Surprise at Lena—I wasn’t expecting this (and more!).

A few weeks back, John Gruber and I were on our way back to Madison, Wisconsin from the Mississippi River Valley. We’d followed the old Milwaukee Road up to Lanark, Illinois, then cut northward on Illinois State highways.

The sun was a golden globe in the western sky above rolling corn fields.

At Lena we intersected Canadian National’s former Illinois Central east-west line that connects Chicago with Council Bluffs, Iowa. I noticed that the signals were lit red and that there was something unusual in the siding.

Unusual indeed! It was a self-propelled draw-bar connected train of articulated flatcars for maintenance service. I’d never seen anything like it.

I’d love to tell you all about it, except I know precious little, except that the ‘locomotive’ had EMD Blomberg trucks and the whole machinery carried GREX reporting marks. Perhaps if I do another book on railroad maintenance equipment, I’ll have the opportunity to research this train more thoroughly.

This is one curious looking train. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Look ma, no couplers! That’s a straight drawbar connection between the locomotive and cars. Unusual in American railroad practice.
Articulated gons behind the locomotive.
Trailing view of the locomotive. Look! There’s a headlight on the horizon. . . .

While I was studying this unusual railway machine, the eastward signals at the end of the siding changed aspects; the cleared from all red to ‘green over red.’ A train had been lined! Hooray!

Stay tuned!

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

3 comments on “Surprise at Lena—I wasn’t expecting this (and more!).

  1. Susan Milka on said:

    I found this post very interesting, but I found the photography just shy of desirable in content. I always want to see a good side view of the vehicles in question. I want to see all of the reporting marks and in this case documentation of the articulation of these gons. Was there a F.R.E.D. ? Pleas show these features in future pics. Very much enjoyed the writing and also hearing from readers who knew more about these new railroad items.

  2. I see this thing whenever the BNSF embarks on a big track work project along the triple track in Chicago. Sometimes it’s even parked in what’s left of the old commuter yard in my home town of Downers Grove.

  3. Unique, indeed!
    Locomotive is very utilitarian and there way less likely hood of broken knuckles or pulled out draw bars with no slack action.
    As many have likely noted, this equipment belongs to the Georgetown Rail Equipment Company. Since I have NO LIFE, I looked it up too.
    The propulsion looks like a giant power unit with cab on a recovered (read:salvaged) frame. The train in total is known as a Slot Machine. Apparently, this unit is one of 2 units.
    The text describes it.
    Interesting stuff.

    Title: GREX 6007
    Description: GREX 6007 SPS® (Self-Powered SlotMachine®) in the CN, former SOO, yard off N. Linwood Ave. at W. College Ave. at Appleton Junction, WI on 13 May ’17. The SlotMachine® work platform, GREX 60540, consists of several gondolas permanently connected with articulated couplings. There are no bulkheads between the cars, so an excavator can traverse the entire length of the train’s floor to load or unload material. This small yard used to serve as an interchange for the SOO and Chicago & North Western (C&NW). Later it served as an intermodal yard for the WC.
    Photo Date: 5/13/2017 Upload Date: 7/12/2017 4:23:33 AM

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