BNSF Circle Trip
May 29-31, 2015

by Dave Ingles

High Iron Travel Corp., the Iowa Pacific Holdings subsidiary thru which Clark Johnson and wife Nona Hill operate “rare mileage” specials with private cars, set up — with the cooperation of Amtrak and BNSF Railway — a 5-day circle trip encompassing May 28-June 1. The first day saw 4 of the 5 cars tag along on Amtrak #303 Chicago–St. Louis, there joined by St. Louis-based ex-Frisco sleeper “Cimarron River,” owned by brothers Tony and Andy Marchiando (Tony rode May 29-31, Andy June 1st). The special’s itinerary then was Friday, May 29, STL-Memphis via the ex-Frisco River Sub; May 30, MEM-Springfield, Mo., via the ex-Frisco Thayer South and North Subs; May 31, SPM–Kansas City via the ex-Frisco Fort Scott Sub; and June 1, KCY–West Quincy, Mo., via the ex-CB&Q Brookfield Sub. The cars then continued on to Chicago on Tuesday, June 2, on the back of Amtrak “Illinois Zephyr” #380.

Upwards of 30 mileage collectors marked the “high point” of passengers for the day most of us needed, the Springfield–Kansas City leg on May 31. A single-day rate was available to good HITCo customers, but several of us decided to do most or all of the trip. Local friend Otto Dobnick, who needed virtually all of the routes beginning at St. Louis, and I rode south on May 28 on Amtrak “Hiawatha” #334 and “Texas Eagle” #21, sharing an Eagle bedroom for privacy, ability to have the radio scanner on, and “on principle.” Joined by friends Keith White of suburban Chicago (boarded at Joliet) and Phil Bush of D.C. (off the “Capitol Limited”) at dinner, three of us enjoyed among the best sirloin steaks any of us had ever had on Amtrak (Keith had the half chicken). I took only one photo, a digital image of Joliet’s new Metra Rock Island platform, on this day.

To ride the private cars south on #303, as the Moser brothers Rick and Phil did, we in Milwaukee would’ve had to take the 615 a.m. “Hiawatha” to Chicago. Enough said. Mike Rose of Toledo had come to Chicago on Amtrak from the east but didn’t dine with us. The weather was mostly gray, and we had hard rain in and leaving Springfield. Upon arrival at St. Louis (dry) about a half hour late a little before 8 p.m., we walked to the private cars, parked just west of the station platform, for the overnight.

The special’s consist was: Amtrak P42 No. 53 (the then-current St. Louis “protect” unit); IPH combine “Sunset Harbor” (tools, supplies, and rooms for crew), ex-SP; IPH sleeper “Colorado Pine,” ex-L&N; Meteor Rail’s sleeper “Cimarron River,” ex-Frisco; IPH dome-lounge-diner “Sky View,” ex-Santa Fe; and HITCo PV “Caritas.” IPH Major Domo Ed Ellis, who with wife Peggy rode STL-MEM, called the “Sky View” “our Santa Fe heritage car,” since it alone among IPH’s Amtrak-capable full dome lounges has not been painted or wrapped in Illinois Central-style orange and brown, rather is still bare stainless steel, as in its days on “Chiefs.” Otto and I were in roomettes in “Cimmy,” riding her for three days on old home rails. Each day’s departure was circa 8 a.m.

Photo files are presented day-by-day. The lead photo here is of the trip booklet, produced by Rick Moser, who puts a LOT of work into his “route charts.” Each passenger received a booklet (pictured unfolded, showing front and back) and a golf shirt, the decorations (including trip map and “emblem”) created by Chuck Weinstock. Phil Moser, Keith White, and I were among a few people who left the Circle Trip at Kansas City, not needing the old Burlington Route east of there. Instead, we took “Southwest Chief” #4 east, they disembarking at Naperville and I in Chicago to take “Hiawatha” #339 back to Milwaukee.

May 29, 2015
BNSF River Sub
St. Louis–Memphis
May 30, 2015
BNSF Thayer Sub, South and North
Memphis - Springfield, MO
May 31, 2015
BNSF Fort Scott Sub
Springfield - Kansas City, MO
May 31 & June 1, 2015
K.C. Union Station area and
"Kansas Belle" dinner train

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