Skip to content
CityLab
Transportation

Should These Train Tracks Be on Fire?

Actually, yes. Thanks to extreme cold hitting the Midwest, Chicago is lighting the Metra commuter train rails on fire to keep the steel from contracting.
En fuego! A Metra train negotiates a rails-on-fire situation in Chicago.
En fuego! A Metra train negotiates a rails-on-fire situation in Chicago.Kiichiro Sato/AP

Hey, have you heard? It’s cold out there.

“There” being the U.S. Midwest, and specifically Chicago, which has been gripped by historically frigid temperatures. As a polar vortex encases the city, wind chills are predicted to reach -44 on Wednesday. People are bundling; mail carriers are staying home; almost 1,500 flights are cancelled. Also the train tracks are on fire. Wait, what?