T’s snow-removal equipment looks like something from a film
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s snow-removal equipment looks like something Imperator Furiosa might use to run-down her enemies in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
On Tuesday, the transit agency shared pictures of just some of its snow-shredding vehicles in its collection, machines that will be deployed this week after a powerful nor’easter slams the region.
“Snow fighting equipment is ready for tomorrow’s blizzard,” the transit agency said on Twitter, showcasing its arsenal of dinosaur-esque beasts made of metal.
Forecasters are warning of blizzard conditions along the coast during the storm, which is expected to arrive late Monday night and last through Tuesday. The winter weather will bring with it a mix of high winds and minor flooding, and could dump more than two feet of snow in some places around the state, severely impacting travel.
Because of the storm, the MBTA Commuter Rail will operate on an “extremely reduced schedule” on all lines Tuesday, officials said. And the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green Lines will operate with “reduced frequency” — that is, with trains arriving every seven to 10 minutes, like they would on a Saturday schedule.
Although riders can expect hiccups during the Tuesday commute, the MBTA’s “Transformer”-like machinery should have no problem chewing through and melting away the snow that accumulates on the tracks once its deployed.
Here’s a quick look at what each piece of equipment does. (Editor’s note: With permission from the transit agency, the Globe has given some of the machinery non-binding nicknames).
The Ballast Regulator with Auger Attachment — a.k.a. “The Regulator”
This piece of track-borne equipment, typically used to deliver ballasts to the tracks, was retro-fitted for winter with a 78 inch “plow” attachment, according to Erik Stoothoff, the T’s deputy chief operating officer for infrastructure.
The machine is capable of chucking snow 45 feet in any direction, and can be used on the heavy and light rail system.
“It’s no different than a home snowblower you bought at Home Depot,” said Stoothoff. “But it’s very wide, and attached to a very strong piece of equipment, so it can push through very heavy and dense snow.”
Jet Snow Blower — a.k.a. “Snowzilla”
According to officials, the MBTA has two of these long-nosed, jet engine-powered monsters, commonly referred to as “Snowzilla,” in its line-up. The rail-borne machinery, which looks a bit like a submarine made from LEGO pieces — on wheels — can generate 3,000 pounds of thrust.
The pair of Snowzillas were fully overhauled in 2015, using the MBTA’s Winter Resiliency funds. The vehicles burn through 900 gallons of fuel for each trip, as they blow hot air at “a very high pressure,” said Stoothoff.
“It’s a melter and a blower,” he said. “It helps us clear the tracks.”
Compact Track Loader with Auger Attachments — a.k.a. “The Big Idea”
Stoothoff describes this piece of machinery as the “most versatile” in the MBTA’s snow-removing arsenal. It’s basically a Bobcat with a 70-inch snowblower attached to the front of it. What makes this particular piece of equipment different from the other snowblowers is that it can fit into tight spaces, and get around both on and off the train tracks. The T will often use this to clear out rail yards, and squeeze into bus stops.
“It’s also very easy to pilot around,” Stoothoff said. “We use it for all kinds of snow-clearing efforts.”
The multi-purpose machines with rubber tracks were “invented” by an MBTA machinist in 2015, when a series of storms all but brought the transit agency to its knees. Two years later, the MBTA hired a company to build eight just like it.
Diesel Locomotive and Diesel-powered Snowfighter — a.k.a. “The Strongest of Them All”
This vehicle that rides along the T’s tracks requires a bit of teamwork and is used for the heaviest snow. Using a 96-inch wide snowblower, it will chew through “pretty much anything that we have there — ice, everything,” said Stoothoff.
The vehicle, which was recently refurbished, is customized to fit on the T’s rapid transit tracks. Though looks can be deceiving, it’s actually two vehicles connected to each other — a diesel locomotive that does the pushing, and a second diesel-powered snow blower.
Stoothoff said there’s a pilot for both of the vehicles, and a co-pilot for the locomotive. The two teams talk to one another via radio as the machinery approaches snow and ice in its path. The operator in the snow-blowing portion can decide which direction to move the snow. Meanwhile, the pair in the locomotive can move the contraption forward and backward.
“It’s the strongest of them,” he said. “It’s just another tool in our arsenal.”