Central and Western Illinois Trip
Oct. 20-25, 2011

Photos by Dave Ingles

In late October, Carol and I drove to Springfield for a long weekend, the nucleus of which was two events relating to the recent release of Dick Wallin's and my new book, "Central Illinois Rails, Color Pictorial, 1950s-1970s," by the publisher, Four Ways West of California. On Sat., Oct. 22, Dick hosted a reception at his home for 20 of our contributors, fact-checking experts, and local friends, and their spouses. Several retired railroaders were among the friends on hand: Bill Dunbar (ex-GM&O dispatcher); Dale Jenkins (ex-Illinois Terminal policeman who retired as same off Norfolk Southern--he's also written the definitive IT book); Dick Blough (ex-UP/GM&O towerman who worked at Ridgely Tower in Springfield in its last years); and Van McCullough (retired from clergy but who fired Wabash 2-6-0's as a young man). On Sunday, a book-signing autograph session was hosted by the Chatham Railroad Museum, which occupies the former C&A/GM&O depot in Chatham, a south Springfield suburb, during its regular 2-4 pm Sunday opening hours. We sold out the 35 copies of the book we had available. The Museum earned a percentage of the books we sold there.
On Thursday, the 20th, we drove to Bloomington, Ill., so we could have a shorter drive Friday in order to begin signing the books and also have the evening free to watch "my" St. Louis Cardinals play the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Our only stop southbound on Thursday was at Rochelle, Ill., for lunch. Afterward, we found BNSF's 41-car SAV-EOL (Savanna-Eola) local waiting for a westbound at the east end of two main tracks. Units 4573/7359 at Elva Road at 3:42 p.m. The vapor above the train is from the ethanol plant in southeastern Rochelle.

Soon we encountered the westbound stacker he was waiting for, in Steward at 3:50. Units are 5487/781/607/760 -- yes, 3 Warbonnets trailing (!), but I was out of position for a good shot of them.

Next morning in Bloomington, we were at the site of the former GM&O depot/office building at the "BN Target" crossing of NS's Peoria line with UP's former GM&O, for the arrival of Amtrak Lincoln Service train #302, engine 126 and 5 cars, at 9:39 a.m. "BN" is for the twin towns of Bloomington-Normal, we assume, and previously was a non-interlocked crossing controlled by an operator in a one-story small cabin, where the signal bungalow is today. In the classic era, NS's line, which was Nickel Plate Road, was paralleled through here by NYC's Peoria & Eastern line. The GM&O depot was at the right where the trees are; the overhead pedestrian bridge is close to where an old street bridge was.

In this wider-angle view, the track at the right is the former GM&O "Jack Line" to Jacksonville and Roodhouse, Ill. It survives in town here to serve a large customer a half mile to the southwest. The NS diamonds are just beyond the cross street.

The train passed, and went into a yard track off the main to meet southbound Amtrak #301, then backed out to head north to the depot, now in Normal.

The old GM&O yard (and shop area) is beyond the street overpass in the distance. UP still has a small yard there, and a grain company has big bins which are switched by a GP9 still in Guilford (Boston & Maine) colors labeled "AgRail." Note the diverging signal.

The southbound was upon me before I could hoof it from my new parking spot onto the bridge, so I got only a slide of his head end: engine 45 with 5 cars, at 9:45. The old depot was at lower left in the photo here, and also served the P&E back in the day. GM&O "north end" (St. Louis-Chicago) dispatchers offices were on the depot's 2nd floor.

Going-away view of #301.

This is the view to the pedestrian bridge from the east, where we'd parked.

UP runs a local freight out of here to the south; the unit was positioned just right.

All the old shop buildings are gone, but east of the tracks, this former freight house is the last surviving reminder of what all was around here on the railroad.

This is the current Amtrak depot in Normal; we look west. The high-rises are dorms for Illinois State University. The tracks are angling from close right to far left beyond the depot, which is built on a north-south alignment on the east side property line of the old Illinois Central "charter line," now a recreation trail through Bloomington-Normal. This depot will be replaced soon by a transportation center under construction on the north side of the tracks, which will also serve city buses etc.

This is presented only for Steak n Shake fans -- this is Monical's Pizza in Normal where we dined Thursday night. The site is that of the original first Steak n Shake in 1934. SnS has four current stores on the cities' outskirts. The former GM&O tracks are a half block beyond (west of) the restaurant.

South of downtown Bloomington, this is the former Illinois Terminal freight house and station; the IT track in the middle of this street still has some rails visible! The existing track you see is the NS line.  We look north-northwest here. The former P&E right of way now is a recreation trail.

In the new "Central Illinois Rails" book is a photo taken here of a Peoria & Eastern switcher, and on the building you see was a billboard -- in the photo -- for Steak n Shake. The street is northbound Business 51, South Main Street.

Unphotographed by me before, as much as I can recall, is the former Peoria & Eastern Bloomington freight house, just west of the Main St. viaduct, south of the existing NS track.

En route from Bloomington to Springfield, we set up along old Route 66 north of McLean, Ill., to shoot the northbound Texas Eagle, train #22. Here he is at 11:26, engine 75 and 8 cars, with just a smidge of fall color showing. Carol shot this digital while I was shooting slides.

On Saturday morning, Carol and I staked out the mid-street running in Springfield along 3rd St., south of the station, to get the next day's #22, here at Lawrence Avenue with engine 153 and 8 cars, at 9:58 a.m.

Capitol Avenue goes under the UP/Amtrak, old GM&O, just east of the capitol; I have shot trains at this angle previously, nothing here this trip.

Here is a view I've never tried before, believe it or not, that includes the capitol with a train, again at Lawrence Avenue, train #301, engine 19 and 7 cars, with PV's Pacific Union and Cimarron River at the rear.

On the east side of downtown, NS goes thru on the equivalent of 10th St.; here a westbound freight is headed due south thru the heart of town. The building at left is the Great Western Railroad Museum, the old Wabash (and predecessors) freight house, which was the depot Abraham Lincoln left from, to go to Washington to assume the presidency. The train is NS 72N, engines 3525/7125/7126, at 10:56 a.m.

In Springfield's south end, Stanford Avenue overpass has replaced the old grade crossing at Iles, where the old Wabash/N&W crossed the GM&O. Now the NS melds onto the UP here to go a mile south on multiple tracks, owned individually but dispatched by NS. We heard on the scanner downtown that a UP grain train was waiting for the NS train we shot, and barely made it here. Trees have grown up to completely obscure the old Iles intersection, which is about 20 cars back in the train. You can barely see the capitol above the trees above the rear of the lead unit (8199/8039, at 11:06 a.m.). The train has come onto the Amtrak route at Ridgely, having come down the old C&NW to Barr, near Athens, and using Illinois & Midland (old C&IM) trackage rights. I'd heard a radio reference to a train clearing up I&M yard limits, which turned out to be this guy north of Ridgely.

Our final train photo of the day, prior to the book reception, was this westbound NS train 33J downtown, headed due south, with a nice mix of units: UP 8069/NS 8788/BNSF 6811/UP 8070, at 11:33 a.m. The rear two units were dead -- the BNSF is brand-new, from GE, and the crew said it had no fuel in it, nor was it on-line. The disptacher couldn't figure out why that unit wasn't 4th in the consist, since UP 8070 at rear was operational but not running. We couldn't figure it out, either, but the train had 81 cars, so the lead two units should've handled it OK.

Sunday night I had inquired of David Jordan about the Keokuk Junction F units. David, whom I'd first met in person at the book reception Saturday, helped us on Rock Island captions in the book. He maintains the PeoriaRails Yahoo! Groups website, and is very knowledgeable about current Peoria rail matters. He replied Sunday evening by e-mail that the 3 F's had gone west on Sunday evening and would come back Monday from around Good Hope, Ill., about 2 p.m. So that is where we headed. The F's, which are ex-Algoma Central FP9's (A's 1750 and 1752) and F9B (1761), originally were CN and/or CP and then VIA Rail Canada. They have recently been re-lettered for KJRY from "Peoria & Western," an operating name for KJ for the old TP&W "west end" that apparently did not "stick." The F's shuttle, triweekly, I think, between Mapleton (Kolbe), where the shop is just west of Peoria, and Good Hope. We left Springfield in mid-morning, following Route 97 up thru Petersburg and Lewistown. In Havana, to my surprise, we'd find this I&M caboose, undoubtedly ex-C&IM same originally C&IM 74. It was on a string of MofW cars; no I&M power was around. This shot was made at 11:35 a.m.

Here is the entire caboose.

Prior to the caboose discovery, we had meandered around town, and down to the Illinois Riverfront, and then for the heck of it, I went out to the county road over the spur to the riverfront coal transfer facility . . . and discovered to my surprise this set of BNSF power slowly pushing coal loads west to the loader. This employs an "exit track," wherein "mules" push (or used to) the coal cars into the rotary dumper and then the cars ride up and out, roller-coaster like, almost above the river water, an automatic spring switch throws, and the cars coast back onto the string of empty cars. Units are 9140/9570/9920, at 11 a.m. sharp. Looking at the enlargement here, I'm not sure that unloading drill is still practiced. Perhaps a viewer will know. I was surprised to learn that Commonwealth Edison is still blending Western coal, apparently, here with Illinois coal, or perhaps this is just Western coal bound upriver for Chicago-area power plants with no rail access.

Our last Havana rail-related photo was of the former C&IM passenger depot, which was built in 1949 to avoid slow city-street-running in downtown Havana, but served passengers only until May 8, 1953, when the trains --- still 4-4-0 powered -- ceased running. The I&M still uses the building, to judge from vehicles parked behind it. The blank "diamond" spot was a big C&IM metal emblem, found on most depots and a couple of which survive in the Chatham Railroad Museum.

In fact, here is one of those large metal C&IM emblems, on the left, on the floor of the Chatham RR Museum, in a photo taken during the book-signing event on Sunday. The man resting in the GM&O coach seat is GM&O historian Charlie Volkar of Aurora, Ill. The smaller C&IM diamond emblem on the baggage cart is from the front of the smokebox on one of the C&IM's three modern 4-4-0's!

Our last photo of any kind in Havana was this one. I did not see any PA's, Centurys, or RS3's available.

No train or railroad here -- just the colorful west bluffs of the Illinois River across from Havana as we headed north on 97.

The CB&Q station survives in Lewistown; so does the railroad, although i am not conversant with why it's still in use by BNSF, or where it goes -- presumably a mine or power plant. It comes off the Beardstown Sub at Vermont, Ill., between Bushnell and Beardstown. In the classic era, north of Lewistown was a tiny engine terminal for several mine-run locals, which in the 1960s used the ex-TR2 switchers (NW2's really) in the 9400 series with A and B suffixes from when they were cow-calf sets as delivered. There's a photo of a pair on a Peoria freight in the new book.

In downtown Lewistown is a building that is alleged to be the relocated depot or office of the legendary Fulton County Narrow Gauge RR in this region. (Lewistown is the Fulton County seat.) The caboose is ex-Great Northern!

From Lewistown we drove on north and west toward Bushnell, then pressed on toward Good Hope, and found the three F's and their train parked  east of town. Just in case nothing moved, I made these stills. One other fan was on hand, waiting; he was from Watertown, Wis., and had driven 300 miles that day just to chase these critters! Time here: 12:35 p.m.

Soon this track patrol hi-rail showed up from the west, and the occupant was friendly and filled us in. The crew for the F's "was getting close," and they'd take the train into town when the eastbound arrived, so they could swap trains. The eastbound was reported to be "around La Harpe." Suspicious of how slow short lines can operate, we elected to return 8 miles east to Bushnell, grab a Subway lunch to go, secure a motel in Galesburg by phone, and gas up (mid $3.30's).

The decision was prudent. When we returned an hour later, nothing had changed. Time here: about 1:30 p.m.

We drove one town west of Good Hope to eat our sandwiches and await the eastbound's passage. All track on the old TP&W west end, west of Canton, is 10 mph, so we were governing ourselves accordingly. This is Sciota, Ill., at 2:01 p.m., and we had just finished eating when his headlight showed to the west. The train is 16 cars behind PREX GP20's 2040/2018; PREX is for Pioneer Railcorp Equipment; units are former TP&W, nee Santa Fe. After viewing the photos, friend Terry Norton of Grayslake, Ill., sent this information on KJRY's traffic sources on the west end. The Roquett mill is next to the yard in Keokuk and a big rail customer; BNSF has the switching rights. Corn and soybeans go in, and several products are shipped out. On the old TP&W "west end," corn and beans are loaded at Glasford, New Philadelpha, Good Hope, Sciota, Blandinsville, and La Harpe. Some local loadouts are now owned or leased to Roquett. There is also a railroad wheel factory in Keokuk which gets incoming scrap and ships out finished wheels.

We nabbed him another time or two east of Sciota and then made for Good Hope to await the F's arrival from the east.

We had a bit of a wait back in Good Hope. The eastbound came into town at 2:23, entered the siding, and cut off his GP20s. But the westbound didn't move for a bit; apparently the crew hadn't arrived, can't be sure.  These views look east, then west, with the F's sitting but the GP20s arriving.

Finally the F's pull in, with a 30-car train, at 2:37. Several other fans were on hand, one from British Columbia, Canada, who'd been with them the day before.

The F's cut off, for some reason AFTER blocking the US 67 grade crossing, a bit bizarre, but they didn't block the crossing that long, although the units stopped adjacent to each other so the crews could transfer some "stuff" from cab to cab.

The GP20s pull across the highway to "meet" the F's on the eastbound consist.

Motorists wait at both of Good Hope's crossings.

Finally the westbound departs, and then so do the F's on the eastbound, at 2:54 p.m.

We went to the first road east of Good Hope, 900 East, for this shot at 2:58 -- same crossing as the westbound  with the F's had parked overnight. It's all 10 mph, remember; we can do 80 if no traffic is around on Route 9 or the north-south (paved) country roads.

About as unlikely a diesel consist as you'd ever find in western Illinois. This is the next crossroad, 1400 East, at 3:03 p.m.

The one "different" photo of the F's I wanted was crossing the BNSF's Galesburg-Quincy line in Bushnell, looking north on the BNSF, so we went on in to Bushnell, forsaking another grade-crossing shot or two of the F's in the country. We were rewarded for our wisdom by several BNSF trains, while the F's, meanwhile, came into town, stopped, and then proceeded to play "train." The crew got into a van and went away, apparently for "lunch." When they returned, the BNSF had one more train to run, of course, so by the time I got "the" shot, the diamonds were in shadow! This is our first train upon returning into Bushnell, the 4097/NS 9583 West, a 61-car grain train, its units "smokin' by" at 3:20 p.m.

Downtown Bushnell has a Santa Fe caboose displayed by the old freight depot. Both the CB&Q (BN) and TP&W passenger (and combo) depots are long gone.

A Loram rail grinding train was in the neighborhood, and by the by came north thru the crossing, preceded by this hi-rail backing up, at 3:34 p.m.

Both the hi-rail and the Loram train met the 6699/7641 West, a 108-car grain train with DPU 7288.

After the meet, we finally went over to photo the F's, in case they didn't move before sunset. The crew is still not back on board here at 3:42.

Then a coal empty came off the Beardstown Sub -- the junction is a mile or more south of the diamond -- at 4:20, 5631 up front with 135 cars and DPU 5891. It was turning in to a long afternoon in Bushnell.

And the Loram, coming south on the other track (the main), met this guy too! Time: 4:22.

Wetting down the rails before the train went to park on a side track south of town.

Were it not for the F's, that "one more train" BNSF had to run after the KJRY crew returned to the F units would have gotten "diesel consist of the day," as evidenced here at 4:54, Mexicano (or Ferromex) 4041/4642, an EMD/GE combo, eastbound with a long train (we were busy shooting the F's and didn't record an axle count from the detector at MP 187 a few miles east of Bushnell).

Finally, at 5 p.m. sharp, the F's cross the diamond. Carol took these digitals, as I could not work both cameras with such a small opening of sunlight.

My second planned shot at Bushnell turned out to be the last one of the F's, as they stopped to back into sidings of a customer, or two, east of the diamond. This is them pulling by Sperry Street at 5:02. We still had 30 miles to go to Galesburg, grab supper, and be in front of our motel TV for the World Series at 7:05. (We dined at Steak n Shake, and got back to the motel about 7:20.)

This coal empty was waiting in the siding at Avon at 5:18 pm, 6242/9522 with DPU 9872 at  the rear.

It's hard to believe I overnighted in Galesburg without taking a single photo in the city, but 'tis true. After breakfast-time full sun, a front moved in and it rained on us as we left town around 9 and headed back south for two depots and a check of the hamlet, Swan Creek, where Carol's father, David Coon, was born in 1909. This is back along Route 41 on the way to Avon, at St. Augustine, where the CB&Q depot has been moved down from the track (which is behind it here) and turned 90 degrees.

An eastbound merchandise train was "Staged" on the Avon passing siding, with its front end right by a private crossing, units 4678/774, at 9:32 a.m. The rain has quit. This first frame had the flash on the D70 fire.

This is without the flash.

Then the sun popped out for a minute (literally!).

Our 2nd depot target was the Avon CB&Q depot, relocated to the park at the northeast corner of town. Time: 9:37.

Leaving Avon, Carol had to shoot the camels in this yard! From Avon we would go west to Swan Creek, where the sun came out and stayed out. Finding no cemetery there, or commercial buildings -- it's a tiny place but with an old elevator and the right of way of the CB&Q branch from Monmouth south thru Roseville to Bushnell, being obvious -- we pressed on north. That CB&Q branch line was torn out I think in the 1960s, maybe earlier.

Highway 67 thru the area is also symboled with the "marketing gimmick" CKC Illinois 110, a supposed alternative to the Interstate way between Chicago and Kansas City, which is I-80 to Des Moines and I-35 south. If you follow CKC 110, you are on mostly 4-lane roads, but not true freeways from Galesburg down to Quincy and across north central Missouri. I guess it makes local chambers of commerce feel good.

We sat at Ormonde on the Santa Fe main for about 20 minutes, hoping for a train but seeing only a hi-rail; the old ATSF style station sign survives there, was the reason I wanted a train shot. As we approached Monmouth, an eastbound coal load was going by, so we chased it east toward Cameron along the ex-BN main, getting this half-baked shot at 11:12 of 5907/6402. The DPU was 9915.

Note the coal dust blowing -- not good!

Monmouth was where, in 1959 or so, I had my only sighting of the M&StL before C&NW gobbled it up in 1960. Dad and I stopped at the little Monmouth yard, and somewhere there is a slide of either one, or two, red RS1's. I'd always wanted to re-trace the M&StL's path thru Monmouth, and this we did, including where the yard was. The diamond with the CB&Q (see the recent CLASSIC TRAINS with an action shot of red GP9's and F7's crossing the Q, by Jim Thomas) is hard to pick out, as a factory south of the BNSF now occupies where the M&StL track neared the diamond. We found this mural downtown; I like good city murals. This one denotes Wyatt Earp's birthplace, which if I knew I'd forgotten; across the street was another mural with a train on it, but it was a terrible rendition of an ancient 4-4-0 so I didn't shoot it. Carol took this from the car.

In checking with Amtrak's "Julie," we learned that the Southwest Chief and California Zephyr would be on each other's tail soon, so we camped out in Cameron where the old Santa Fe goes over the old BN/CB&Q. Here's No. 4, the Chief, at 12:04, engines 83/92. Carol took the digitals here of both Amtraks, going too fast for me to work both cameras, and slides still come first!

And 8 minutes later at 12:12  here is No. 6, engines 42/155, 9 cars.

Well, I did finally take a rail photo in Galesburg -- of this caboose at the Children's Museum across the street from the Amtrak depot, at 12:42 p.m.

As we were leaving to head east on Route 34, an eastbound CSX grain train was right behind us, so at the edge of town we set up for a second Galesburg rail-related photo, untis 5230/5451/7337 at 12:47 p.m.

We arrived in Galva and heard of a local at the ethanol plant east of town ready to return to Galesburg, but the d.s. told him he had one eastbound to run -- our old friend the CSX grain train, which surprised us with how fast he got there, hence this grab shot at 1:21. We hung around for awhile, but the dispatcher was not really an on-the-ball type and forgot about the local, so we went to Subway and got sandwiches. This of course got the local going!

And here he is, 2814/2119 with 1 car, at 2:12 p.m.

We knew two westbounds were somewhere around Kewanee, so we went via back roads to West Kewanee interlocking to have our lunch, and soon this first guy showed up, at 2:34, NS 9721/7561 on a coal empty.

Having finished lunch, we meandered into town and saw this guy leaving East Kewanee and got this nice shot in town at 2:51, 9467/9188.

We then hit "the Amtrak window" for the two westbounds. After a quick frozen custard stop in Princeton, we parked on the Route 34 overpass for No. 5, the California Zephyr, engines 165/184/133, at 3:40. I do not know why the Heritage 184 was on this train. It's possible the lead unit was a replacement for the "Denver protect" engine Amtrak often stations there. Carol shot these digitals, and also the Chief in Mendota. The highway in the background is Interstate 80.

The Mendota switcher usually rates a photo, parked by the depot.

Unusual was this trio parked in the yard north of the depot, 5109/7256/CP 6073, photographed at 4:22. Amtrak No. 3 was on-time out of Naperville and due here at 4:25, but waiting for the CSX grain train to overtake a staged coal load socked the Chief about 20 minutes. I speculated these units may have been for a grain train to be loaded at the new loadout east of town by I-39, but there was no train there, so I have no answer for these units' presence.

So of course in the intervening 20 minutes, the sun disappeared for good for the day behind a huge front of dark clouds. Here's No. 3 arriving, 62/77 and 9 cars, at 4:50. We gassed up out at I-39 and headed home at 5 p.m., arriving in Waukesha about 7:15, grabbed a quick supper, and were home by 8 pm, beat but satisfied with a bonus two days after our "book celebration weekend."

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