity Third Rail made of?

Zero Gravity Third Rail is a winter operating agent made of diethylene glycol and propylene glycol formula, both of which are pseudoplastics. It was developed using patented Smart Fluid technology that was developed in collaboration with NASA and the Ames Research Institute.

Is it safe for the environment?

Absolutely. Zero Gravity Third Rail is biodegradable, non-flammable, non-corrosive, and non-conductive. It can also be easily washed off with soap or standard laundry detergent if the product gets onto your hands or clothes.

What is Zero Gravity Third Rail best used for?

Since Zero Gravity Third Rail is designed specifically for electrified third rails, it’s primarily used by mass transit networks, steel mills with third rail cranes, and other locations with mover systems that rely on electrified third rails like hospitals and airports.

In addition to third rails, it can also be applied to crane rails, chains, hoists, ropes, and other industrial materials prone to icing. That being said, it is not designed for areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, since it can create safety hazards by making the areas excessively slippery and dangerous to walk on.

How does Zero Gravity Third Rail work?

Unlike a de-icer, which melts preexisting ice buildup, Zero Gravity Third Rail is an anti-icer, which means that it prevents the formation of ice and removes thinner layers of ice glaze. To get a little technical with it, the solution is a non-Newtonian fluid. That means it doesn’t follow Newton’s Law of Viscosity and doesn’t change with external pressure or temperature changes. This property allows it to remain in place as a sturdy, gel-like material that prevents ice from forming well after application, even on vertical surfaces.

When should it be applied?

Since it’s a preventative product, you should apply Zero Gravity Third Rail before ice is expected to develop. It can also be applied during harsh weather events, but it doesn’t melt ice as effectively as it prevents it from forming in the first place. Fortunately, you can save it if your winter is milder than expected, since it can last for as long as two years before expiring if kept unopened.

How should it be applied?

Zero Gravity Third Rail is best applied with a sprayer. A plastic hand sprayer suitable for high voltage locations can work, but we recommend using a custom-designed Ice Slicer® Delivery System, since it’s best equipped to thoroughly coat all sides of the third rail.

The product does not need to be diluted before applying, and it will not build up on the rail. Typically, one mile of rail will need three to six gallons of product, which can be purchased in quantities ranging from five gallon containers to 1,000 gallon truckloads.

How long does it last?

Because of its patented formula, Zero Gravity Third Rail is a highly durable product. However, it may need to be applied more frequently in severe weather. In most cases, a single application will protect your system for as long as four hours, but it might need to be reapplied every 30 minutes in stronger storms. At the end of the day, every weather event is different and it’s thus best to err on the side of caution when deciding how often to apply the product.

Interested in using this industry-leading technology to protect your third rails all winter long? Check out our line of anti-icing and de-icing products in the Midwest Store or contact one of our specialists today.

Eric Vantiegham is Midwest’s Rail & Transit Specialist. Skilled in product development, new business development, and strategic planning, he enjoys playing ice hockey and coaching his boys' youth teams.