Amtrak "Heritage Units" Salon

Photos by Dave Ingles

Amtrak decorated four random P42's in "Heritage" color schemes to mark its 40th year, which began May 1st. Beech Grove did the work. By dint of riding two special trains, to which Amtrak assigned a Heritage on purpose, and having friends who alerted me to appearances by the two other Hertiage units on the CHI-MKE Hiawathas, by June 5th, within 8 weeks, I had seen and photographed all four, and ridden behind the two.

My first was #156, the "Phase 1," or "red-nose" scheme, that debuted on the SDP45F's in 1972.

Amtrak assigned 156 to the Los Angeles-Colton-Palmdale-Tehachapi Pacific Railroad Society excursion over UP on April 2nd and 3rd, and happened to send it west on #3 the Southwest Chief, which I rode CHI-LAX March 30-April 1st. Here's a nose view at Los Angeles Union Station the morning of the excursion, in the fog.

My friend Rick Moser met my train at Naperville, IL, just to say hello, and advised me of the rear unit being #156, so I made sure to get a shot forward from my sleeper door's window as we left Mendota, IL, on a sharp curve at low speed ... "just in case."

Next morning, the "smoke stop" and crew-change pause at La Junta, Colo., which is always good for photos, presented my first good trackside photo opportunity, although I tried a detail shot at Ft. Madison, IA, the previous evening, but vehicles in the parking lot prevented a really good view.

The next from-the-train view was ascending Raton Pass out of Trinidad, Colo., again on a sharp curve at slow speed.

Here's the excursion ready to leave L.A. Union Station.

Here are some views from Amtrak's ex-GN/BN full-length dome lounge 10030 of our power going up Tehachapi Pass on the UP on the April 2 excursion. The trailing unit is P32 No. 510.

This is on the famed Tehachapi Loop.

The second Heritage unit I would encounter would be No. 66, with the "Phase II" scheme from 1975, with the wide red and blue striping. A friend called on Wed., May 11, to let me know it was on a Hiawatha trainset, the one that would leave Milwaukee on train #334 at 11 a.m. The southbound Hiawathas normally operate with the motive power on the rear, or north end, and an "NPCU," or "F40-bag," the control cars converted from F40PH locomotives, on the front, or south end. I stopped by the Milwaukee depot to confirm the unit's presence, then drove to the Milwaukee Airport station to photograph it "out in the open"; it was sunny at home 15 miles from Lake Michigan, but a bit foggy closer to the lake.

My third Heritage unit was No. 184, in the "Phase IV" scheme from 1993, aka the "Northeast Corridor" scheme or the "wide dark blue stripe" scheme. It was assigned to lead the High Iron Travel Co. excursion from St. Louis to Paducah, Ky., to Galesburg, Ill., and then to Chicago by way of Savanna, Ill. (See also the "Paducah Rare-Mileage Trip" file on this website.) Here it is at St. Louis' new Gateway Intermodal Station on the cloudy morning of  Fri., May 20; trailing unit is No. 19.

Friday turned sunny, but the excursion had no photo runs and our routes were fairly straight, and when we arrived in Paducah the two Amtrak units hustled off to the Paducah & Louisville shop for two days, while two PAL GP60's took over the train until Sunday morning. Here we are on the sunny Sunday morning of May 22, backing up to the wye to leave Paducah.

One of the sharper curves on Sunday with good light was curving into the BNSF yard in Centralia, Ill., for a change of crew pilots. The first day was on UP, a Saturday side trip was on PAL, and Sunday and Monday were on BNSF.

We arrived at Galesburg's Amtrak station at 7:25 p.m. in between thunderstorms.

Monday morning, May 23,  at Galesburg presented the one good opportunity for from-the-ground shots, in good sunlight, at 7 a.m. before we left the Galesburg Amtrak station for Savanna, where the units would run around the train, meaning 19 led and 184 trailed into Chicago.

The best curve with the best light was at Barstow, Ill.

A week later, No. 156 would appear in front of my camera lenses again, on a Chicago-St. Paul turn on the truncated "Baby Builder," trains 807 and 808, running only that far owing to flooding in North Dakota which had closed its normal route. This is #807 going thru Duplainville, Wis., on May 31st, with trailing unit 11 and four cars, in a photo from our van by Carol Ingles.

The next day the same trainset, turned around in the Twin Cities, came back thru Pewaukee, Wis., with train #808.

A few days later, on Sunday, June 5, I was notified that the fourth and final repainted Heritage P42, No. 145 -- actually the first one Amtrak released from Beech Grove, but the fourth one I would encounter -- was on a Hiawatha trainset. This one wears the "Phase III" scheme from 1979. Here it is leading train #335 at Sturtevant, Wis. at 2:10 p.m.

A bit over an hour later it is back, pushing on the rear of train #338, at 3:25 p.m.

I think this is my favorite, but No. 184 is a close second. All with the black noses look pretty good, and certainly better than the current "Shamu" silver and aqua.

The next appearance of a Heritage P42 was by No. 66 again, and again on a Hiawatha trainset, on Wed. July 13th, this time in sunnier weather than the first time. Here it is on a 50-minute late Hiawatha #335 at 1529 hours from Grange Ave. overpass in Milwaukee,  having just left the Airport station. Signal problems in the morning at Sturtevant had caused the delay, which rippled thru the day with this trainset; the other one was running on-time. In this photo, the overpass visible is Route 119, the airport freeway spur off I-94. The people on the platform have been waiting for the same trainset going to Chicago, so I imagine the crew on #335 said something to the effect of, "See you in 30 minutes."

Scanner talk seemed to reveal that this crew, and ground inspectors at the depot in MKE, expedited the turnaround, and the trainset was back at the Airport station -- 6 miles out of downtown -- in just about 30 minutes, meaning a 10-minute layover in MKE to unload, load, reverse ends, make a brake-test, and go. Routine in Europe, but not in America! We went a half mile south of the Airport station, on the ground below the College Ave. overpass, at Lake Interlocking, for these shots of #338 at 1600 hours.

TRAIN FESTIVAL 2011: For the Quad Cities Train Festival 2011, in Rock Island, Ill., July 22-24, Amtrak ferried the Milwaukee 261 group's cars, plus some private cars, from Chicago to Galesburg to Rock Island on Thurs., July 21, the day before the weekend event, which featured Iowa Interstate's two Chinese-built QJ-class 2-10-2's, Nickel Plate 2-8-4 from Fort Wayne, Ind., and several small steam engines that were moved on low-boy trucks to the event, held at Iowa Interstate's downtown 17th Street yard in Rock Island. Illinois Railway Museum also sent its Burlington E5 9911 and Nebraska Zephyr train, plus two other diesels, C&NW F7 411 and CB&Q SW7 9255. IAIS, BNSF, and DM&E also displayed diesel locomotives.

For the 16-car special, Amtrak assigned two Heritage units, 156 and 66. We knew in advance they would be on the train, making that the primary target for the day. After following the festival's morning "steam shuttle" on Iowa Interstate from Rock Island to Walcott, Iowa, behind NKP 765, with an Iowa Interstate GP38 on the other end (see "Quad Cities Train Festival 2011" page on the website), Carol and I drove to Muscatine, Iowa, for lunch, then east through Mercer County, Ill., to the BNSF's "Peavine" line between Galesburg and the Quad Cities area, which the special would use. We were in phone contact with Nona Hill, aboard the pv "Caritas" owned by her husband, Clark Johnson (the car has been conveyed to short-line portfolio holder Iowa Pacific Ltd., in which Clark Johnson is a major partner), and she kept reporting they were parked on the wye in Galesburg, waiting to proceed to finish turning the train around, necessary to head north for Rock Island. Finally, as we approached Galesburg, she reported them finally on the move, so we diverted off Route 150 into Henderson, the first small town north of Galesburg, where after a very short wait, Carol shot this nice action sequence (while I shot slides), at 3:40 p.m., as the train came thru at track speed. The first car behind the units is MKT business car 403, in the Milwaukee 261 group's fleet., aka "Steve Sandberg's train."

An hour later, the train rounded the curve at Colona, Ill., east of the Quad Cities, and left BNSF rails for the Iowa Interstate's ex-Rock Island main line, visible at the left here heading toward Chicago.

Just west of Colona the IAIS main line crosses the Rock River.

Our final shots, at 1701 hours (5:01 p.m.), were passing the old Rock Island's big shop in Silvis, Ill., now the property of National Railway Equipment and where dozens of locomotives and hundreds of freight cars are parked.

That is Iowa Interstate SD38-2 154 at the far left, on a local job waiting to follow the special into Rock Island.

The domes are 261's ex-Milwaukee Super Dome, and Iowa Pacific's ex-Santa Fe dome, lettered for its tourist line Rio Grande Scenic, out of Alamosa, Colo. They offer an interesting comparison in dome-car design.

Milwaukee 261 group's Skytop observation car Cedar Rapids brings up the rear.

The two Heritage units the next day, Friday the 21st, provided head-end power for the same train consist behind Nickel Plate 2-8-4 765 on an excursion from Rock Island to Bureau, Ill., and return, on Iowa Interstate's ex-Rock Island main line. Under cloudy skies after a night of much-needed rain, albeit with violent lightning and thunderstorms, the train approaches 44th St. in Rock Island, boundary of IAIS-BNSF track ownership, at 10:29 a.m.

Storming thru Geneseo, Ill., at 11:38, the train made for a memorable few seconds!

Despite driving 75 mph on Interstate 80, the train beat us to Sheffield, so we quickly backtracked for a grab shot at Route 40, just east of the UP overpass (former C&NW) St. Louis "southern Illinois" line, now invisible because of trackside tree growth; time: 12:12 p.m.

We gave up getting another action shot before Bureau, but an unscheduled "mechanical stop" somewhere east of here enabled us to get into Tiskilwa for a bonus shot sequence, at 12:43. We then adjourned to Princeton, Ill., 8 miles north, for a leisurely lunch with friend Rick Moser, chasing it solo, while the train wyed at Bureau, parked for lunch off-train, and staged a photo runby.

After lunch, we drove to Bureau, where the train was beginning to load for the return, so we made it a 2-minute stop for a token photo, at 2:08 p.m.

We selected Sheffield, Ill., for our one photo opportunity on 765's return leg to Rock Island, and the train did not disappoint, roaring thru with a fine show at  3:11 p.m. We would drive on home this afternoon and evening, and this trainset -- Amtrak units and all -- would make a Rock Island-Iowa City-Yocum wye round trip into Iowa on Saturday behind IAIS 2-10-2 6988, but under mostly cloudy skies.

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