The area between Aachen, Cologne and Düsseldorf 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.On my homepage