Colorado trip for Private Car ride: Part 6
Interlude at Rochelle, BNSF action
Sept. 26

Photos by Dave Ingles

When I detrained from Amtrak #4 the Southwest Chief at Mendota on Sunday , about 1 hour behind schedule at 2:15 pm, the intent of having left my vehicle there (free parking in a secure small lot at the depot) rather than going by train from Milwaukee to Chicago, was to quicken my return home, vs. the Chicago hassle of probably just missing a Hiawatha, whenever we arrived Union Station.
The intentions were good. The results were a wash, thanks to the BNSF and action on the C&I line, appropriate for what was essentially an entirely BNSF trip to Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. From Mendota I headed up I-39 to Rochelle, intending to stay just long enough to finish, or get close to, the roll of slide film in my Nikon. I left I-39 at Steward, and the westbound home signal there indicated approach, though nothing had hit the Lee detector yet. In Rochelle I noted that BNSF 2050, one of the ex-EMD leaser GP38’s now renumbered and with full BNSF i.d. but still in blue, is still the local engine; I’d photographed it a week-plus before en route to and from Arkansas (see that section on the web site, As I crossed the UP at the Rochelle depot, there was an eastbound, stopped. I turned around to get to the sunny side of the tracks, although it was more clouds than sun; he started up. I photographed him; it was 3:18 p.m. The consist was 5335/6292/5301, the middle unit patched-SP, with a solid cut of ARMN reefers, which meant he would set out some or all for the Rochelle Railroad and the cold storage facility.

Since he was on Track 1, he’d have to cross over, which meant nothing else was imminent on the UP, so I headed for the Lincoln Highway (State Route 38) BNSF crossing at the west end of town, and discovered an eastbound merchandiser parked on the hill coming down from Flagg Center, holding at the CP844 crossovers (MP84 from Chicago). Scanner talk told me there were three other eastbounds out there, and soon the westbound that was lined up at Steward was in the conversation too.
BNSF then played “let’s keep the Rochelle interlocking to ourselves,” and I hung out to photograph at either MP 84, behind a factory west of the Lincoln Highway crossing, or at the crossing itself. First was the 4070 West, an intermodal, at 3:36; units 4070/5502/779/4538, the 3rd unit a Warbonnet. He held at the CP844 crossovers, staring the parked eastbound in the face and blocking Highway 38 (and the UP diamonds) while the 4157 East (4157/5009), another intermodal, came down the hill from Flagg Center, cleared me at 3:40, and went on thru town and at least to CP800 out by Steward, end of two main tracks. The 4070 crossed over and headed on west, into the faces of the next two eastbounds.

At 3:50 a westbound I’d heard being talked to, came through, an intermodal behind two “Northerns,” 1089/1106. I then waited for the next eastbound, figuring the 1089 went to Chana for a meet. Hearing nothing and with dark clouds having settled over Rochelle, I headed out 38 and north to Flagg Center, where it was alternating sun and clouds; the clouds were barely moving, if at all. The eastward indication was red over green for CP844.

I sat until 4:45, my “waiting time limit,” and I no sooner left than here he came, so I wheeled a U-ie and got a good grab shot, clouded, of the 4794 East (4794/4429), at 4:47. Not wanting to miss the parked eastbound if he followed 4794 out, I made fast down to 38 and east to Rochelle, but noticed in my mirror that 4794 had all but stopped.

I got back to MP84 in time to shoot him again, properly, at 4:53.

Then the sun came out. Then I heard a different horn, and figuring it was a UP, almost left, but watched the diamond. Surprise! Here came another BNSF westbound, a merchandiser behind two NS units (9616/9381), at 4:58, the best-lit shot of the interlude.

After he went by, the long-delayed eastbound finally pulled, 4628/1091 (another Northern) with 86 cars of mixed freight, clearing at 5:06.

I was finally able to leave town, having seen six—count ‘em 6—BNSF trains in two hours, finishing my roll of slide film. All this while UP ran not another train, at all, and while there was still another eastbound BNSF out there, probably meeting the NS at Oregon, I could wait no longer. I was home by 7:05 p.m., doing 72 most of the way in light traffic, having experienced a very satisfying BNSF interlude to conclude my trip.
A postscript to this location, MP84, has come to light in October. Nippon Sharyo, a passenger-car builder, will build a big manufacturing plant on this site, behind my position here in the last photo above, west of the town between the BNSF on the north and Highway 38 on the south. The site now is only farm fields, and we train-watchers will lose our across-the-field view of the BNSF grade, and two main tracks, between the Lincoln Highway Crossing and Flagg Center. I do not know if the mostly abandoned plant just at the right in this photo will be razed or not; the new plant could be entirely west of it. Also not known yet is if Route 38 will be altered at all, but I would bet it would be widened, and at least one traffic light will be installed for a plant entrance. The new plant is expected to employ more than 250 people, and among the first cars to be built there will be the 160 new bilevel electric cars on order by Chicago Metra to replace the early 1970's Highliners on the ex-IC route. The plant it to have an electrified test track, and connect to the BNSF. Uncertain is if the plant will be served directly by a branch from the UP, but I would bet such a track will not be built, and that if UP is to share in originating plant traffic, it would simply use the BNSF rails west of the diamond. They already share rights to the plant south of the UP out here, and the city-owned Rochelle Railroad on the southeast side of town, switched by Iowa-based contract carrier Burlington Junction, serves both UP and BNSF. Moreover for train-chasing, 1st Avenue thru town south of the UP, which crosses the UP just west of the diamonds and off Route 38, has been forever altered. It is no longer a straight route through town, and I've gotten ahead of many a westward UP train coming down Creston Hill by just going thru Rochelle on Creston Road which becomes 1st Avenue.
Now, as you come east on Route 38 and stay straight ahead on 1st Avenue and cross the UP, you must turn right and go south 2 or 3 city blocks worth. A new north-south road continues south and joins Intermodal Drive, which goes to UP's Global 3 yard off Route 251 at the south end of Rochelle, just north of the I-88 interchange. However, the new north-south leg off 1st Avenue does have at least one connection from the west Rochelle neighborhood, to Lakeview Avenue, which comes out on 251 at the Casey's General Store. From the Railroad Park, go south on 9th St. to 1st Ave., west a block to 10th St., south on 10th to Lakeview, and west to the new north-south extention of 1st Avenue; if that has a name, I didn't notice a sign yet. This part of the report is from October 17, 2010, when Carol and I were on the way home from Monticello Railroad Museum for Southern 2-8-0 401 (also to be on this Web site soon). -- Dave Ingles

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