Unwelcome Railfans
Galesburg, Illinois
June 12, 1998


Byron and I headed for Galesburg early on Friday morning, leaving Indianola around 7:00. We stopped first in Beech on the UP Spine line, since I'd heard from a friend that there'd been a boxcar fire there the day before. Sure enough, a Route Rock load of baled scrap paper was sitting on the stub track south of the grade crossing. I hiked down the siding to get a couple of pictures. Most of the car's load had been dragged out onto the ground in order to extinguish the fire, and the car, CNW 718199, didn't look to be too seriously damaged.

We just missed a northbound on the Spine at Williamson. I'd heard it earlier get a warrant from Allerton to Carlisle, with an "IRML" lead unit, as the dispatcher called it.

We turned east at Chariton and followed Hwy. 34. When we were about 10 miles out of Albia, we heard a warrant given to a westbound at Maxon, so we took a short gravel road south to the west end of the CTC at Halpin. At 8:30 a manifest came by us with BNSF 716, BN 7140 and 7149.

In the yard at Albia, BN 5119 and KCS 742 were waiting with a crew on board. I imagine these units were on hand to do helper duty while track work continues on the south hill. Things were still pretty quiet this morning, so we continued eastward.

As we approached Ottumwa we heard dispatcher "KRS" instructing the BNSF Special Agent to detain two subjects and turn them over to the Ottumwa police. We didn't hear with what these persons were charged - I hope it wasn't, taking pictures!

We'd been following a coal load led by Oakway 9010 eastward and heard a local get permission to follow it out of town. At the east end of the yard we saw the local, with SF 2941 and BN 2821, leaving town at 9:30.

Just east of Agency we caught up to the coal load. I decided to try and intercept it for a picture at Batavia, but we got to the grade crossing just as they were going past us. On the point were OWY 9010, CR 526 and KCS 726, and the coal was in DEEX gondolas.

With the coal load and the local running alongside, we continued up the BNSF line. We stopped in Fairfield where I'd spotted some cabooses north of the highway. On what was once the route of the Golden State, just north of the old Rock Island depot (now serving as a credit union) we found a collection of cabooses, outfit cars and passenger cars.

Among the cars, all marked with "Private Property - No Trespassing" signs: MoPac 13866, 13758 and 13896, CC (ICG) 199523, and freshly-painted ATSF 999565. At another location to the north near the BNSF mains, we found Southern X407 and X536 as well. Some of the passenger cars appeared to have come from the Purple Martin near Atlantic, Iowa.

At 10:50 we stopped just east of New London as the 9010 met a westbound empty. This train of BN gons had SD70 MACs BNSF 9735 and BN 9590 on the point.

Our next stop was at the top of Burlington Hill at the BN shops in West Burlington. Standing outside the shop today: BN 6332, 5078, 4110, 7802, 7276 and Oakway (EMD) 9032. A long line of SF U-Boats was parked south of the shop. In the line: SF 8152, 8157, 8159, 8143, 8158 and 8161. A city police officer was holding a conversation with a person on the first unit, so we kept our distance from company property.

Byron and I got take-out lunch and headed down to the Burlington depot and yard area to eat. When we arrived at 11:50, the local we'd been pacing from Ottumwa had pulled into the yard and a manifest was ready to go west with BNSF 4732 in Heritage II paint and BN 8017 in green. The grade crossing just west of the depot was torn up and only the north main was in service, so eastbounds were crossing over between Lucas and South Streets.

At 12:13, a short eastbound out of Des Moines arrived and went into the yard behind unusual power, UP 2487 and BN 9498. Other power in the yard: BN 6323 and 7269.

Between the yard and the river we spotted this black Alco (S-1?), numbered 22, being inspected as it sat outside a blue and white building. Later in the weekend I read a message about the derailment of a similar unit at the IPSCO plant near Montpelier, and wondered if this activity or unit might somehow be related. The unit did not appear (at least on the right side) to be damaged.

We crossed into Illinois, where our route took us south of the tracks. We drove into and through Kirkwood, getting back on Hwy. 34 just as we spotted a westbound with BN 2770 and 1922 with 13 cars. On the way home we saw this train tied up at the Albia yard.

Out of Monmouth, we followed a road that goes straight east into Cameron, where the SF line crosses above the BN. We then jogged north a short distance to Monson Road and headed for Galesburg. At 1:22, just a few miles west of Galesburg on the "passenger line", we met the GALOMA with BN 2127 and SF 3842.

Once in the southwest corner of Galesburg, we went up on the bridge over the BNSF yards to see what was on hand at the engine service facilities. We spotted the following power: BN 3110, 6789, 6191, 6159, 5335, 5081, 5582, 5034, 5016 and 6244; BNSF 1700 (repainted cabless GP) with a matching cab unit (didn't get the number), BNSF 6212, 6131 and 4749 (partly painted); SF 626, 5335 and 5002; GT 5846 and HLCX 3621.

At 2:20, we found the load we'd been following most of the morning, with OWY 9010, tied up northwest of the yard. We drove around the city for a while, stopping at the Amtrak depot to check on No. 6. It was expected around 3:30. Just east of the depot, at 2:35, a westbound came through with BN 2878, 2340 and SF 2347 and six cars.

Things were really quiet, so we stopped at a spot west of the old SF depot to see if any traffic would materialize. The location I picked is an open area south of the tracks where there's a fairly large expanse of weeds and gravel. At Galesburg Railroad Days last year, I'd noticed that this was a popular location with railfans, and that it often had a half dozen tripods with video and still cameras in place. We parked just off the street and well clear of the tracks.

In a couple of minutes, Byron said, "Here come the police...It's the railroad police!" Sure enough, speeding through the weeds from the west came a shiny white Lumina with assorted blue and yellow logos, stripes and lettering on it (the latest corporate confusion scheme from BNSF, perhaps?).

The large uniformed driver turned his car so that he could talk to me from the window and asked rhetorically, "Taking pictures?" (No sir! We're saboteurs in a Flame Red Jeep with railroad vanity plates. You'd better arrest us right now!) Actually, the guy was very friendly, and after telling us we'd have to move off of railroad property, he pointed out a different location where we might be able to park. (This was on someone else's private property, however, so I assume trespassing's not exactly a matter of principle with him...) I'll be interested, when I'm back in this town in two weeks for Railroad Days, to see if railfans who visit this location then are hassled by the BNSF like we were today.

We decided to try Cameron again and intercept the California Zephyr there. A ballast regulator was at work when we arrived. I noticed that the Santa Fe flyover bridge had been propped up with steel pilings at the east end of the south track.

The Zephyr arrived in Cameron at 3:30, over two hours down. On the point were GEnesis units 98 and 41, and "Pepsi Can" 509. We stuck around for a short time to see an intermodal come over the bridge on the SF line. It turned out that we weren't very welcome in Cameron, either. While we cruised, two little girls erected a tresspassing (sic) sign to let us know that they didn't care to have foamers parking in their town. I can understand, it must be pretty hard to find anything to do in this tiny town in the summertime, you might as well play Cops and Railfans.

Clouds had gathered and we drove back west through a heavy downpour. Just after passing Monmouth, we saw an eastbound headed toward us, so I drove back east to a grade crossing to intercept it at 4:09. This was a manifest with OWY 9043, BN 5014 and OWY 9080 in charge.

We drove on toward home, stopping west of New London to catch another eastbound at 5:20. This was a coal load with new (5-98) ESCX cars behind BN 5574 (red number boards), 5597 and 5543.

We stopped in Ottumwa for supper and had a look around the depot area while waiting on another coal load. They came into town around 7:40 with BN 5547, 5516 and BNSF 5188 (ex-SF hasty renumber). The eastbound main along the depot platform in Ottumwa is in pretty rough shape, with the ties way down in the mud. As the load went through, little geysers of goop squirted up onto the bottoms of the cars. Some ballast had been dumped recently on top of the mud and ties.

We paid a quick visit to the IMRL yard, just as an eastbound was pulling with a solid block of empty autoracks. On the point were NS 3504 and 3313, both with high short hoods. On the way over to Albia we heard that they did not make it up the hill and had to have power from a train up at Rutledge come down and help them out. The dispatcher's radio was still sticking in the transmit position just as it had when we came through in the morning.

At Albia we checked out the yard and then drove all the way out to New Maxon where the train formerly known as 492 (with BN 3138 and 1379 on the head end tonight) had stopped on main two and cut off to do some work on main one. Since No. 5 was getting close, the dispatcher was nervous, but they got their setout made and hurried back over onto track two with 11 minutes to spare before the westbound Zephyr arrived.

No. 5 came by us at 8:44, racing to make up lost time. Its passage was one of those "railfan rush" events - you might be able to sense the speed from the accompanying picture and sound (148K .au file). 492 headed out of town at 8:50.

We knew that another coal train was waiting at the bottom of the hill, and even though it was getting too dark for picutures, we drove to the Packing House crossing and waited to hear and see it grind past us at 9:09. On the point were OWY 9038 and BN 7857 and 5522 with WISX loads. They were to cross over at Maxon and run on the westbound main to the power plant at ISU.

That's It!