Lena, Illinois Follow Up: Mysteries and Questions Resolved.

My twin posts focused on Lena, Illinois drew considerable interest and answers.

Regarding the monster eastward Canadian National freight; the actual number of cars carried on this one train was 280 (plus three leading locomotives and a lone DPU). That’s a real whopper at 1,144 axles (24 are the locomotives)!

A number of Tracking the Light readers wrote to me about the unusual GREX drawbar connected maintenance train. I’ve compiled these below into a brief essay.

Dusk view of the GREX Slot Train at Lena, Illinois.

The curious maintenance train was built by Georgetown Industries (a spinoff of Texas-based Georgetown Railroad), which uses the GREX reporting marks. This train is described by the manufacturer as a Self-Powered SlotMachine® and commonly as ‘slot train’ which is designed to distribute materials. Instead of conventional gondolas, this is in effect a string of permanently connected articulated gondolas with the ends removed.

Since there are no bulkheads between cars an excavator can be used to traverse the entire length to load or unload material. The train is especially useful when a railroad is faced with limited track access time or locations that are inaccessible by road. One application is to dump ballast between the rails on ‘skeletonized’ track.

Articulated gons behind the locomotive.

One flaw with the train is that the solid draw bar and articulated connections between cars make it impossible to set out a car in case of defect.

The Slot train’s power is a relatively new creation and appears to be based on LORAM’S boxy power unit.  Georgetown has several Slot train sets that work at various places around the country, the machinery is still being evaluated or leased an as of yet, these trains are a rare sight on American rails.

Dusk view of the GREX Slot Train at Lena, Illinois.

Another Georgetown creation is its Dump Train, which is a series of drawbar-connected hoppers featuring a conveyor belt running under the length of the train and a swing out conveyor belt at the unloading end to deliver aggregate line-side. The style of construction gives the train a nearly European appearance.

Meet with the odd-maintainance train..