Trip to Illinois
April 26-29, 2013

by Dave Ingles

In late April I made a solo driving trip to Springfield, Ill., centered around the Illinois Traction Society's annual meeting, held on Sat., April 27th. My long-time friend Dick Wallin, of suburban Springfield, and I were the presenters of the slide show following the annual banquet. I drove down on Friday the 26th, with the requisite first stop being at Rochelle.

This was my first visit to Rochelle since production began at the Nippon Sharyo passenger-car plant in the city's southeast side industrial park, south of I-88, west of I-39, and east of the BNSF's '"C&I" Aurora Sub. Two car shells from the big Chicago Metra Electric bilevel car order were outside on roller wheels. You cannot get close to the plant for photos, but a cul-de-sac to other firms offers a decent telephoto view of the tracks west of the plant itself. The city-owned Rochelle Railroad, switched under contract by Burlington Junction RR, serves the plant, allowing both UP and BNSF to be connecting carriers.

South of Rochelle on the BNSF toward the end of 2 main tracks at Steward I found this stack train parked, sans crew. Power was 9828/6920, just about a high-noon photo.

After about 10 minutes, an eastbound stack train behind 4013/5527 passed. After shooting it, I got on I-39 for Mendota, hitting the Subway at the interchange for a lunch to-go, eaten trackside by the Mendota Sub main line.

Before devouring lunch, I went east on US 34 a half mile for these photos of a grain train parked on the loadout loop, behind units 6530/4378/5380. No crew appeared to be on board, but the train was gone when I returned north on Sunday.

My next stop was Funks Grove, to purchase some maple sirup (as they spell it). I re-photographed the old Alton depot that sits, empty, in the hamlet of Funks Grove, west of the tracks (later GM&O, ICG, CM&W, SPCSL, and now UP, with Amtrak rights). It was moved here decades ago from Shirley, the next town north, and served as an antique shop.

In the Funks' family property, by the sirup shop (and factory -- same building), members a few years ago resurrected from deep in their maple wood a storage shed that an elder Funk had converted from the actual tiny Funks Grove Alton depot, a previously unknown (to railfans and historians) building. It's been fixed up and the (presumably) original signs restored to it. A Route 66 emblem is etched in the concrete; the old 66 road is between their property and the tracks.

The next town south is McLean, where the Alton/GM&O depot, long ago moved to U.S. 136 a few blocks south and east, has been spruced up. It has served as various small shops on this site.

On Saturday, I first went over to Chatham, first town south of Springfield on the old Alton/GM&O, to give the Chatham Railroad Museum an Illlinois Terminal station sign from Elkhart (north of Springfield) I was donating to it. Members of the local C&IM Chapter of NRHS maintain a small museum in the city-owned depot building. My visit coincided with the ITS group's bus tour for the day (down to Carlinville, viewing old ITS artifacts) at the depot, the tour's first stop. My friend Mike Schafer, who edits their magazine and is a huge ITS fan, posed for photo. Amtrak #301 came by, but I shot only a slide of that.

Museum curator Bill Shannon holds the ITS sign I donated.

The weather was crummy, but I went down to the old C&IM facility at Ellis Yard, west of Pawnee by a power plant, to see what was there. I found BNSF units off a Powder River train, and nice signage by former C&IM (now I&M) owner Genesee & Wyoming. This was around 1130. The BNSF units were 5869 as inbound DPU, and 9761/9264 as inbound leaders. Beyond the 5869 in the westward-looking view is the old Ellis Yard office.

And now, a few shots from the banquet. First, from left, are DIck Wallin, passenger-car fan Jim Bopp of Bloomington, nee Decatur, and Richard Ward of Decatur, author of a recent "Lincolnland" photo book of Wabash and other roads by Morning Sun.

Next, Ray Kucaba of Chicago, and Ron Plazzotta of the Milwaukee area, a retired C&NW-Soo employee known for his interest in traction. I hadn't seen "Ronnie" for years.

Here is proof I was there, with Ronnie at my right.

Charlie Volkar of Aurora is a fixture of both the ITS and GM&O Historical Society groups and a big fan of both railroads.

Ryan Crawford, a local fan from Chatham and author of the C&IM photo book by Morning Sun of 3 or 4 years ago, wore "ITS color appropriate" shoes and laces!

This may be the "official portrait" of program presenters Ingles and Wallin.

On my return north on Sunday, cloudy weather prevailed, so after a short stop at Elkhart to (re)-photo the ex-Santa Fe Geep kept at the local elevator, I pressed on, going through Troy Grove, birthplace of Wild Bill Hickok. Troy Grove is the terminus of UP's ex-C&NW branch from DeKalb and the site of several sand mines producing sand good in glass-making and fracking for oil.

From Troy Grove, I went up old US 51  (now on I-39), re-designated as Illinois 251, into Mendota, which was fortuitous, as I lucked onto a BNSF meet just west of the road underpass on the Mendota Sub main line. I knew about the access road from shooting the short California Zephyr here in its final months in the late 1960s! 

The time was just about high noon as the eastbound local out of Galesburg, with ATSF-painted 3167 and sister GP60 3136, passed a 74-car (from detector count on the scanner) westbound freight behind 4382/4620.

Heading into town to re-shoot the local, I caught him by Union Station (served CB&Q and IC in its day, and MILW if it had passenger service on the branch), now the Amtrak stop and site of a museum with a CB&Q 2-8-2 (relocated from Ottawa) and IC electric MU's among the displays. The green GP60 at left, 3148, was apparently just going to work. This Mendota-based weekday job serves a few local customers and goes west to Zearing to interchange with the Illinois Railway's line, another former Q/BN branch, up from La Salle-Peru. Amidst this activity, another westbound train, coal empties, came thru at 12:09 pm, 63 cars behind 6221/9355

Before leaving town, I stopped at First Avenue, site of the old roundhouse, for a good, sunny shot of the local, which had drifted on east to here, at 1220 pm.

Soon after all this action, at 12:40, came another eastbound, shot east of town near "the electrics" crossovers (so named because, I think, they were the first such on the subdivision decades ago), coal load with 6157/9544 up front and DPU 8872 on the rear. Sometime during all this, I grabbed another Subway lunch.

The next stop was, of course, Rochelle, and I didn't have "A" class luck as usual, probably rate it a "B." At the Elva Road crossing north of Steward I spotted an eastbound tank-car train parked, no crew on board, obviously staged for interchange later around Chicago. Power: 4400/5712/8955 at 1:12 p.m.

Going north into town, I had to hi-tail it out Creston Road after a UP eastbound that was already going thru, settling for an across-the-field view by the Dement Road bridge of the five units just beginning to tackle Creston hill with a stack train, at 1:27. I didn't get the engine numbers.

I then missed another eastbound UP stack train with 7866/5191/5114, tho I was obviously close enough to read the numbers, wherever I saw it (reading my notebook, my aging memory failing on details). At the First Avenue crossing west of the diamond, I was up at the BNSF crossing on the old Lincoln Highway about 1:45 when a UP westbound surprised me, but I zoomed south quickly and snapped an against-the-sun digital series because of its unusual diesel consist, with the switcher and a leaser GP38 in the middle: 4673/1432/2284/7752

I'd been waiting for an eastbound BNSF to proceed thru, and at 1:54 he did so, an oil train with an unusual two-road consist: BNSF 5605/UP 5609/BNSF 7089.

It passed a westbound empty counterpart in town, as the next train showed up at 1:59 behind three NS units: 9858/1008/9167.

Clouds were beginning to decrease the sunlight as I headed out to Flagg Center for a couple more BNSF trains, as the westbound NS-powered empty tank-car train was holding at the west end of two main tracks. At 2:37, stacks came east behind 4631/1038, followed by another NS trio on a loaded tank-car train (probably oil) at 2:49 behind 8134/8066/8047. I'd been hoping for the NS Heritage units that reportedly frequent this line on tank-car trains, but no soap. I don't have very good luck with those.

After the two eastbounds, the NS 9858 west resumed his journey, and after photographing his departure at 2:55, I headed back into town, missing the shot of the day: Warbonnet 769 leading a vehicle train west, viewed from 20th St. N at 3 p.m. sharp as I headed south off Flagg Road toward one more check around the diamond. Calling it a day, I headed for I-39 and home.

This page was designed and is maintained by Mike Condren. If you have materials
that you would like to contribute, contact me at