Snow may be creeping in here in the northeast, but generally in the fall, slippery wet leaves are the biggest concern for commuter rail trains.

This year the MBTA has a new tool to cope with fallen wet leaves — two new wash trains that use high pressure steam to clean rails; not to clean them of leaves, but what the leaves leave behind.

As leaves begin to deteriorate, a slippery residue is left on the rail surface that affects locomotives' braking and acceleration; the condition is known as 'slippery rail.'

MBTA Deputy General Manager Jeff Gonneville says sometimes the delays can be as long as 25 to 30 minutes or, in extreme cases, more than two hours, as was the case on a recent night on the Fitchburg Line.

In the past, the MBTA did have a train to wash the tracks, but it operated at such a slow speed it could only be used at night. That limited how much track it could clean.

Alex LoveJoy, Keolis' director of planning and risk management, says the new wash trains can now run at speeds of up to 30 to 40 miles per hour, an improvement over the 10 mile per hour speed of the older train. The steam pressure has also been increased, from 15,000 to 24,000 pounds per square inch, for more thorough cleaning. The new machine also applies a special traction gel to the rails after washing them.

"Normally, we would be able only to get maybe the Worcester line or the Fitchburg line ... once, maybe twice in a washing week," Lovejoy said. "Now we're able to get the Worcester line, Fitchburg and Franklin line, the lines where we have the most serious slippery rail conditions, 3 to 4 times a week.

The MBTA spent $750,000 building the two new wash trains, and the agency aims to reduce the impact of slippery rail by 20 percent this year.