Long Island Railroad Employs Unusual Equipment to Improve Drainage

Vincent Lee

Although I’ve lived near the Long Island RR’s busy electric-powered Port Washington branch for years, I’ve never been lucky enough to catch one of the rare diesel powered work or emergency service trains that appear occasionally. On Saturday, October 11th, 2003, I was in the town of Manhasset, running my usual weekend errands, when I head the sound of a train horn and the distinctive rumble of a diesel engine nearby. I made a quick detour to the station, and saw that a work train was engaged in construction activity right at the station building. I abandoned my chores; quickly drove home and picked up my camera bag, and returned to shoot these photos.

During September and October, the Long Island Railroad completely shut down electric passenger train service on the eastern end of its Port Washington branch for a total of five weekends. Using this maintenance window, the railroad completed a track drainage improvement project in which 5,600 feet of precast concrete culverts were installed along the line. The LIRR hired Texas-based contractor Georgetown Rail Equipment Co. to do the work. Georgetown Rail (“GREX”) was using its specially designed “Slot Machine”. The machine, lettered GREX 5220, is a self-powered train of articulated gondola cars, about 400 feet long. It carries several “trac-hoes” (bucket crane diggers) to perform the actual side-of-track digging. The gondolas are without ends, so the diggers can move freely along the length of the train. The first car of the train is a power car. Under the cab is a regular EMD Bloomberg diesel truck with 2 traction motors powered by a 525 HP Caterpillar diesel engine. No. 5220 can travel up to 40 mph when moving independently, but the LIRR assigned a variety of MP-15ACs during the multi-weekend work. This day, GREX 5220 was accompanied by MP15AC Number 172.

MP15AC 172

Another view of the 1500 Horsepower locomotive

Front view of special equipment

Side view of special equipment

Nothing like an excavator operating on a gondola!
Excavator working on the side of the station.


End of the Line
On the Monday after these picture were taken, Long Island had a heavy rainstorm, Apparently the contractor did not anticipate that his work would be put to the test so soon and did not complete all drainage connections, because the station parking lot and several nearby businesses had several inches of water flood in!