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Submitted on
December 19, 2009
Image Size
1.6 MB


1,357 (8 today)
50 (who?)

Camera Data

Canon EOS 1000D
Shutter Speed
1/50 second
Focal Length
49 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
Dec 19, 2009, 4:38:29 PM


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Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Brown Coal Railroad by ZCochrane Brown Coal Railroad by ZCochrane
The area between the cities of Aachen, Cologne and Düsseldorf in Germany contains the largest deposits of lignite or brown coal in all of Europe. It is heavily mined in huge, moon-like surface mines. However, almost none o the lignite ever leaves the area. Instead, it is directly burned in a number of power-plants in the area. To get it from the mines to the powerplants, RWE Power (the company in charge of it all) operates one of the weirdest railroads in the country.

The system, which lacks a catchy name, consists of two lines, both double-tracked, with a total length of 52 km (32 miles) and connects a number of mines and power-plants together. Here, a northbound train headed by EL1 locomotive 563 is passing the one in Frimmersdorf. Fun fact: In terms of CO2 produced per unit of energy, Frimmersdorf is the most pollutant power-plant in Germany, second-most pollutant in Europe and third-most pollutant in the world, according to a 2005 WWF study.

The rail system is electrified with 6 kV at 50 Hz AC, a system that is to the best of my knowledge not used anywhere else. But that is not the only reason such weird-looking machines were chosen. The wide bays of the cab are used not only to allow checking on the train, but also for push-pull operations, which probably sets a world record for worst view of the track. Of course, the system also allows higher axle loads than normally used in Germany, up to 30 metric tons. Nevertheless, it is possible for normal trains to use the lines as well, and every now and then there are even special excursion trains (although as there are no platforms on the system, passengers have to get in and out elsewhere).

By the way, the type EL 1, built from 1954 to 1965 (older than the 110), was the first locomotive ever with thyristor (or chopper) control.

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JSH50 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2012
Great picture and description!
ZCochrane Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2012  Student Photographer
Thank you! By the way, is it a coincidence that you found this right after :iconbudeltier: did?
JSH50 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2012
You're welcome, No is not a coincidence at all, I went to Tobi's page to thank him for some faves when your picture and excellent information caught my eye! Its on my to do list to go to this railway!
Comboio-Bolt Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2012
Very interesting! Thanks for the description, cleared some questions I would be going to ask as soon as I saw the photo! ;)
ZCochrane Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2012  Student Photographer
Glad to hear it! There are a few people who don't read the notes and then use the comments to ask something that I already had written in the notes, which is a bit annoying. :D
Comboio-Bolt Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2012
Indeed! We write a detailed description for a purpose! :D
masker-of-disguise Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow cool! Do you have more pics of this loc? Can you show me a link on google map where this spot is?
ZCochrane Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2011  Student Photographer
If I recall correctly, it was here: [link]

But the system is large, so there are other places where you might find trains. And: You might wait there for a long time and not find any train either. It's hard to predict.
masker-of-disguise Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
I bookmarked it! Might be fun for me to do in the summer with the kid, just lurk around there, hoping to see something cool!
factorone33 Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2010  Professional Photographer
Featured! --> [link]
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