Galesburg Railroad Days 2001

Saturday, June 23

I rolled out of Indianola at 6:15 Saturday morning and headed for the BNSF mains across southern Iowa and Galesburg Railroad Days 2001.  It was clear and cool, and looked like a fine day for train chasing.  I got to the junction of Hwys. 65 and 34 at 6:40 and there was a DTCX coal load going under the highway overpass.  I paced them east through Lucas as they made their run for Whitebreast Hill and then drove on ahead to catch them at Auburn Avenue, just east of the Chariton depot.

While waiting by the grade crossing in Chariton I heard the Russell detector on Main 2, and figured that there must be another train just ahead of the one I'd spotted in Lucas.  Just before the load arrived, a track inspector took over the grade crossing to put his hi-railer onto the westbound main.  The DTCX load came through at 7:00 with BNSF 9752 and 9734.

I'd already made up my mind not to spend too much time stopping to see trains along the way, so I hurried on over toward Albia.  There was quite a bit of discussion on the Ottumwa Sub. radio, with dispatcher JDK in for vacationing KRS today.  Things seemed to be stacking up around Ottumwa, and a GALLIN (4774 East) train had stalled with brake problems near the yard.  As I drove over the mainlines on Hwy. 34 near Halpin, I could see a manifest starting up the south hill - probably the train I'd heard on the Russell detector.  The dispatcher told them to come on up to Maxon to wait on the "mess" at Ottumwa.  I went to the old Hwy. 5 bridge just north of the junction with 34 and waited on the sidewalk for the train to come underneath me.  On the point were EMD 9061, BNSF 7043 and BNSF 6755.

I stopped briefly in Ottumwa to check out a BNSF coal load (MPWX cars) in the IMRL yard with the power getting ready to take the last one-third of the train up to Rutledge.  It was just after 8:00 and an IMRL freight was just starting eastward out of the yard.  The coal train had four units, BN 7800, 8000, 9644 and 9650.  I was tempted to stay around Ottumwa and take advantage of the congestion there to get some more images, but I still had at least couple of hours of driving ahead to reach Galesburg.

The scanner kept me posted on traffic as I continued down Hwy. 34.  There was a train ahead (9244 East) that the detectors were reporting at 540 axles and a bunch of eastbounders over my shoulder.  It was a busy morning on the BNSF!  Just short of Danville, I met an empty, UCEX cars with 9630 and 9707.  At the same time, the phone rang.  It was Steve Craven - we'd planned to meet up at Galesburg today.

Where are you?
About to come through Danville.  Where are you?
At Damon, coming by the ammunition plant.
There's a bunch of eastbounds behind me and one running just ahead.
Yeah, that'd be the one I'm paralleling right now.
Is it the 9244?
Yup, it's got four units.
Do you want to meet up somewhere like the Burlington depot or just keep going?
Let's meet at the depot.
Steve was waiting in the parking lot at the depot when I got to the bottom of Burlington hill.  His pickup has five antennas and is crammed with all sorts of radio gear.  He was monitoring the UHF communications between signal control points on the railroad and reading out the information on a laptop in his truck.  This has to be the ultimate in high-tech railfanning!  We visited briefly and Steve explained the readout on the PC screen.

We reviewed the route over to Galesburg, " Monmouth, go off 34 and take the blacktop to Cameron...", and started out.  I told Steve that if he didn't see me in the mirror, I'd be taking a picture and would catch up later.  Just as I pulled away from the depot, the gates went down, so I made a quick stop to get a picture of the "Burlington Switch" job returning to the yard at 10:00 with four cars.

I caught up to Steve before he was very far into Illinois and we passed the 9244, just as it met a westbound near Biggsville.  We stopped for a short conference in Cameron.  Steve wanted to go on into Galesburg and see if he could get tickets for the Yates City passenger excursion, so we split up.  He was to call if he couldn't get on the train.  I stayed to watch 9244 come through.  As soon as I parked, the BNSF sent two westbounds over the Cameron flyover, a grain train on the near track and a stacker behind.  BN 9244 arrived at 10:50 with EMD 9085, EMD 9071 and BNSF 9778, elephant style, pulling a 129 car AEPX coal load.

After 9244 was out of the way, I drove on toward Galesburg and went up onto the Thirlwell Road overpass.  Blessings on whatever powers prevailed when this bridge was built.  There is room here to park and watch the BNSF engine servicing and yard activities while safely out of the way of traffic.  I've been up here a number of times and never seen fans or visitors hassled by the police for parking or walking on the bridge.  It also has no security fence, making it a great spot for photographers.  Get your pictures while you can, someday something litigable is going to happen here - this can't last!  There was a lot of NS and Conrail power around today, mixed in with the BN and BNSF stuff.  I watched a set of engines roll under the bridge and took a number of other pictures of yard activities before driving on into the depot area to meet Steve.

Parking, always requiring a little creativity at Railroad Days, was a much bigger pain in 2001 than it's been in the past.  A nice spot just southeast of the depot had been taken over by several rented trucks, I assume supporting vendors and such at the depot.  Worse, the carnival had moved from downtown to a large, open area west of the depot, knocking out a great number of spaces.  I parked over by Knox College and walked through the carnival to the depot.  The weather was great, so parking far away was not a problem this year.  I can recall a couple of past events when it was in the mid-90's where, without parking, I probably would have just skipped the depot stuff entirely.  Steve had called to say that he couldn't get tickets for the Yates City train and so we were to meet up again at the depot.

With Main 1 occupied by equipment on display, traffic was squeezed down to a single track.  We watched a freight, with BNSF 2850 and BN 7142, come in from the east and hang a left into the yard.  We were south of the tracks in front of the depot but, happily, were not chased away by the teenage cop-wannabes this year. Metra equipment had been brought in to provide free yard tours, as has been the routine for several years.

The BNSF had dredged up an early SD-70 MAC, somewhat faded and hastily relettered for BNSF, to put on display at the depot.  They also had some work equipment, a rotary plow and three F units from the executive train on display.  The unions and a few crafts were set up in a tent west of the depot.  The signal people were explaining automatic car identification using an HO train set and recordings on headphones.  I got RR Days T's for the grandkids and Steve and I grabbed some lunch at the depot before heading out to Carl Sandburg College for the Train Show.

The Sandburg College affair was great, as usual - lots of layouts and tons of vendors.  I heard later that tickets to get into the event ($4.00/adult) had been selling at a rate of 300 per hour.  Parking here was limited as well, but only because the show was well attended, not because of poor planning.  Here's a selection of images from the show:

Kids enjoying the HO-scale traffic on the Great River Railway Club HO layout
A couple of modules from the huge DaytonNtrak layout in the gym: Zephyr and Fire scene
Ron Cramer (St Louis, MO) - Kato Unitrak N scale layout
G(arden) Scale
Thunder Road Hobbies - N layout
Don Foster (Morrison, IL) - Four seasons N layout: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter
River City O Gauge - Full of sounds and motion - reminded me of my childhood in Tipton, IA, and the hardware store window at Christmas time.
Bloomington-Normal N modular - attempting to run a 75+ car grain train of pink hoppers.
Lake Michigan Car Ferry display module. - an intricate HO model.
The large M,Z and D layout, featuring a working lift bridge.
Bill Selleck's under-construction model of the former Galesburg depot and N layout, divided into vingettes.

Of course there were plenty of vendors, both of models and of memorabilia.  Steve (right in picture) picked up a few of Robert Brown's fascinating, self-published works on midwestern railroad history.  We both managed to spend a few bucks here.  Steve found some undecorated HO GP-38's he was looking for and I got some Accurail autoracks (I confess - built-up - I just can't find the time for stick-by-stick models anymore.).  Around 3:00, we encountered Harry Grossman just outside the college library.  This is the man whose prodigious efforts make the college's Train Show such a great success.  Harry said that next year's show will include a model-building contest - looks like Bill (above) has a head start on a winner.

Steve and I left Sandburg around 3:30.  I (and many others) found a little RR Days souvenir on the windshield, fortunately just a warning.  We drove around the west side of the city on the bypass, since there was quite a bit of construction in town and it had been a slow trip out to the college.  I was in the lead and drove all the way back to Cameron, where there were fans with still and video cameras catching the BNSF traffic on both of the old rail lines, CB&Q and AT&SF.

Interestingly, the first couple of trains to come through were UP-powered.  Steve busied himself analyzing the data coming in from the signals on his PC while I took pictures.  At 4:50 a distributed power coal load came in on the lower track, AEPX cars led by BNSF 8824.  Before the rear of the coal load cleared, an eastbound stacker came onto the flyover.  This was the sort of action that attracts railfans to Cameron and to the "mixmaster" junction connecting the two lines just to the east of town.  BNSF 9970 brought up the rear of the coal train.  (Steve and I were parked well off the roadway, just in case you noticed the idiots behind us and were wondering.)

Steve wanted to move over into the junction area to work on his signal decoding, and I was ready to start back west toward home, so we split up around 5:00.  I drove all the way back to Burlington just monitoring the radio.  There was quite a jam-up there.  A CEFX load, to be taken down the K-Line, was parked up at the top of Burlington hill awaiting a crew that had just arrived from the south on BNSF 9461 and awaited a van to take them up to their train.  The GALLIN (BNSF 4647 East) had stalled on the hill and was being pushed out of town by the power from a coal empty.  I got to the rear of the GALLIN just east of the West Burlington shops as the pusher crew, on BNSF 9423 and BN 9634, was cutting off to go back after their own train.

I drove west a bit and intercepted 4647 and BN 2701 at a grade crossing.  The crew told the dispatcher that even though they were now on the move, they would probably stall again going into Lockridge and up into Albia.  Plans were made to reduce the train by 25 cars at the New London siding.  Detectors reported it at 426 axles as I paced them westward.  At Danville the GALLIN met a waiting coal load, GEAX cars behind BN 9547 and 9576.  I followed along into New London (in railfan heaven all the roads run right beside the tracks) where another eastbound was parked, CWEX cars with BN 9704 and 9510.  I stopped for fuel while 4647's crew started to work, hanging onto their first car (probably a wide load, from the look) and setting out the next 25.  It was about 6:30.

Between New London and Mount Pleasant I spotted two more coal loads waiting for traffic to start moving at Burlington.  Both were UCEX hopper trains, the first with BN 9455 and BNSF 8930 and the second with BNSF 9407 and BN 9639.  From the radio I heard that the GALLIN got on the move again at 6:51.  I stopped and got a sandwich to take to the depot in Mt Pleasant, arriving there around 7:00.  4647 hit the detector east of town, now with 326 axles, and barreled through town about five after.  They were followed very closely by an IPWX empty, powered by the engines I'd seen pushing the GALLIN up Burlington hill.  9423 has been recently converted from BN to BNSF reporting marks.  The nose treatment, covering the old BN logo, shows well in this shot of the train coming through the station platform area.

The next train in, at 7:23, was a UCEX empty with BN 9461 and 9608.  Then we had an eastbound, slowing to stop to inspect the train out east of town because a detector had caught a hot journal.  This was a set of CWEX tub gons behind BNSF 9447 and BN 9520.

It was a beautiful clear evening, mid-70's, and the Mt. Pleasant depot was populated with train-watchers as well as a handful of customers tonight.  I had fond hopes of getting a nice picture of Amtrak No. 5 before the shadows overcast the depot, but they ran too late even for a night near the summer solstice.  Just before 8:00 most of the passengers moved over to the north side of the tracks.  However, it was twenty after before the agent came out and tractor'd the baggage over to my position west of the station.

At 8:30, an hour and twenty-four minutes late, the California Zephyr arrived.  As you can see from the picture, I was running low on light.  The automatic exposure in the camera fired the shutter at a slow 1/25 of a second, but my panned image nailed the nose of the GEnesis unit perfectly.  In the CZ tonight:

AMTK 164 and 154
Material Car 1504
Baggage Car 1763
Transition Sleeper 39038
Sleeping Cars 32001 and 32026
Dining Car 38021
Sightseer Lounge 33008
Coaches 31592, 34078, 34090 and 34099
Sleeping Car 32030
Seven Boxcars and One Roadrailer
They made their stop and reported to the dispatcher, ":26 and :31"  The eastbound that had been stopped by the detector finally got moving, allowing another load to come through right after Amtrak pulled out.  This was a set of 127 WFAX hoppers pulled by BN 9703 and 9478.

I started on toward home around 9:00, following the activity on the railroad just by listening to the scanner.  I heard Amtrak over several detectors, "...Total Axles, Eight-Eight...",  after their stops at Ottumwa, "21:17 and 21:29", and at Osceola, "fifty and twentythree hundred, straight up".  I rolled ito a stop myself about 23:30.

That's It!