The strange contraption we’ll be looking at under threatening skies, a GREX “Slot Machine” (officially “SlotMachine”), is for railway track and right of way maintenance. Seen parked between jobs in small town Alberta, on the CPR’s busy Calgary to Edmonton line, the firm that owns the equipment does contract work for various rail carriers, travelling from job to job all over the country and North America as the need dictates.
It’s made of up a power unit, a highly modified locomotive, plus a string of interconnected gondola or “mobile platform” cars as the company calls them. Sitting inside and able to move their entire length are a couple tracked excavators. These can be outfitted any number of attachments for digging, grasping and cutting. The cars can be used to deliver materials a job, or to take away old stuff like discarded rails, line-side junk or whatever.
The cars are the SlotMachine, and the power unit, the Self Powered Slot or SPS. Some photos found online show the SlotMachine pulled by a modified road/rail truck or railway owned locomotives. The two pieces I guess can be hired out separately. It looks like CPR here was using it to collecting up old ties.
This is how the company that owns the SlotMachine and hires it out, Georgetown Rail Equipment of Georgetown Texas, describes its various uses (summarized)…
“With the SlotMachine and SPS mobile work platforms, you can tackle a wide range of jobs faster and more efficiently than ever before…Material gets loaded the full length of the platform, so there’s no lost time switching out cars. Plus, setup and lockdown take only minutes, allowing you to make the most of limited work windows.”
“SlotMachine’s versatility means it’s ideally suited for streamlining your most common track maintenance jobs: Heavy ditching, Tie pickup, Rail pickup, Tie distribution, Riprap placement” (etc)…
The power unit on this set is a former switching locomotive, built way back in 1950 (model GM Electromotive Division SW7). The engine worked for various coal companies in the US, before being modified to its current configuration in the mid-2000s and and going to work for Georgetown. Only the running gear was reused with the rest of the machine being pretty much new in every way, shape and form. It bears little resemblance to the original locomotive. Brant Equipment of Saskatchewan did the work.
While it can travel about as it works, for jobs a long distance from a current one, they’ll simply tack it on to the end of a freight going that direction.
The cars are not regular gondolas, but a string of articulated ones, connected in such a way that their are no breaks between them. Sliding plates between sections, or something similar, allow the cars to bend for corners and maintain an unbroken floor surface. Presumably it was all custom built.
Georgetown Equipment has several other SlotMachines or SPS combos. Each power unit is made from an old locomotive. The firm also contracts out other equipment used for ballast placement work and the like. The company was founded in the early 1990s and is one of many that provided similar equipment. In days past, the railways themselves would do the work using company owned equipment and their own employees. I guess it’s easier and cheaper to just contract it all out now.
This SlotMachine gets around and looking online one can see photos of it at work all over the continent.
The track seen is the CPR’s north/south mainline that connects Calgary to Edmonton, with a good number of branches, at various point up and down the line, heading off of it, mostly in an easterly direction. It was built in the early 1890s and sees a good number of trains per day. The section through Carstairs, where were found the SlotMachine, is known as the Red Deer Subdivision.
With all that talk of slots, it’s time to hit up the casino!
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: May, 2015.
Location: Didsbury, AB.
Article references: GREX Rail Equipment.
We did not trespass on railway property to get our photo – we shot from a public road.