Chicago Rail Superintendents Association
Special to Bureau, Ill.
May 13, 2015

by Dave Ingles

With the Chicago Railroad Superintendents Assn. annual “inspection trip” scheduled for this day and gorgeous clear, but cool, late Spring weather at hand, Carol and I set off at 8:30 to intercept it for photos on the west end of its route. The train was to leave La Salle St. station in Chicago at 8:15 and take the old Rock Island out to Bureau, Ill., turn around on the wye there, and return to Chicago, with arrival about 5:30 p.m. The route, via Blue Island, Joliet, Ottawa, and La Salle-Peru, is owned by Metra (to Joliet), CSX to MP 95, west of Ottawa; and Iowa Interstate. The IC-painted, 6-car train was provided by Iowa Pacific Holdings: E8 515 (ex-C&NW) and E9 100 (ex- IC, in gray, originally CB&Q/BN), and 6 cars: Combine “Sunset Harbor” (ex-SP, for tools and dorm rooms); ex-ATSF domes 511 “Scenic View” and 554 (no name on exterior), dining car 448 (ex-NYC), dome “Prairie View,” ex-GN 1396 and again carrying that number and “Empire Builder” name and colors, and private car (business-car configuration) “Caritas” (CARE-ih-tahss, Latin for “charity”).

This is an excursion, folks, let’s face it, albeit a “professional” one. On board were all number of railroad management employees, including a large contingent of “railroaders who care” (don’t call them “foamers,” but they have varying degrees of “deeper interest” in their industry); press (including TRAINS’ staffer David Lassen, ad sales rep Mike Yuhas, Amtrak beat reporter Bob Johnston, and CLASSIC TRAINS Editor Rob McGonigal); and “friends of the railroads,” including several members of our local railfan slide group.

CRSA has not run a special train every year, Rob McGonigal and I first were invited on the one in May 2005 that went from Chicago to Janesville, Wis., on UP (ex-C&NW) and back on Wisconsin & Southern. And two years ago, I chased the west end of the CRSA special on Metra and CP (DM&E) from Chicago to Davis Junction, Ill. See for that year’s albums and for that specific chase.

Leaving home at 8:30 and provisioning on the run at our nearby Mickey-Ds, we drove straight to La Salle-Peru to check out the ex-RI depot, which we found not good for photos (material piled to the south to spoil the view), so we pressed on. Scouting via Google Earth had nominated Depue, Ill., as likely. This is the last little town before Bureau. Its old RI wooden depot still stands, derelict, and the old Illinois Valley (traction) substation across the street is refurbished as the local library, this day having an open house. We were ultimately joined by friends Randy Olson of NW Indiana (a Rockford native) and Lance Wales of Rockford (a Belvidere native, as is Carol), and then at the last second, about 3 or 4 cars of chasers. The train went by at 12:28, right on time (due into Bureau at 12:35), and we went on to Bureau.

The three digital images at DePue here were made by Carol, as I motor-drove the N90 slide camera. I should note that the old Rock Island main line hugs the Illinois River in the valley for much of the west end of this itinerary, with few grade crossings; also, I-80 had some construction, so I elected not to truly “chase” the train.

The train pulled down the Peoria branch, backed around the wye, sat for a few minutes, then headed back toward Chicago. I took all the Bureau photos, first setting up at the west wye switch (Hwy. 29 crossing), where he backed through and then “posed” west of the crossing. Friends who rode reported the “combine” had its baggage doors open the entire trip, which made for good listening of the E units at work. (Track speed west of Joliet topped out at 40, but there were slow orders, so “revving up” of the four prime movers was audible!) Moreover, all Dutch doors were open for “vestibule abuse.” I was able to make a good roster-shot of each car here at Hwy. 29, but I’m not including any other than the dining car and combine, the only ones in IC colors “new” to me.

Before the train moved from its “pose,” we quickly drove over to the east wye switch, at the depot, to set up for an angle I hadn’t been able to get since the train beat us the 5 miles into Bureau from Depue. (A “depot view” was a must, as I shot Rock Island’s “Rockets” passing this building in the mid-1960s!) Before the train’s departure, I photographed friends Randy Olson and Mike McBride. (Randy is who sold me his D700 Nikon.) The train left at 1:01 p.m., and satisfied with our ”quality, not quantity” approach, we let him go. The operation eastbound was also on-time into Chicago.

We then drove back to Peru, first stopping back in Depue for “portraits” of the RI depot and IV substation/depot.  The Illinois Valley was a relative of the Illinois Traction (Illinois Terminal) system farther downstate.

Upon arrival at the Peru Steak n Shake, we found Dixon friends Mike McBride and Barb Boyd Fane already seated, so we joined them for a fashionably late lunch around 1:30. Afterward, having noted local prices from home on, we tanked up at Peru’s Hy-Vee at $2.35.9/gal., 24 cents cheaper than at home and 14 cents cheaper than the stateline spots at South Beloit, Ill./Beloit, Wis., a common “cheaper than elsewhere” area.

I’d envisioned meandering north to finish the film roll in the N90 at Mendota and/or Rochelle, but things didn’t turn out that way. I had 9 slide frames left after the special at Bureau, and finished them, but did not shoot a moving road train. First was a serendipitous encounter at Ladd with Illinois Railway’s daily local from LaSalle to Zearing. (The branch is former CB&Q.) We’d seen the units, inaccessible, working at LaSalle upon our arrival in late morning, but leaving Peru after lunch I heard talk on the radio (Ch. 83), and found the westbound train working in Ladd. Power was yellow HLCX 2551 (ex-UP GP40 with the name lined out) in the lead, but IR’s only fully painted unit, blue GP35R 3500, trailing, and as they put their train together on the town’s east side, I was able to get photos with 3500 looking like the “lead unit.” The “hill” beyond the track is Ladd’s “jumbo,” an old coal-mine tailings pile found in many former mining towns in this area. Dozers were busy clearing off trees, leaving bare ground; I don’t know the ultimate plan.

Amtrak #3, the “SW Chief,” is due into Mendota at 4:24, so we aimed for that, ultimately missing it at a distance as we were changing photo spots as the train kept losing time, first to be 10 minutes late, then 25. The consist appeared to be normal. No freights were nearby, to judge from radio silence, so we pushed on north.

Going over the C&I at Steward on I-39, we saw the tail end of an eastbound stack train. Rochelle provided no more road trains on either BNSF or UP, other than one parked BNSF eastbound merchandiser at Elva Road west of Steward, with the first “Northern” GE, #960, in between two newer GEs, 7034 and 6584. I wound up finishing my shooting on the Rochelle Railroad, where the UP interchange job, with two GP15s, was finishing switching before backing out to his main line. They had as many sand hoppers and they did refrigerated boxcars from the local cold storage firms. It was after 6 when we got back on I-39 after a “necessary” stop at Culver’s.

We made one side trip off I-39 as we headed north, east on Illinois 72 to see the devastation the recent tornado had inflicted on the hamlet of Fairdale, between 72 and CP’s former DM&E (Milwaukee Road) track. The storm pretty much wiped out the entire northwest quarter of the community. A bit of debris was still piled up, but otherwise it’s blank ground with some foundations visible. We did not stop. Two residents there died in the storm. We took Irene Road north to US 20, then back to I-39, stopping momentarily in Irene, where the road crosses CN’s Freeport Sub (old IC Iowa Division), when I spotted the old IC station sign tacked onto a local garage.

We picked up our supper to go at Steak n Shake in Rockford and listened to the hapless Brewers (White Sox, 4-2) and improving Cubs (rally to beat Mets) games’ early innings as we drove home on the mostly deserted-as-usual I-43 and were home by 8:20, just as the last sunset light was fading. The photo is from Hwy. 164 just south of Waukesha. One roll of slides and 48 digital images were made. – JDI


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