FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Cottbus crocodiles

Posted in Cottbus, Germany, Schwarze Pumpe by folkestonejack on May 2, 2014

The class EL2 electric locomotives of Vattenfall Europe Mining AG (previously Lausitzer Braunkohle AG) are some of the most remarkable survivors of the railway scene in Germany, but they keep a relatively low profile tucked away on an industrial network not far from the Polish border.

Cottbus Crocodile

Cottbus crocodile

A study by LAUBAG had revealed that it would be more cost efficient to revamp the existing fleet of locomotives than to build new locomotives for their system. The state railway’s vehicle maintenance shop at Cottbus and Kiepe Elektrik in Düsseldorf together modernised 58 locomotives, now designated EL2m, with just 3 locomotives left untouched.

The locomotives have a maximum speed of 65km/h and have a service weight of 100 tons. A single locomotive operating on the network normally hauls 16 coal wagons with a total weight of around 1,600 tons. Full specifications for the modernised locomotives can be found in the Vossloh Kiepe leaflet Modernization of the EL2 Electric Locomotive for the Lausitzer Braunkohle AG.

Class EL2 locomotive 4-314 in the workshops

Class EL2 locomotive 4-314 in the workshops

It would be easy to imagine the crocodiles in the run down setting of an antiquated coal mine, but nothing could be further from the truth. The crocodiles operate on a network that encompasses 323km of track, connecting up five mines and three power stations.

The whole system is monitored from a technologically sophisticated control centre (Zentralstellwerk) at Schwarze Pumpe, near Spremberg. It is an impressive and calm place, well away from the tracks, that runs 24 hours a day with five members of staff. The railway’s workshops, a short walk away from here, are equally impressive. The facility can handle small repairs, overhauls and even full locomotive modification.

In fact, everything about the operation takes your breath away. As we toured the facility by minibus the vast scale of the operation became apparent, with multiple unloading points and bridges leading up to them that looked to have been built relatively recently. Although I have visited many coal mine railways, it is fair to say that I have never seen anything as efficient or impressive as this.

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