While trains full of leaf-peepers travel along New York’s scenic rail routes this fall, the Metro-North’s leaf-zapping “Laser Train” will be busy making sure the picturesque falling foliage doesn’t pose a risk on the tracks. This week, the “Laser Train” reported for duty with a brand new, retro-futuristic look.

This work train uses lasers to remove debris on the tracks caused by rainwater and pectin from crushed fallen leaves. When trains pass over this sludge while breaking, they run the risk of slipping on the rails. This can potentially lead to the wheels flattening. Circular wheels are required for trains to operate safely and successfully. With wheels not functioning due to the leaf sludge, train cars have to be taken off the tracks for maintenance. This causes a great backup of trains during the fall season, becoming a major inconvenience to passengers. The “Laser Train,” which can be found riding along the Metro-North tracks, has helped significantly with this issue. 

Front of new Laser Train
Photo Credit: Emily Moser, MTA Metro-North Railroad

The “Laser Train” originally had the appearance of a normal maintenance train on the Long Island Railroad, but with the expansion to Metro-North a new design has arrived. The train is wrapped in art inspired by NASA’s “worm” logo of the 70s, decked out in bold colors and designs of the leaves of New York. “The laser train is back, and it will be easier for our customers to spot this year,” said Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi.

Rinaldi says that the new wrap is a great representation of the creativity of her Metro-North employees, giving passengers a chance to spot the laser train during the fall season and perhaps inquire more about this revolutionary technology. Metro-North has introduced an entire series of cars wrapped in vintage-inspired designs this year as the transit system celebrates its 40th anniversary!

Side of revamped Laser Train
Photo Credit: Emily Moser, MTA Metro-North Railroad

The “Laser Train” was first used in 2017 by the Long Island Rail Road, with the concept soon being sent over to Metro-North.  Almost 12,000 miles of tracks were cleaned in a successful test run in 2022, leading to the expansion of the train’s coverage in 2023. The test run provided a projected 40% decrease in slippery track incidents- great news for railroad workers and commuters alike!

Secrets of Grand Central

Grand Central Clock information booth

Next, check out 10 Secrets of the Metro-North Railroad