Flag Day around Rochelle
June 14, 2013

by Dave Ingles

When Friday, June 14th, aka Flag Day, was forecast to be cool-ish and clear, and proved accurate, I headed out just to take a break for a day, and made a solo trip to the Rochelle area. Unfortunately the train action did not meet expectations, especially on the BNSF C&I line. But you take what you get, so here is the small selection of photos.

Arriving in Rochelle around 10:30 (I am NOT an early riser), I made straight for Steward on I-39 to work my way back into town. As a possible harbinger, I first found an eastbound BNSF coal train parked at Elva Road, between the end of double track to the south and the recent crossovers to the north, near the ethanol plant, with engines 6517/8973 up front and DPU 9609, in Grinstein green, as rear-end DPU. The train never moved all day, so I never could shoot the DPU close-up. This photo at Elva Road was made at 10:50.

Wandering into town, what should i find but the Rochelle Railroad job of contractor Burlington Junction returning from either the passenger-car or the ethanol plant, or both, with a cut of empty flats (meaning likely from Nippon Sharyo) behind SW1500 1516, the normally preferred unit of three kept in town. They are crossing Steam Plant Road here at 11 a.m.

Meantime, I could see to the north a UP eastbound charging for Creston Hill, so I lit after him but could get only a telephoto slide of his 4 units around Dement Road at 11:07. I don't yet know any engine numbers. Back to the south toward Steam Plant Road, what should also be working this weekday late morning but the local BNSF switcher, at the time GP rebuild 2034, photographed at 11:23.

Desperate for mainline action, I went and camped at the Lincoln Hwy. crossing of BNSF west of the diamonds, and was rewarded at 12:09 with SAV-EOL, the Savanna-Eola local, which had been sitting on the hill probably awaiting 2034 to finish readying his pick-up. SAV-EOL had engines 7295/9156 and 25 cars.

At 12:18, parked at the Railroad Park still consuming the Subway sandwich I had wisely purchased earlier at the outlet at Dement Rd. and Highway 38, UP presented me with a westbound hopper train led by 5872/5811/6075 on the point.

With nothing seeming to be cooking on BNSF, and not caring (nor hearing about anything on) about the UP, I headed for Shabbona, east on the C&I, just for a change of pace and location. Finally at 1:33 something materialized, as a westbound stacker behind 7508/6794 showed up and passed an eastbounder which had crept up to the passing siding's east switch in town a bit beforehand. I got a wave from the conductor in 7508.

The meet completed, I headed to a private crossing at the east end of town to get the eastbound revving up, engines 1116/4598/6916/7853/1056, with 68 container wells and 30 trailers for the kind of car count I do of 98; the time: 1:37.

Pressing on east, I planned to go to somewhere short of Sugar Grove and flip back, hoping I'd nab some action. What I got was minimal, and unbelievably, all eastbound, i.e., backlit. Where was that usual westbound afternoon trio? Maybe they don't all run on Fridays? Not far out of Shabbona, though, what I should I see ahead but UP's weekday Troy Grove job creeping across U.S. 30 and the BNSF diamond. The time of day to see him wasn't unexpected, and I'd lucked onto him a couple times before, while driving down or up I-39. I did a U-turn and headed south on the back roads, taking the second one, which happened to cross just south of the northbound approach signal for the diamond. Engines Y715/2097/Y709 had 52 cars behind them, for the elevator at Triumph and the sand mines at Troy Grove. The time: 1:52.

Then I camped trackside in downtown Waterman and didn't see squat for almost an hour, when a short eastbound intermodal came thru at 2:49 behind 7400/7818.

Not far behind him was SAV-EOL again, now with 45 cars, at 3:03; this guy I had expected.

Then going east almost to Sugar Grove and seeing nothing, and hearing of nothing, I retreated westward, only to be surprised at the west end of Shabbona by a four-unit eastbound (another one!) stacker at 3:47, one of whose units I recall as a "Warbonnet." Drat! There was, of course, no chasing him.

Back I went to Rochelle in silence, and to pass the time, I went to shoot the Rochelle Railroad lineup of Burlington Junction units. Surprisingly all 3 were up by the little office shack: 1516, 8711, and the little ex-Army guy, 3238. Badly placed bushes and trees (or maybe it was the units' placement) forced me to use two frames to get in all 3 units, no biggie.

As a bonus, here's a shot of the lineup from the east (shady) side, on the lane you can drive past the little office to a firm's warehouse gate. I've never seen the 3238 run here. The view above, from the west, are from a firm's parking lot that is usually closed and gated on weekends.

Going back into town, I finally coaxed a BNSF westbound through, an empty 60-car tank-car train behind units 5800/5289 (my second "00" leader of the day) at 5:27 from the Lincoln Hwy. crossing.

Determined to see at least one more train, I went to the Railroad Park and eventually, got a westbound UP merchandiser at the Rochelle depot at 5:49 behind 6767/6362. The total for the day was seeing a very disappointing 12 trains (1 twice, the SAV-EOL), including the Rochelle Railroad 1516, tho one should add the BNSF switcher, of which I totally missed only 1, at Shabbona. Of course, I concentrated on the BNSF, so I don't regret my choices, regardless of how many UP trains I didn't see or wasn't aware of. It was still a very nice day to be trackside.

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