A User’s Guide to Anti-Icing

In Anti-Icing Deicing, Rail & Mass Transit, Transportation by Eric Vantiegham

Anti-icing can keep your rails safe in even the harshest winter weather. We explain how proper application of a proven product can ensure your winter maintenance program is a success.

With winter now in full force, your tracks, third rails, and switches might be more susceptible to icing over than usual. An effective anti-icer, however, can protect your entire railway on even the coldest days, ensuring that it runs as smoothly in the dead of winter as it does in the heart of spring. As you prepare your railroad for the next blizzard, we’re here to help you introduce effective anti-icing into your maintenance strategy.

Anti-Icing versus Deicing

Anti-icing often gets confused with deicing. And while both are important parts of any winter maintenance strategy, they serve very different purposes. As their names suggest, anti-icing prevents ice from forming altogether, while deicing removes ice that’s already formed.

An effective winter maintenance program should leverage both strategies. However, as you might expect, anti-icing can significantly reduce the need for deicing and thus represents a far more efficient and cost-effective investment. Indeed, rails treated with an anti-icing product need to be treated with five to ten times less deicing product than surfaces that go untreated.

Anti-icing agents are usually applied just before a snowstorm, quickly forming a protective layer between the surface and any precipitation. In the process, it prevents snow and ice from sticking to the surface, causing them to simply slide onto the ground. After the storm ends, the anti-icing agent can also be used to remove any remaining glaze.

Anti-Icing Product Application

Anti-icing products be applied with a customized sprayer system on tracks, third rails, switches, coupling rods, and various vertical surfaces. They should be applied less than 24 hours before a storm hits.

Since anti-icing agents are designed to create a protective layer between a surface and frozen precipitation, some products will simply wash off with falling rain. Products made with glycerin and similar polymers, however, have a unique ability to withstand precipitation — it’s no surprise then that they’ve been deemed the rail industry’s gold standard.

How Do I Know My Anti-Icer Is Working?

An anti-icer will work from the moment the snow starts to the moment it stops falling. As snow accumulates on your equipment, it will simply glide off of it. As soon as the snowfall ends, you’ll find a slick gel-like film on your tracks and switches rather than a sheen of ice.

The foundation of a strong anti-icing plan, of course, is a quality product. With over four decades of experience developing anti-icing products and solutions, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. offers an array of anti-icing agents that can ensure that your rail switches remain safe for use in even the strongest blizzards.

Designed to work in temperatures as low as -70º F, our patented product Ice Free Switch® can greatly heighten efficiency and dramatically reduce maintenance costs for any railroad or mass transit system. Non-conductive and non-corrosive, proper application of the product increases performance and heightens safety throughout your rail network without damaging your equipment.

So if you’re struggling to protect your railroad switch points, plates, rails, and other locations where ice can interfere with operations, Midwest stands ready to provide you with the anti-icing and de-icing products you need to keep the trains moving on schedule.

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.