|We had no concrete deadline to get home after the wedding, our plans were dependent on the weather. One major objective of mine, since it was created, was to shoot the Evansville Western Railway, as few pix of this recent Illinois railroad seem to be around, other than some on the internet. It's an affiliate of the Paducah & Louisville, HQ'ed in Mt. Vernon, Ind., where I intended to go if we had to, to get pix. We did not have to go that far -- we got lucky Monday morning in Mt. Vernon, IL, while looking around the Nat'l Rwy Equipt. (ex-Precision National) factory grounds, encountering the eastbound McLeansboro-based local returning home with 3 units and 16 cars, and had a nice chase in good light. Another objective was to visit county seats in east-south-central Illinois, and we wound up photographing more courthouses and depots than trains, but that's OK. For the entire trip, I wound up photographing 20 depots (9 of them new for me) and 1 interlocking tower (also new -- Shattuc, IL, see first file for this trip). I also photographed 22 current courthouses (2 of 3 of them for the 2nd or 3rd time), plus 3 former ones or sites.
Our first drill on Monday morning was to get breakfast to-go and head to the east end of town, where the UP (ex-C&EI) crosses the NS (ex-Southern) and then the EVWR (ex-L&N), and eat in the car at trackside in case a train came. We watched an NRE crew in the plant move around with a barely-marked-up SW1001, and then the action got lucky for us, thanks to the two big roads. Norfolk Southern had an eastbound coming, but upon arriving at the UP (ex-C&EI) diamond, we had found a UP MofW crew working on the diamond. The NS train began whistling, and had to come to a stop short of the crossing, but it was blocking every grade crossing in town! The two railroads had not communicated with each other, and an NS maintainer driving around town had just happened to see the UP crew earlier and alerted the eastbound freight they might still be there, so to go easy approaching the diamond as they came out of a long curve.
Breakfast east of the old Precision National plant, as a National Railway Equipment crew used what I wonder might be an ex-Reading SW1001 to switch with. The orange-front unit at right is ex-GTW SD40 5925. The backlot was full of derelict units, as it usually is, but it was obvious that a lot of scrapping had been going on. Approximate time of this photo is 9:30 a.m.
|I could not identify the switcher carcass on the flat car in front of the gray SW1001.|
|Nor do I remember where these "K-Rail" SW1001's might have come from, but the paint scheme was nice! They are Nos. 2110 and 2104. Perhaps the unit the crew was switching with was also from this fleet, when I think of it. The track in foreground is the UP main line; we are south of the UP-EVWR diamond.
|Here's as close as the NS freight got to us. The lead unit is 9772 and his i.d. on the radio was "No. 26," which seems odd since an alpha letter is usually in NS's train symbols. Note the UP guys are oblivious! I shot this from the car. The water tower says "Rams," the Mt. Vernon High School mascot. Time here now is 9:40 a.m.|
|We finished breakfast, waiting to shoot the NS train, and the UP guys finished up and moved over to the UP-EVWR diamond. But meantime, the "FRED" on the NS train had "died," so it couldn't move until the MofW guys I told you about earlier came to fetch the conductor from the engine and take him to the back end to try to re-arm the EOT device! American railroading, don't you love it? Meantime, we are seeing a steady stream of traffic on this back street that crosses all 3 railroads, as the locals who know the streets are avoiding what must've been a horrendous traffic jam in town, thanks to the UP (and NS).
The UP guys had hardly gotten to the EVWR diamond when we began to hear another horn. Well, it couldn't be NS or UP, could it be the Evansville Western was going to give us a train?
|Slowly he approached, and when the UP guy saw him, they just piled into their truck and went elsewhere to work! The time is 10:03.|
|We bugged out from the Mt. Vernon diamond area, fortunately having to go south and east to get on the highway east, and not mess around with any traffic in town. The highway gets away from the railroad for a few miles until they converge at tiny Opdyke, where the train finally showed up at 10:41. We again lucked out, finding another fan here waiting, and learned quite a bit from him. His name is George (didn't catch the surname when we finally introduced), and he's from Centralia. He had been chasing the train for a while, and "came this far east only because their best-painted, cleanest unit is on the point." For the record, the units are 3834/GMTX 2622/3837, and the train had 16 cars.
It is known as "MCL" as it is the McLeansboro local, based there. The crew had gone to work at 4 a.m., they later told us (we talked briefly when they tied up), and had gone as far as Nashville. They go west on Mon-Wed-Fri, as far as needed, and on Tue-Thur-Sat they go east to Mt. Vernon, Ind., the road's headquarters. There are occasional coal trains, but otherwise that's "it" in Illinois, so I felt really fortunate to have encountered the train, plus a person who "knew the drill." Top speed is 25 mph, so it's an easy chase, and in this area, right along the road. George stuck with it for one or two more shots.
|This is Belle Rive at 10:48. The light is pretty much down the rail, but I didn't care. The 2nd freight car is on the overpass of the CN/IC Bluford District, aka the Edgewood Cutoff, the main freight route between Illinois and Memphis.|
|The paint scheme is the same as the current Paducah & Louisville scheme.|
|George had alerted us to the depot at Dahlgren still standing, so we made sure to get there in time for a portrait before the train came.|
|Close-ups are slides; time here is 10:57.|
|In the heydey, for instance in 1965 when I rode the Georgian from Chattanooga thru here to St. Louis (at night), the block signals were in use; I don't think it was CTC, though. This is Milepost 38 at 11:05, but I can't figure out where that would be from, so my notes may be in error.|
|We first went into McLeansboro, where George said the train would "switch some in the yard," and then tie up. We poked around and could see no yard, and by the time the train came in to town (straight in), we were caught on the shady side. He pulled past the switch you can't see here west of the little metal depot building and backed into the siding, and tied up. The building has no windows, so i don't think it's used as an office, probably just has tools etc., inside. No sign on the the building; the cement platform indicates this was the McLeansboro station site, though. One further note: the SPV indicates that the junction with the Shawneetown branch was west of town, but we couldn't drive to it, and as we entered town, we could see where the right of way crossed the road. But if you look in the SPV, the alignment suggests that the first track was Shawneetown to St. Louis, with the McLeansboro-Evansville line coming later, which is logical in the era of water transportation.|
|The train has backed in and stopped, and it gave me the opportunity for close-up photos and a few comments with the crew, confirming their daily schedule and early call time.|
|From McLeansboro we went on east to Carmi, where the L&N paralleled NYC's Chicago-Cairo "Egyptian Line" through town. West of the downtown district, we look north from a grade crossing at what used to be the home signal for eastbound L&N trains at the NYC diamond. The L&N (current EVWR track) crossed the NYC and curved right, crossing the Little Wabash River and then angling due southeast, away from any roads, to cross the Wabash proper into Indiana northwest of its Mount Vernon. The NYC track was at right in the foregound here, next to the L&N. There is no trace of any Carmi depot.|
|At Grayville, Ill., a stretch of track by the former Illinois Central depot, preserved on-site, holds an ex-IC caboose, no number visible. The IC line here was originally the PD&E (Peoria, Decatur & Evansville), and survived into the 1980's as part of Indiana Hi-Rail in its last (I think) incarnation, ended here when its Wabash River bridge got damaged or slipped out of alignment. Mike Danneman, Steve Glischinski, and I chased a Hi-Rail freight led by an Alco from Evansville to here, in the rain, at 10 mph, on our way to Paducah for the debut of the UP executive E9's, rehabbed by VMV in the old IC Paducah Shop. A long time ago now! The NYC Egyptian line thru Grayville was to our left, uphill and beyond the little business district.|
|Grayville flood markers.|
|Mt. Carmel was next, as we headed north on Illinois Route 1. In its last years, the NYC Egyptian line was owned by Southern Railway, from here (south of this point) to I think Harrisburg, where there was a yard (and no sign of such now, nor the depot, when we were there 2 days previous). The substantial NYC depot, north of the NS line (the former Southern to St. Louis) still stands, in office use, and Carol spotted the former approach signal for the SOU diamond for NYC trains, at left here, which I almost missed.|
|The street side of the NYC Mt Carmel depot. When I rode thru here on the Southern in the early 1970's, as 2-8-2 4501 was heading for Wisconsin to pull the Great Circus Train, I recall dimly being told that there had been a railroad shop here on the NYC, and internet references do refer to a Big Four locomotive and car shop. We passed buildings north of the existing NS tracks and east of where the NYC would have been, and they probably began as part of the Big Four shops, but there was nothing "obvious" enough about a photo to make them worth shooting, although a spur track does go into one building (with high, modern door), still in factory use.|
|A postcard of the depot off the Internet, also looking north.|
|From Mt Carmel, we headed west on Route 15. As evidenced by talk from "George" in chasing the EVWR train, with that railroad having a couple of new mines on-line (we crossed one spur east of McLeansboro, high rail and new ballast, and there is a new connection to NS going in west of Opdyke, he says), this part of Illinois is seeing a coal-mining resurgence of sorts. West of Mt Carmel, we saw a grade crossing ahead on Route 15 (the NS line is off to the south a half mile), and looking north, we saw this coal train parked, ready to leave a mine. We drove just past an office and stopped and shot this from the car. Time is 2:00 p.m., following a Subway lunch in Mt Carmel. We look north.|
|In Fairfield, I knew there was no depot on the NS, but I went south a few blocks from Route 15 to look at the railroad anyway, and found these trailers next to Route 45 at a lumber yard on the north side of the tracks. I refuse to believe the name of the firm, and the green color and type font on its trailers' lettering, are a coincidence! That's my story, Southern Railway fans, and I'm sticking to it!|
|Flora is where B&O's Cincinnati-St. Louis line crossed what became the branch from Shawneetown to Springfield and Beardstown; all are former B&O Southwestern. I believe I had never been to Flora by car nor shot the depot, so I did so, at 3:45.
|Along Route 50 heading east to Olney from Flora, there were several old bridges like this in the Little Wabash River and Big Muddy Creek crossings, which are only a mile or so apart here. The Big Muddy (not to be confused with the Big Muddy River near Carbondale) marks the Clay-Richland county line here. I snapped this at speed thru the windshield. Too bad there isn't a Route 50 Historical Society like 66, 1, 40, and some others have. Well, there probably is, but I'm not chasing it down. From Olney, we went north to Newton and on northwest to Effingham, where we spent the night. We arrived near sundown, and went to dinner, so there wasn't time to go to the depot -- making twice thru Effingham on this trip and ignoring the railroads, highly unusual (a first for me, I'm sure) occurrence.|
|Tuesday morning dawned clear but with hazy sun. From Effingham, we went north to Sullivan to photo the courthouse, noting the playhouse little theater on the square is still active (for decades), and then turned southeast for Mattoon. Along Route 121 northwest of Mattoon at a grain elevator, we found this Relco Alco S2, apparently still with a 539 diesel to judge from the stack; I shot this from the highway shoulder, at 10:05 a.m.|
|We didn't eat here -- I've done so before, and the food is OK but nothing special -- but I couldn't resist a sunny-day digital shot of the original Burger King. The chain sued this outfit and lost, as this had been extant here for years and years before, so there is no "home of the Whopper" in Mattoon. (There is a Steak n Shake, out by I-57.) We heard a train on the CN while in Mattoon, but it was out in the yard, switching, inaccessible, so we pressed on east on Route 16 to Charleston.|
|The Nickel Plate depot is north of downtown Charleston, by where the Big Four mainline diamond was. The elevator visible at right was beyond the old NYC double track. That is the line on which I inadvertently rode the last run, the 1-car (with an E8) remnant of the Southwestern Limited, from St. Louis to Indianapolis in 1968 (written up in an early CLASSIC TRAINS). I also rode this ex-NKP line, in 1969 on the Golden Spike Centennial special, from St. Louis to Lima (for $60 one-way for the entire day) on its return from Utah to New York, behind NKP 2-8-4 759, in my top 3 Illinois "rare mileage" segments. Today the ex-NKP is run by short line Eastern Illinois Railroad, between Neoga, on the CN/IC main, and Metcalf, on CSX's former B&O line to Decatur, Ill. Charleston is home to Eastern Illinois University, BTW.|
|I knew the Eastern Illinois kept its units in Charleston, but they were difficult to find, although just north of the depot, as it turns out. I had photographed one on a train at Neoga once, but here is the entire fleet. Looks like EIRC 1040 was a GP18, and from the road numbers, I'm guessing the middle unit is ex-Conrail/PC, and the south unit, 4541, ex-Chicago & North Western. No one was around. Time is 11:00 a.m.|
|Illinois is full of towns with "famous" names, and on Route 16 east of Charleston is this one; the Big Four used to go thru here, and at one time a rinky-dink short line, the Kansas & Slidell, linked those two towns.|
|We were bound for Paris, via Kansas.|
|We were headed for Paris (Illinois), where I'd briefly explored once, mainly to photo the courthouse but also to re-check the railroads and rights of way. Paris had been the crossing of two Big Four lines, the "Chicago-Cairo Egyptian" and the Indianapolis-St. Louis main line. Also, Pennsy's branch to Peoria, Ill, which left its Vandalia main line (Indy-St. Louis) just inside Illinois west of Terre Haute, cut thru Paris's west side. Today, CSX reaches Decatur, Ill., from Terre Haute by using the old Big Four main line to Paris, then turns north on the Egyptian to Chrisman, Ill., and turns west there on the old B&O Indianapolis-Decatur-Springfield line. The track is in north of Chrisman toward Danville, and east from Chrisman to the C&EI crossing inside Indiana at Hillsdale (across the Wabash River from Montezuma), but when we were prowling around the Chrisman area 2 or 3 years ago, it's obvious CSX uses the lines out of Chrisman only to the west and south.
Luck equal to the Evansville Western chase was with us as we entered Paris on Route 16, being blocked at the grade crossing by this guy switching a big mill. Time is 11:50 a.m. Power is one of many CSX slug-GP40 sets, tho the slugs made from GP30's sure are attractive.
|We watched him switch for a bit, as this was an important spot for me. It is, BTW, on the southwest corner of town on the old Egyptian line. A storage yard of several tracks still exists west of the center of town on the old main line toward Charleston and Mattoon.|
|The photo I've inserted after this one will tell you why this spot was important to me, and why I considered it very good luck to encounter a train working here.|
|In late 1961, my father chanced upon this NYC local working the same facility in Paris. I have no idea why he was passing thru Paris, and there are no other railroad photos in his material, or my NYC files, of anything else in this vicinity in that date. We lived in Dearborn, Mich., by then and he worked for DT&I, so I have no clue as to what put him in Paris, Ill.|
|This is the diamond where the Egyptian line, on which we look north, crossed the Big Four St. Louis main. The track is in to the west to a 4- or 5-track yard just outside town. CSX uses the track behind me to go switch the mill just pictured, uses the line going away from us to go to Decatur, and comes in from Terre Haute on the line from our right. Beyond the stop sign and some weeds is the connection track, and another exists in the northwest quadrant. No traces of any Paris depot, or tower or cabin here, were evident.|
|I admit I had not done any internet depot research before this trip, and we were breezing west from Paris on Route 133 when I slowed down for the small town of Oakland. Whoa! There's the PRR depot, still on-site, from the Terre Haute-Peoria line. I was stunned to learn of an extant PRR depot on this branch.|
|Complete with apparently the original PRR station sign!|
|West of Oakland we dipped thru the Embarras River valley, and a mile later I had a thought I better turn around and photo what we just saw. This looks east on the short return, then; the PRR track was just to the left (north) of the road, tho you can hardly tell . . .|
|... until you dip toward the river and see the PRR structure I had just passed and not slowed down for until my brain kicked in a couple of minutes later! It is not a trail or anything, just an abandoned bridge. Time: 12:35 pm.|
|After lunch in Tuscola, as we left town, we encountered this southbound on the CN/IC main line, engines 8935/5691, at 1:15 p.m., same power we see at home all the time (yawn). He was slowing for an apparent meet, but the sun was down the rail and there was no point in waiting, as by now we were planning on driving on straight home.|
|Heading for I-57 to go north, we backtracked thru town, and fortunately so, as the CN was not waiting for a meet but for the diamond, as a UP northbound (on the ex-C&EI) got the signal first, so we were able to get this grab shot at 1:22, engines 5043/NS 8810, with 60 cars.|
|That's CSX's ex-B&O Chrisman-Decatur line in the foreground. One train each way burnishes those rails every day.|
|I re-shot this IC depot for about the fifth time, as somewhere, there is a slide taken by my Dad of an IC southbound passenger train passing this building, with "little JDI" (maybe 10 or 11 years old) in the photo. There were two main tracks then, of course :-)|
|We hung around Tolono for a while, without success, altho we heard CN train #397 (which we'd seen the previous Friday) in the Champaign Yard. Well, I poked along Route 45 long enough that we saw him coming north of Savoy and were able to turn around and get this grab shot of him at the old Savoy elevator at 2:39, engines 2313/2529 with 148 cars, the usual CN monster train we've come to see in our home area, tho sometimes one this long will have a DPU thru Wisconsin. Not in flat eastern Illinois, though. This would be our last "action shot" of the trip.|
|We went to Paxton to photo the Ford Co. courthouse, then west on Route 9 to Gibson City, where I hoped, it being a weekday, I'd find something on the Bloomer Line, which I need to chase in action someday. At their new engine house at the north end of town, this Geep (ex-Conrail I think) was outside, and there's room inside for the whole fleet. Time is 3:55.|
|We went north on Route 47, and at Risk (a railroad point, not really a town -- it's where the old Wabash main crosses the original IC "Bloomer Line branch") south of the switch (where the diamond used to be) on a side track along the old Wabash main, a grain train was parked with another Bloomer Line Geep on the north end. Time: 4:10. The water tower is at Strawn, Illinois. South of Strawn is Sibley, whose Wabash depot is preserved, moved away from the track.|
|At Forrest, we turned west on Route 24, but not before photo-ing this ex-NKP caboose. The track is the TP&W, still active; we look north.|
|This looks north across Route 24 to the still extant ex-Wabash depot; the track is the TP&W. The Wabash/N&W agent controlled the diamond crossing. Forrest is about 100 miles form Chicago and was an original division point, with a small yard and roundhouse. It was also home for the Wabash/N&W job that used TP&W rights west 7 miles or to to Fairbury, to reach the branch that angled northwest thru Pontiac to Streator, Ill, which lasted into the 1970's or 80's.|
|If I knew about this, I'd forgotten it until recent mention on the Wabash RR Hist. Society Yahoo! site, but the Wabash turntable at Forrest still exists, in place! This looks north across Route 24 and the TP&W, from the car, at 4:35, and was my last photo of the trip. We went west on 24 to I-39 and barreled for home, interrupted only by a gas fill-up at Mendota and dinner at the Steak n Shake in Rockford, and were home by 8:30 or so to conclude an interesting vacation trip, seeing more "things that aren't there anymore" (as Peg McGonigal calls our hobby of "railroad archaeology") than trains that "are actually there."|
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