Galesburg with Bob Drenten

Tuesday, May 21



I rolled out of Indianola early Tuesday to meet my friend Bob Drenten.  Bob moved from Sioux Center to Falmouth, Michigan about a year ago and had taken two days of vacation just to do some train-watching in Galesburg.  He'd contacted me by email a while back and asked if I'd like to get together.  Since Monday was the last Faculty meeting of the year my schedule was open and I took the day to make a round trip to Galesburg.

I was on the road by 5:00 on a clear and cool morning.  I got to watch the sun rise on I-80 from the driver's seat over around Newton, where the Jeep's thermometer read just 37 degrees.  With a couple of brief pit stops along the way, I managed to get to the Galesburg depot about 8:45.  Bob had stayed overnight in town and was already waiting.

We started the day with a drive out to the overpass above the BNSF yard southwest of town.  This wide viaduct provides room to park and lacks the usual chain-link fencing, making it perfect for railfans.  There were a couple of others around this morning.  I shot a number of locos from the north side of the bridge:  BNSF 2923, BNSF 2919, LLPX 2804, IC 6109, CN 6254, EMD 9012, ATSF 829, BNSF 6937 and BNSF 4536.

Bob and I next went west out to the Cameron flyover where, when these railroads were distinct corporate entities, the Santa Fe line passed above the Burlington Northern.  Our first train, at 10:27, was a UP-powered westbound autorack train on the SF line led by UP 4340, 3177 6039 and 4167.  We hung around for almost an hour, taking pictures of miscellaneous things like low rail joints, until the next train appeared.  This was a BN DTCX coal load, also sporting a UP unit.  The coal drag came under the flyover with UP 6693 and BN 9518 in the lead.

Our next move placed us back east of the town of Cameron, in the middle of the two wye tracks connecting the SF and BN lines.  There we watched an eastbound piggyback train with three BNSF units, 4476, 5402 and 4391, come in on the Santa Fe line and take the crossover (note the signal indication) from Main 2 to Main 1.  Together, the three units presented a nice example of three degrees of fading of the BNSF orange paint.

Bob and I had lunch at the Packinghouse restaurant, just north of the Galesburg depot, and then headed back out toward the Cameron "mixmaster" to see if we could catch the eastbound passenger trains, both running a couple of hours behind schedule.  On the way out we spotted a couple of NS units, CR 6738 and NS 1629, on a manifest waiting to enter the west end of the yard.

I made the phone calls to 1-800-USA-RAIL and got the expected arrivals of the Southwest Chief and the California Zephyr.  We staked out the SF line, since it sounded like No. 4 would arrive first.  The Chief's headlight appeared at 2:10.  In the lead were AMTK 193, 121, 43 and 64.  They pulled the usual passenger consist: baggage, transition sleeper (crew car), two sleeping cars, diner, sightseer lounge and three coaches.  Trailing all of this was the freight, eleven box cars and nine roadrailers.  The train took a right turn off of the SF line, and we watched them round the curve , pass various sets of signals, and run a short distance south before going left around another wye track and onto the BN rails.

From the scanner we learned that the Zephyr was out of Burlington at 2:30, so we went southeast to the BN line, figuring they would be arriving shortly.  Indeed, when we got to the road just west of "Graham", the connection of the C,B & Q passenger and freight lines, we found the signals lined for the passenger train's direct run to the depot.  Just at 3:00, a freight came around the connection and stopped short of the road crossing where we awaited the passenger train.  The freight had BNSF 7052, BNSF 6939 and BNSF 8638 on the point.  In a few minutes the signal on Main 2 went red and the route was lined for the freight.  The conductor told Bob that Amtrak was having signal problems and, "They're going to take us first."  They started their train, leaving Bob on the south side of the rails and myself on the north, and headed for the yard using the passenger main.

With a flashing yellow signal on Main 2 at Graham, the Zephyr , led by AMTK 100, came in at 3:21 and blew by us in a great cloud of dust.  The passenger train consist had one more sleeper than the Chief and trailed five box cars, a Material car and five roadrailers.  An AEPX coal empty had been waiting east of Graham to come onto the mainlines and started west at 4:00.  On the head end were BN 9564 and 9552.

At this point I took Bob back to the depot and we said good-bye for the time being.  It was great getting a chance to visit with him and catch up on the news in our respective lives.  He was planning to stay over another night in Galesburg and then start back for Michigan on Wednesday.  My plan was to follow the BNSF back west and take my time rather than using the Interstate as I had on the way over.

I almost made it to Cameron in time for a westbound freight, possibly the GALLIN or some such symbol.  They went through at 4:45, just as I was coming under the Santa Fe flyover.  I caught and passed them on the way out to Monmouth and pulled over in Kirkwood to get pictures.  Entering Kirkwood, the freight was running on Main 2 and received a warrant the rest of the way to the river on the south track.  This train had BNSF 5458, BN 8063, BNSF 8881 and BNSF 781 on the point.

After catching the GAL-whatever at Kirkwood, I highballed all the way to Mt. Pleasant and picked up a sandwich at Hardees before going to the depot to wait on No. 5.  From the radio it sounded like they were passing some trains stopped at Connett and Illinois Junction, and I figured that I had about a 50 mile lead on them.  Leaving Hardees I saw the rear end of a coal load going through town around 6:10.

As it turned out, I had a fairly long wait for No. 5.  I parked a block west of the depot, ate my supper and then just wandered around taking pictures of miscellany like the Jeep and Main 2 mud holes.  The passenger train finally showed up at 7:23.  Leading was AMTK 184.  There being no attendant at the depot on Tuesday evening, a few teenagers who were meeting someone got caught on the south side of the tracks.  No problem, they climbed through the baggage car to meet their fare.  Conductor "Doc" Livingston was on the platform to help the customers while the CZ made its short stop.  They were out of station at 7:30.  The consist tonight:

AMTK 184, 144 and 99 (99 had met with some misfortune and had a gash in her side)
Baggage 1702
Transition Sleeper 39039
Coaches 34053, 34045 and 31527
Sightseer Lounge 33011
Diner 38025
Sleepers 32094 (Montana) and 32043
Material Car 1426
Ten Boxcars and six Roadrailers
My next stop on the way home, around 8:20, was to check out a parked coal load between Batavia and Agency.  I'd heard some comments on the radio about there being several dead crews and some dog-catching underway.  However, what attracted my attention to this particular train was the setting sun.  On the point of the CEFX load were BNSF 9519 and 9579.  I'd now put bookends on this fine day, watching both sunrise and sunset over Iowa.

9519 was parked near enough to the next set of approach-lit signals to the east that they'd remained on.  The signal for the north track was yellow and had turned to red, so I figured I would have a westbound soon.  In the background of the last shot, you can see the Hwy. 16 bridge that goes down into Eldon.  I moved up onto that overpass and waited for the westbound train.  Just before 8:30 I caught 9564, the coal empty I'd seen at Graham a few hours earlier, as it came under the highway and rolled off into the twilight.

That was the last picture of the day.  I got back to Indianola, after a short stop to help some people who'd hit a deer, about 10:45.  The car that hit the deer had passed me just a few miles before the incident, so I'm grateful to them, that could have been my deer!

That's It!