Quad Cities Train Festival, 2011
Rock Island, Ill., July 21-24

Tuesday, July 19th
Zephyr Across Illinois

Photos by Dave Ingles

Tuesday morning, July 19, Carol and I left home about 8:30 to drive to Rockford to intercept Illinois Railway Museum's Nebraska Zephyr, en route from the museum at Union over UP to Rockford, then on CP's DM&E (former IC&E) to the Quad Cities. We were in phone contact with friend Lance Wales of the Rockford area, and caught up with the train about 11:15 a.m. in downtown Rockford, preparing to reshuffle the consist to go down the ramp onto the joint CP-Illinois Railway trackage south to Davis Jct. The line is former CB&Q/BN with MILW trackage rights. Up on the UP (ex-C&NW) in Rockford, IRM's restored CB&Q SW7 9255 had been removed as "third unit" behind CB&Q E5 9911A and C&NW F7A 411, and was just coupling to the Zephyr's observation car so it could lead southward to Davis Jct.

The BN "Rockford" sign is barely visible at left in the foliage as the train creeps down the interchange ramp, which I suspect is not used much anymore. I'm standing on the site of old RR facilities including the CB&Q passenger and freight station, whose retired agent who worked here (he's also a railfan) was on hand with his camera. "My desk used to be right about here," he said of a spot to the right out of view here.

We then quickly adjourned for this view of the old Burlington Rock River bridge, downtown as a backdrop. I photographed a CB&Q 4960 2-8-2 excursion here one time, in the rain. Surprisingly, we were joined by only a handful from the dozens of fans who'd been at the ramp.

The entire line is 10 mph, so we easily had time for these photos at 18th Ave.

It was also easy to go set up in a big photo line at Camp Grant, near the Rockford Airport, where Lance Wales and friends had cleared away brush so the BN station sign would be visible.

Having left Camp Grant about 12:20, we drove the old road, now Route 251, to Davis Jct., stopped at the Subway east of the village to grab lunch to go, parked trackside at the junction, ate lunch, and still waited a while for the Zephyr to show up. This is the Route 72 crossing at "DJ" at 1:04 pm.

He pulled onto the northeast quadrant connection and stopped. The view looks south toward Flagg Center (Rochelle's western extremity), on the Illinois Railway (formerly Illinois RailNet, BNSF, BN, and CB&Q). These days, Davis Jct. is unusual in having tracks that form a complete wye.

At 1:30 p.m. he pulled west across the diamond to reposition the switcher from the rear end to "third unit" (in tow -- only the E5 would "pull").

At this point, about 1:40, we left to run ahead to pick an action shot location. The route is the CP (DM&E, ex-IC&E, IMRL, Soo, MILW) main line, once the route of the UP "City" Streamliners, whose stop for Rockford was here at Davis Jct.

We chose the wide open area on the north end of Byron, where the old Chicago Great Western crossed the Milwaukee Road. Only a few other fans chose this spot. It was again very hot, and our 20- to 25-minute wait was well spent, in the shade, relaxing. The train passed, doing about 35 to 40 mph, at 2:20 p.m. We were told later that on the Route 72 bridge just west of Davis Jct., where the fans were standing wall-to-wall when we left town, at least one person passed out in the heat waiting for the train to leave "DJ."

In selecting Byron, we passed up a virtual duplicate of this view in Stillman Valley, the first town west of Davis Jct., mainly because then we'd have to negotiate going thru Byron in playing "catch-up." This view is at Leaf River, Ill., at 2:35 pm. The close-up views (50mm lens) were slides.

West of Leaf River, we overtook the train approaching a popular curve, and sure enough, around the curve up on a farmer's lane were about 20 people in the "photo line," to the right of the silos visible in this thru-the-windshield view.

Our last sequence was south of Shannon, Ill., on a county road, where at 3:30 p.m. the train was easing up to a stop signal east of Kittredge siding, just past the former junction point of the "Southwestern" line, which, going eastward, diverged northeast for Freeport, Beloit, Burlington Wis., and eventually Sturtevant, Wis. Disptacher indecision and incompetence had created a situation where the Zephyr would be delayed at least a couple of hours, so we bade it farewell and headed on to the Quad Cities. We were later told the Zephyr didn't even reach the Quad Cities until almost midnight!

Here was the situation at Kittredge. The Zephyr was to have pulled into the siding at the east switch to clear the main line, nosing up toward a parked empty ethanol train. This would allow freight #272, waiting on the main, to proceed east. Then the Zephyr was to wait while a loaded ethanol train -- which at this point had not even left Savanna, on the Mississippi River an hour or so to the west (by DM&E speeds) -- pulled up and exchanged consists with the empties. The dispatchers changed from first trick to second trick, and confusion reigned. The important point was that the day d.s. assumed there was room for the Zephyr to pull into the siding. NOT -- the empty ethanol train was against the foul point at the east end of the siding, not the west end as he assumed. The crew on #272 knew the easy way to handle things -- any competent model railroader would know it in a flash -- but the d.s. on duty would not let them do it, because, "The Chief wants to stick to the first plan." Finally, apparently, #272's crew's wise choice was allowed, but by then we were already heading on west. Here we see #272's engines, Soo SD60 6046 and CSX GE 5419, viewed from across a field of tall corn, towing the ethanol cars westward.  The two SD40's visible (leasers in BN green and a silver scheme) are from the parked ethanol train. Time here: 3:45 p.m.

We rolled thru Savanna seeing or hearing of no action on either DM&E or BNSF, and at Thomson, I wanted to take a digital shot of the preserved CB&Q depot. This is on the "Peavine" from Galesburg to Savanna. Well, as we turned the corner onto the main street, a northbound freight was passing the depot in the distance. We did a U-turn and went north 3 miles for this shot of the northbound, engines 9953/9335 and 128 cars, at 3 Mile Road at 4:30.

After the 9953 passed, we returned to Thomson, and as we approached the railroad on the main street, the gates came down again! So I just parked and got this shot of the second northbound, moving slowly, behind 977/5501/5276 with 116 cars, at 4:35 p.m., from the shady side (no big deal).

So, finally, here is the depot shot, at 4:40 p.m.

Approaching Clinton, we had heard scanner talk on UP's main line about a "2001 West," but were uncertain of his location, and were on the bridge into Iowa when we found out -- he was approaching from the east but then had to stop, as the d.s. pulled his signal across the bridge for some reason (we saw no boat in the river, so it was rail-yard-congestion related). So we did a U-turn, went back to Route 84, down the access road along the tracks, and made this photo, unfortunately under a big black cloud, which was welcome relief from the hot sun, though. Engine 2001 plus 8538 and two more (I didn't linger to get the numbers, being on UP property), at 5:01 p.m. We shot and got the heck off UP property, then headed thru Clinton non-stop and on toward the Quad cities. I've shot these Olympic units twice before -- first of a single unit, don't recall if it was this or 2002 -- on the west end of Clinton, as middle unit, on a sunny morning. Then both were assigned for a while to the Belvidere-West Chicago, Ill., train, and I shot them parked in Belvidere (train is a night job, or was), also a cloudy day.

We had heard of action on the DM&E's "river line" (old DRI&NW, or "Dry Line") between Clinton and Quad Cities, but saw nothing until encountering this BNSF (ex-Dry Line job) GAL-CLN, Galesburg-Clinton freight, easing up the passing siding at  LeClaire; he apparently would wait a while for the meet. The units are 2119/2814/1621, with about 75 cars, at 5:40 p.m. These were our last shots of the day.

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