EL2-30 from the Konin lignite mine, photographed near Kleczew on May 29, 2001.




Another one from the Konin mine: EL2-48, photographed near Konin on July 4, 2001.




EL2-26, photo taken on the same occasion.




Yet another ‘Crocodile’ from the Konin mine: EL2-33, photographed near Kleczew on September 23, 2004.




EL2-10 from the Adamów lignite mine, photographed near Turek on July 27, 2007. This machine was purchased from the Vockerode power station (Sachsen-Anhalt), which was closed down in 1994.




Two Chinese EL2s, No.2302 and No.2303, from the Hegang Mining Railway, photographed by Duncan Cotterill (thanks for permission!) on September 17, 2005. These locomotives have no side-mounted pantographs.




Two other EL2s from the Adamów lignite mine: No.9, also from the Vockerode power station...




 ...and  No.6, purchased from the Lübbenau power station (Lausitz), which was closed down in 1996; both photos taken on January 18, 2008.




Another EL2 from the Adamów mine, photographed on a loading ramp near Władysławów on February 19, 2008...




...and a close-up, which reveals that this locomotive has also been purchased from the Lübbenau power station and still has old livery and service number.




Yet another EL2 from the Adamów mine: No.4, photographed near Turek on the same day.




And yet another: No.11, photographed at nearly the same location on April 3, 2008. The weather was not very good on that day...




Another picture of No.11, taken near Turek on May 14, 2008...




...and No.3 with a ‘service train’, photographed on the same occasion.




Another picture of No.3, taken near Turek on May 18, 2009.




EL2 No.13, also from Adamów mine, photographed near Władysławów on the same day. More pictures of EL2s from the Adamów Lignite Mine railway, taken during the visit on September 19 and 20, 2011, can be found here.




EL2-21, Konin lignite mine, photographed in Gosławice near Konin on September 16, 2008. On that day I paid a visit to the Konin mine; photos taken on this occasion can be seen here.



EL2-29, Konin lignite mine, photographed at the Poznań Starołęka station on September 10, 1994, probably during transportation to or from a repair establishment. Photo by Marek Niemiec (from my collection).


The majority of electric locomotives used by Polish railways were built in Poland by Pafawag of Wrocław or HCP of Poznań, but some were imported from UK, Sweden, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union. Among locomotives of foreign origin, the most numerous were those built by VEB LokomotivbauElektrotechnische Werke ‘Hans Beimlerof Hennigsdorf near Berlin (the site formerly occupied by AEG and Borsig plants, now a part of Bombardier), commonly known as LEW. This factory, apart from twenty-five EU04s and thirty-four EU20s for PKP, supplied also a number of locomotives for mining industry.

Between 1951 and 1952 at LEW three basic types of locomotives for open-pit mines were put into production: six-axle EL1 and four-axle EL2 for standard or broad gauge (1435 or 1524 mm) and four-axle EL3 for the 900 mm gauge. All were based on pre-war AEG design (from late 1920s, further developed during WWII) and had many common features. Heavy, 150-tonne EL1s (Bo’Bo’Bo’) were built mostly for export to the Soviet Union (477) and China (64), only five were supplied to the Espenhein open pit lignite mine in Lausitz, East Germany. Production of the narrow-gauge EL3 totaled 791 examples for East Germany (620), Soviet Union (102), Poland (49) and Yugoslavia (20). As for the EL2, first examples were outshopped in 1952 and subsequently this type was built in large numbers, enjoying a very long production run: last examples left the assembly lines in 1988. According to data provided by Florian Menius and Holger Neumann (thanks a lot!), total output amounted to 1380; another source gives 1477, most probably incorrectly. First deliveries were to open-pit mines in East Germany. In all, German enterprises received 681 examples. Later EL2s were exported to the Soviet Union (245, between 1957 and 1970), China (186, between 1957 and 1984), Bulgaria (206, between 1960 and 1987) and Poland. Many of them still remain in use with industrial railways. Some German examples have been modernized and fitted with single-arm current collectors. Despite comparatively young age, EL2 has already earned itself a heritage locomotive status: in December 2007, withdrawn 4-1124 (LEW 13605/1980) was plinthed at the Bombardier – Werk Henningsdorf premises.

EL2 is a robust and straightforward machine with the Bo’Bo’ axle arrangement, designed to haul heavy drafts at a moderate speed. Tractive effort at the one-hour traction engines rating is 16.7 tonnes (at 28.5 km/h); startup tractive effort exceeds 30 tonnes. These locomotives were built for both 1435 mm and 1524 mm tracks and voltages 1.5 kV DC (for the Soviet Union) and 1.2 or 2.4 kV DC. Typically EL2s for open-pit mines have two standard pantographs for normal overhead contact system and two or four (sometimes as many as eight!) side-mounted ones for lateral contact systems at terminal stations, to facilitate unobstructed loading and unloading of dump cars. From 1961 onwards some locomotives were fitted with multiplied control systems, which were used for double-heading or for precise remote maneuvering by the excavator or loader operator during loading. There were also several minor modifications and versions for individual operators differed in details; in particular, Soviet and Chinese examples were fitted with knuckle couplers. Recently a modernization program has been launched in Germany and is intended to include EL2s operated by Lausitzer Braunkohle AG (LAUBAG), which has 53 examples. This program is a joint venture of DB (Fahrzeuginstandhandlung Werk Cottbus) and Kiepe Elektrik; its main point is to introduce IGBT choppers to drive traction engines, but it includes also modified control systems, new auxiliary power supply, new single-arm main current collectors and modified cabs with air conditioning. Details can be found at www.vossloh-kiepe.com.

First sixteen EL2s appeared in Poland in 1958 and were purchased for the Konin lignite mine (KWB Konin). Initially they were operated at 1.2 kV, but in 1960, following an upgrade of power supply systems, they were converted to 2.4 kV. During next seven years further 37 brand new examples followed. Apart from KWB Konin, they went also to the nearby Adamów lignite mine, as well as to the Bielawy limestone mine (now a division of Lafarge – four examples) and a mining and foundry complex near Ostrowiec in central Poland (closed down in early 1980s). Further nine examples were obtained between 1970 and 1987, bringing their total number to 62. Later seventeen second-hand surplus German EL2s from lignite open-pit mines and power stations in Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, were also bought and impressed into service, increasing the grand total to 79. Most, if not all, were converted to 2.4 kV DC. The largest fleet, of the KWB Konin, numbered 27 examples in early 2010s. At its peak, KWB Adamów fleet numbered thirteen EL2s. They operated on about 30 km of tracks with no physical connection with Poland’s railway network. The sole recipient of lignite was Adamów power plant, which closed down in December 2017; afterwards tracks were lifted and all locomotives and rolling stock sold or scrapped. EL2s run on comparatively short lines between an open-pit mine and a processing plant or power station. Double-heading has never been practiced in Poland. There is no consistent designation system: most locomotives of this type are painted dark green and have two-digit service numbers painted in white. Some have retained original German liveries and service numbers, at least for a time. Since 1996 some modifications have been introduced. First of all, Oerlikon brakes have been standardized (some early and second-hand machines had Knorr, Dako or Matrosov brakes). In some examples more modern and reliable startup resistors and static current converters have been fitted. Other modernizations concerned mainly control systems. In late 2000s KWB Konin introduced closed-circuit TV systems with LCD monitors located in cabs; this has been dictated by the fact that there are no turntables at loading stations and trains are operated in the push/pull regime. This modification has virtually eliminated derailments and most probably is the only system of this type used in Poland.

These somehow archaic-looking, but useful and efficient locomotives that remind of the early years of electrification – although some were built as late as in 1987 – will probably remain in use for a long time. Their common nickname is ‘Krokodyl’ (crocodile). Of course they don’t enter ‘normal’ lines (electrified at 3 kV DC) and therefore are not an easy prey for trainspotters.

Narrow-gauge EL3s, supplied between 1955 and 1964, were used by a few lignite mines in Poland that once operated 900 mm industrial railways. The largest user of them, and also the last one, was the Turów open-pit mine in south-western Poland, where narrow-gauge railway was closed in 1981 and supplanted by belt conveyors. Afterwards some of them were sold back to East Germany; as far as I know, not a single one has survived in Poland.


Main technical data







Years of manufacture


1952 – 1988


Total built / used in Poland


1380 / 79


Axle arrangement








Design maximum speed




Traction motors (number x type)


4 x GBM330 or GBM 350






One-hour rating


1 320 / 1 795


Continuous rating


1 120 / 1 523


Electric current at one-hour rating




Electric current at continuous rating




Rotational speed at one-hour rating




Rotational speed at continuous rating




Engine suspension




Reduction gear ratio


67 : 12


Diameter of drivers




Total weight


100 000


Axle load




Axle base


8 800


Overall length


13 700


Maximum width


3 100


Brake type


Knorr, Dako, Matrosov, Oerlikon2)


-        Multiplied in some examples.

-        Modified locomotives.

-        Initially, later 2400 V.


References and acknowledgments


-        Monographic article by Krzysztof Zintel (SK vol. 1/2005);

-        Monographic articles on LEW industrial locomotives by Krzysztof Zintel (SS vols. 151 and 152);

-        AL;

-        Fern-Express vol. 1/2003 (article on EL2s in China by Nicholas Pertwee);

-        Holger Neumann, Florian Menius and Duncan Cotterill (private communication – many thanks!).

I wish to thank Mr. Andrzej Rudziński, who is in charge of the mining railway of KWB Konin, and his staff for assistance and information provided during my visit in September 2008, together with Holger and Florian.

I would also like to thank all the staff of the KWB Adamów mining railway and in particular Mr. Bogusław Łączny for assistance and information provided during my visit with Chris West on September 19 and 20, 2011.