Texas Eagle detour ride
Oct. 2-3, 2010

Photos by Dave Ingles

Monuments and Ghosts -- A ride on Amtrak's "St. Louis Express"

To most of us, the Texas Eagle detour during programmed trackwork for higher-speed operation on UP's old GM&O line south of Springfield, Ill., was on "the C&EI." But Chicago & Eastern Illinois has been gone for 4 decades, and successor Missouri Pacific for almost 3 decades. Friend Otto Dobnick, who retired early (he's only 57) and is enjoying it immensely, has become increasingly put off by the hassles of flying and is becoming interested in riding all the normal Amtrak routes he has ignored for decades. Moreover, "neat, special stuff" always intrigues him, and he jumped at the chance to ride this Eagle detour, planning with Rick Moser a trip over October's first weekend. I soon became interested, too -- it was an excuse for a nice train ride. Rick flew to Dallas on Saturday morning and boarded #22 Saturday afternoon. Otto and I took Hiawatha #334 to Chicago on Saturday midday to ride #21 to St. Louis, having reserved rooms Saturday night at the Pear Tree Inn on Market Street not far from the new Gateway Station (Amtrak, intercity bus, and Bi-State's light-rail). We begin the photos in Chicago; the title above comes from the structures and rights-of-way, usually abandoned, and other neat old stuff we would see and photograph. The photos are with a point-and- shoot Canon, thru our Superliner windows.

The Arrivals & Departures TV screen in Union Station's first-class Metro lounge confirms the detour.

BNSF Metra yard empty on Saturday save for this FRA safety car.

UP's ex-C&EI Canal Street yard empty except for the ex-IC switcher of contract switching firm Chicago Rail Link; UP had just opened a new intermodal hub near Joliet and pulled out of this faciilty.

A slight delay at 81st St. by the Belt Railway of Chicago dispatcher as an NS train from Clearing Yard goes across in front of us, bound for Calumet Yard. We have just met northbound Texas Eagle #22 (on the other side of our train).

Dolton Tower, still manned but probably not for long. It's aligned with the old PRR Panhandle line, whose right of way we look northwest on. Tower is now staffed by Indiana Harbor Belt. We have just crossed (behind us to the right here) the IHB and CSX's B&OCT main lines. We have been on the UP since near 81st St., first the Chicago & Western Indiana and now the Chicago & Eastern Illinois.

A railfan ridiing in the room across the hall invited us over to look out his window and make photos during the brief stop to change crews at the south end of Yard Center, in the suburb of South Holland.

The bridge is the Calumet River, which empties into Lake Michigan in NW Indiana.

Jay Tower in Chicago Heights, crossing of CN's Elgin, Joliet & Eastern; tower is no longer staffed, but CN controls the crossing and we waited almost 15 minutes for a westbound CN train to show up before proceeding.

Illinois countryside south of Momence

Glover, Ill.,, the old U.S. 150 bridge over the C&EI where it crossed the parallel Peoria & Eastern (Big Four/NYC) and Illinois Terminal. This is all just south of I-74 between Danville and Champaign. We look west on the old P&E right of way, abandoned here under either Conrail or NS.

South of Sidney, Ill., NS in the last decade or two built a connection off its ex-Wabash Detroit-Ft Wayne-Decatur main line to the old C&EI and gained trackage rights on UP south to the division point of Salem, Ill. We look north here up the connection, a "question mark" shape on the southwest quadrant of NS's bridge over the UP, and there is a westbound NS train going by whose trailers are just visible here. At the next passing siding, we overtook a parked NS southbound that had come down this connection.

The diner lounge car had the proper poster on the wall. The consists bounce back and forth on the Eagle and the City of New Orleans.

We made a 3-minute pilot-change stop at UP's division point of Villa Grove, Ill.

Looking north on the CN/IC main line toward Champaign at Tuscola, Ill. See photos taken in this vicinity under the Oct. 17 page of "Twin-Steam weekend" a couple of weeks after this trip.

Sullivan, Ill., looking northwest on CN/IC's Mattoon-Decatur-Peoria line.

Daylight is fading as we, in the diner, cross an arm of manmade Lake Shelbyville, near Findlay, Ill., where UP's old C&EI splits for St. Louis and southern Illinois.

Sunday sunrise from the hotel. The Eagle from Texas was right on time.

From the Gateway Station overhead concourse. Eagle at left, morning Kansas City Rail Runner at right.

Eagle ready to go.

Concourse from next to the locomotive.

One bus ready to take local Eagle passengers to Illinois points short of Chicago.

View from MacArthur bridge of Gateway Arch, downtown St. Louis, and a northbound tow on the Mississippi River. Why do they call 'em "tows" when they are really pushed?

Looking back at MacArthur bridge. Used to be city-owned; I think TRRA traded ownership of Eads Bridge for this one when the light-rail was built across Eads.

I-55/64 is empty on a Sunday morning; you can see the tow in the river; the Steak n Shake billboard has been there for ages, but the blurb "46 area outlets" now is in small letters at the lower left, used to be the main message.

UP still staffs Lenox Tower in Mitchell, where the Alton & Southern comes up and ends, crossing (from the east) NS's ex-Wabash main and then our UP (ex-NYC/Big Four here). Across our train to the right is the dual single-track main lines of the UP (ex-GM&O) and KCS (ex-NYC original route thru East Alton, later PC, Conrail, and then Gateway Eastern, a subsidiary of Gateway Western, which is how KCS got it.)

Rick Moser and Otto Dobnick trying to fully wake up in the Sightseer Lounge after breakfast.

The old tower in Pana, Ill., still stands, as does the old joint station baggage building behind it. We are looking south from the old C&EI alignment, now UP's track, right down the Illinois Central "charter line" alignment. Just beyond the tower at the IC-NYC diamond was the Big Four/NYC main line going east (left) to Indiana; it and the C&EI tied together to our right about a quarter mile. C&EI had rights into St. Louis on NYC, but had its own yard north of Lenox Tower in Mitchell. The IC-NYC depot was between the two remaining buildings. C&EI had a small depot of its own, and so did B&O, which had a branch thru here between Springfield and Flora, Ill.

Lake Shelbyville in full sunlight.

Another "ghost": the old PRR branch from Terre Haute to Peoria; we look northwest in Arthur, Ill.

This is Amish country; note the lack of electric lines to the farmhouses.

Scanner talk from the engine alerted us to some of the local Amish folks at trackside to wave to the unusual occurrence, a passenger train thru their lands.

Tuscola's main drag is pretty dead on a Sunday morning.

A "ghost trailer" at Villa Grove.

Up at Watseka, we were in the diner for lunch, but on the wrong side for a good shot of the depot, relocated from right next to the diamond with the TP&W.

MoPac caboose and restored C&EI depot in Beecher, Ill.

Action again at 81st St. in Chicago, but this time we didn't stop.

U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, aka "the Cell," aka "Sox Park," home of the White Sox; a game was just ending.

Hope you enjoyed the ride.

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