Prepared For An Icy Weekend, The Kansas City Streetcar Runs Around The Clock

Jan 15, 2017

The Kansas City streetcar running on Friday evening.
Credit KC Streetcar Authority

Over the icy weekend, Kansas City’s downtown streetcar service not only kept to schedule, it ran after-hours to stop ice build-up on overhead lines.

After the last passengers disembarked, up to two streetcars were kept running overnight to keep power-lines ice-free.

Donna Mandelbaum, communications manager for the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, says the trolley cars can run continuously if necessary.

“The streetcar is run by a pantograph, which is on top of a streetcar that touches an overhead wire," explains Mandelbaum. "The sheer continuous motion of that pantograph running along the overhead wires keeps the ice from forming a thick build-up.”

Anticipating icy weather, a KC Streetcar worker applies de-icer to the pantograph on top of the streetcar. The streetcar ran around the clock to prevent ice buildup on the overhead wires.
Credit KC Streetcar Authority

She also describes another technique that helps in freezing weather.

“Every streetcar is equipped with a sander that is in the front of the vehicles and it will shoot out sand onto the tracks so that we have better traction,” she says. 

Passenger numbers were down over the weekend but according to KC Streetcar, ridership numbers reached 1.4 million trips in 2016, its first year in operation.

Danny Wood is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.