Araquan Skytracer (araquan) wrote in railroading,
Araquan Skytracer

Southern fried railroading

Southern because it was Valdosta, GA.
Fried because it was pretty hot.
Railroading because, well... there was train stuff involved:

On Thursday, a CSX crew was kicking cars into a small yard not too far away from one of the main exits for Valdosta. I'd seen road slugs in use around here before on previous trips, so I decided to see if they had one running that day. I only had my compact camera handy, so what you see here I had to grab with that.

A well-tagged NS boxcar drifts into the yard.

Another, accompanied by some tank cars.

A pair of gondolas came next, both bearing reporting marks of railroads that no longer exist today- Norfolk & Western, and Conrail.

GP40-2 6953 provides the power for the day's switching activities.

But the set is being operated in quiet comfort from road slug 2353. For those who've never seen one of these before, it's a locomotive that's been deprived of its engine but not its traction motors. It draws power from a locomotive (often called the "mother", which must be specially outfitted for use with slugs) to provide extra tractive effort at lower speeds, where even low horsepower locomotives can produce more current than their own traction motors could handle; handing some of that power off to additional motors in the slug allows heavier trains or cuts of cars to be moved without the expense of a second locomotive, but only up to a certain speed. Usually a slug operates up to the speed at which transition occurs, but a road slug like this may operate at higher speeds before cutting out. Slugs come in various configurations since they're usually built by the railroads themselves out of retired locomotives. This one retains its original body (many are rebuilt with a lower profile body) as well as two important features: its dynamic brake (the bulge near the roof in the center) to aid in slowing a train, and its cab so the crew can operate the train without the noise and heat of the diesel engine close by. Slugs with full height bodies and control cabs like this aren't the norm, but CSX is noted for using them and... that's just what they're doing here.

Another view as the slug/mother set backs into the yard. One of the most obvious spotting features of this sort of slug is readily apparent here- there are no radiators or radiator fans to be found on 2353, but they're still very much present on 6953. 2353 is also lacking a central air intake on this side (it should be right behind the cab) but still has one on the other; while it no longer needs the airflow to supply a diesel engine, it still needs to cool its traction motors.

Meanwhile, another unusual piece of equipment sits idle not far away- a transfer caboose. More spartan than a regular caboose, these were meant for use on trains that travel short distances, as in between nearby yards (hence "transfer") or on certain local trains where switching en route is best done when members of the crew are able to work from both ends of the train rather than just from the head end. In the modern era, this latter use is one of the only places a caboose is seen, and even then it's infrequent.
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