Never Thought of That

I heard the sounds before I saw the workers. The familiar sounds of a water truck cleaning the street.

In Canada, as Spring comes they send out trucks with high pressure spray nozzles to hose down the streets, clearing away a winter’s accumulated grit with a pressure wash. The streets don’t stay clean for long, and the process is repeated occasionally before the Fall. So I wasn’t surprised to hear that happening on a Freiburg street.

Except it wasn’t. 

The water truck was there, but it wasn’t a general street cleaning.   there were workers who had long wands attached to hoses. It seemed to me they were cleaning the rails of the tram line.

Ottawa decommissioned its streetcar system about the time I was born, an arguably short-sighted move. Our new light rail system does not run along city streets. Which means I had never really considered what a streetcar system would require in terms of routine maintenance. 

With a tram going by every few minutes, I wouldn’t have thought there would be much opportunity for foreign materials to accumulate in the slots where the rails are. I figure the train would flatten everything in its path.

Seeing these workers with their wands and hoses now has me wondering: Could a stray pebble be enough to derail one of the tram cars? What would happen if they didn’t do this cleaning? How often do they have to do it? Has a tram ever derailed in Freiburg?

Maybe I don’t want to know the answers to all of those questions. Would you?


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