Galesburg Railroad Days '98
June 26 and 27


Byron and I left Indianola Friday morning to follow the BNSF line east to Galesburg, Illinois, for Railroad Days. It was a warm and humid morning with a strong south breeze. Our first stop, at 9:30, was out at the east end of Chariton to intercept a westbound empty. On the point were BN 9554 and 9564. The train had a mixture of reporting marks on its hoppers.

We knew from radio conversations that an eastbound was in the vicinity, so we drove to the west end of the Chariton yard to catch it. They came up Whitebreast hill and into town at 10:00 with BNSF 9834, BN 9680 and loaded FSTX gondolas.

We drove east on Hwy. 34, making a brief stop in Albia for donuts. When we reached Ottumwa at about 11:00 it was already 80 degrees. A BN coal load, of MARX cars, was getting ready to tackle the hill on the IMRL up to Rutledge. I drove in by the yard office to get a look at the power, BN 5116, SF 8154 and BN 5578. Water was being added to the 5116.

We intercepted our next train at Agency, a westbound empty with BN 9666, 9464, and DEGX hoppers.

A load, of NCUX hoppers, had stopped at Batavia to pick up an engine from a westbound, and was backing to pick up the conductor when we arrived. An empty arrived and met them at 11:40. On the head end were BNSF 9846 and BN 7215. In a couple of minutes, the power on the eastbound backed past us, with BN 9649, 9476 and badly smoking 9582.

We were expecting Amtrak to catch up to us pretty soon, so we stopped for lunch in Fairfield and hung out for a while at the depot there. We finally heard that they were still well behind us, so we headed on up the line toward Burlington.

At 1:15, just west of Lockridge, we found a ribbon-rail train shoving west on the westbound main. The train had caboose 10781, a couple of hoppers as a buffer, the rail, and two old GE units, BN 5500 and 5137.

At Burlington we went down to the bottom of the hill and took up a position down by the K-line connection to await the eastbound California Zephyr. They were scheduled for 11:54 a.m., but finally made their stop and rolled again at 2:32 p.m. In No. 6 today:

GEnesis units 81, 61 and 18
Baggage Car 1736
Transition Sleeper 39009
Sleeping Cars 32039, 32059 and 32053
Dining Car 38033
Sightseer Lounge 33008
Coaches 31531 (smoking), 34000, 34069 and 34028
Box Car 71113
Material Cars 1450, 1556 and 1426
We watched them take the curve onto the Mississippi river bridge before resuming our trek toward Galesburg.

We took Hwy. 34 to Monmouth and then went straight east on a blacktop that parallels the old BN mains into Cameron. Without speeding, actually in fairly heavy traffic, we managed to catch the Zephyr at Cameron, since it was forced to follow a coal load today. Out of Cameron, we followed Munson Road into Galesburg, catching the Zephyr one more time. We saw them roll from the Galesburg depot at 3:45, three hours down from their schedule.

As soon as the CZ left, the Nebraska Zephyr equipment was brought into position in front of the depot for display during RR Days on the westbound passenger main. The stripes on the front of 9911 have been repainted since the last time I saw her, and she looked really sharp in the bright afternoon sun, nosed right up to the passenger walkway.

With stunning foresight, the people working on the equipment display now noticed they had to put a road/rail crane on the rails between the Zephyr and a flatcar set out earlier just to the east. The only place to jockey the crane into position was the passenger crosswalk in front of the depot. The sidewalls of the crane's rubber tires took quite a beating, but it was eventually positioned and set up to look as if it were about to lift the flat by the coupler. As far as we could tell, that's where the whole mess sat, not doing anything, the rest of the weekend. The remainder of the westbound main, east to the next grade crossing, was unoccupied.

At 4:15, the eastbound Southwest Chief (No. 4) arrived with the following consist:

AMTK 25, 40 and 512
Material Car 1503
Baggage Car 1714
Transition Sleeper 39037
Coaches 34097, 34092, 34138 and 31541 (Smoking)
Sightseer Lounge 33014
Dining Car 38040
Sleeping Cars 32063 and 32104 (Oklahoma)
Material Cars 1550, 1434, 1468, 1461, 1568 and 1542
They made a quick stop and were on their way to Chicago at 4:20.

Byron and I headed out to Carl Sandburg College to see how preparations were coming for the Train Show. We quickly located Train Show director Harry Grossman, who dispatched us back to the Sandburg Mall for the parade marking the opening of Railroad Days weekend. We staked out a little corner of shade by the parade route and watched the floats, trains and antiques go by. We even saw the BNSF cop that had chased us away from the tracks a couple of weeks ago. Harry told us to be sure to get a picture of the Train Show entry in the parade - an engine, tender and caboose complete with smoke and sound effects.

After the parade we got supper at the Shake and Steak, and then returned to the depot to do some more train-watching. Parked west of the depot we found an old SD, BN 6177, and a set of cars reserved for BNSF employees. I don't know if this equipment ever moved - while we were there it just stayed parked. The cars were Regal Hunt, Stampede Pass (HEP power car), Flathead River, Como, Fox River and Glacier View. This equipment was closely patrolled by a BNSF cop convention at the west end and clearly labeled "Admission by Invitation Only". I was reminded of a song called "Signs", with the line "...you ain't supposed to be here.." Flathead River and Fox River appear to be some sort of converted commuter equipment.

We paid a short visit to the yard overpass which, in spite of the sweltering heat and humidity, was well-populated with railfans. Things were pretty quiet in the yard below.

Back down at the depot, things were picking up as traffic moved through on the only open track. We saw a westbound manifest at about 8:00 with a long string of power, BN 7168, 3553, NS 9079, SF 2301, BN 1505 and SF 3414. We began to pick up snatches of converstation on the radio about a problem on the Chilicothe sub. of the SF. We learned Saturday morning that there'd been a collision between two trains and fire just east of Ft. Madison on the Illinois side of the river.

At 8:20, the westbound Southwest Chief (No. 3) came in with the following consist:

AMTK 9, 32 and 14
Baggage Car 1249
Transition Sleeper 39021
Coaches 34049, 34087, 34026 and 31537 (Smoking)
Sightseer Lounge 33025
Dining Car 38042
Sleeping Cars 32056 and 32050
Baggage Car 1193
Material Cars 1527, 1458, 1470, 1535, 1403, 1517 and 1404
The Chief made a long stop, then pulled west to pick up a pilot at 8:47.

We'd been able to see more than one headlight to the east for some time, and the next train allowed to come in was the Illinois Zephyr (No. 347), at 8:47. This train had GEneis unit No. 8 on the point, and it was cut off, turned and parked on the stub track in front of the depot for display. The train went on south with engine 513, Cafe 20012, and Coaches 54004, 54532 and 54566. We retired to our motel and its air conditioning for the rest of the evening.

Saturday morning, the depot was swarming with railfans. The Illinois Zephyr returned at 7:48 to face a line of still and video cameras. By 8:00, a line had already formed behind the depot to get tickets for the yard tours on the Metra equipment. Things were not scheduled to open until 9:00, but by 8:30 the crowd had pretty much overrun the place, and the BNSF tent was doing a brisk tee-shirt business. The GEnesis loco spotted the night before also opened early for cab tours. I think the prospect of mid 90's heat and 70% humidity brought folks out early in the day.

The "Little Hobo Lionel" layout in a trailer was parked next to the immobile crane, and youngsters operated the trains while we waited on our yard tour train. The BNSF tried to keep some trains moving by the depot and also accomplish some switching moves out of the yard. All of this delayed somewhat the arrival of the Metra train, which finally started boarding about a quarter 'til ten.

The bi-level cars loaded pretty quickly and we were soon on our way down past the southeast side of the yard. We spotted a Toledo, Peoria and Western train just as we started the tour. Unfortunately, the tour does not go through the yard, it goes around it. Much of the time, you're treated to a view of seemingly endless rows of containers. You can see much more of the yard (or the containers, if you wish) from an autombile.

One does get a glimpse of the hump and retarders just before taking the flyover out into the country. We stopped at Graham at 10:30 and waited while the entourage from the head end (lots of children getting cab rides today!) walked the length of the train. We were back at the Seminary street junction area by 10:45, but had to wait for a few minutes for a switch move to get out of the way before unloading at 11:00.

We decided to go back out to the Train Show for a little while, find lunch, and then come back for the arrival of MILW 261 and its passenger train, scheduled for 1:30. By the way, in spite of advance warnings to the contrary, we had no problems finding parking within a block of the depot. This might have been different once 261 actually appeared, but that was to be many hours later.

The Train Show was great, as usual. I look forward to finding some bargains in HO equipment there, and in seeing operating layouts of all sizes and types. Most of the show is air-conditioned, and I was surprised to find the gym not nearly as warm as I expected. The large fans did a good job. The Heritage N-Trak layout was set up in the far end of the gym, and they were attempting to run some long, long trains, but without much success. We also stopped by the Great River Railway Club HO layout, where an articulated consist was circling with a fluted stainless E unit in charge.

At that point, we went back downtown to check on 261. The Jeep thermometer showed 95 degrees this afternoon. A yard tour train was ready to depart, so we walked west down to the shade of an old signal bridge, once used for the Quincy line, and got a picture of the engine, Metra 200, the "Norman W. Muelner". We'd hung out in this spot on Friday evening to get a shot of the Southwest Chief coming in.

(March 20, 2002 - In response to an obscene and threatening email I have removed a reference to the Police Explorers that appeared in the original document. )

We learned at the Chamber of Commerce booth that 261 had broken down on the way out and that it might be after 4:00 before they made it to Galesburg. We took a quick tour of CB&Q 3006, where a gentleman who was familiar with the locos from their operating days was doing a great story-telling job. I took a chance and walked out on the BNSF's gravel to get a shot of 3006.

We decided to seek refuge from the heat by returning to the Train Show. Our first stop there was a nice modular N scale layout called the Great Midwestern Railway, manned by a couple of fellows from Lansing, MI. One of their trains was modeled after Iowa Interstate equipment. Outside in the heat we found Ted Young, this year with a live-steam crane.

Kim Tschudy and the New Glarus Depot Preservation Society were present with an HO layout for youngsters to operate that they called the Limburger Special.

After checking in at the depot once more and learning that 261 might be arriving after 6:00, we decided we'd better start for home. Byron and I were both obligated to be at an 80th birthday party for my mother-in-law on Sunday, so we couldn't stay for Sunday's activities. Hopefully, we'll be able to catch 261 on some other excursion soon.

We stopped just west of Cameron where a westbound stacker was tied down with BNSF 1088 and 6854. We figured this train was probably one of a number stopped along this line due to the wreck near Ft Madison. Our next stop, at 5:30, was at the top of the hill in West Burlington, where we'd caught up with a westbound (formerly known as 491). On the point were BN 6840 and cabless 4003. They made a pretty good clip as we followed them out of town between 55 and 60 mph, with several empty boxcars on the rear jerking violently from side-to-side.

Trailing 491 helped us keep track of approaching eastbounds, as they started a conversation with every train along the way. We stopped at New London at 5:54 to meet a manifest with SF 507 and cabless 5510. The next meet was west of Lockridge at 6:30, a coal load with BNSF 9797, BN 9646 and new-looking UCEX hoppers. Another load, WFAX gons, showed up in Batavia at 6:55 behind BN 9636 and 9405.

Nearing Ottumwa, where we stopped for supper, we finally learned why we'd not seen or heard of No. 6 today. It hadn't made it this far yet! In Ottumwa, a westbound train had stopped to drop off some power for a BN coal empty that was in the IMRL yard. They cut off their lead two units, BN 5568 and 7062, out on the east end and ran to the IMRL diamond and interchange at 7:45. Shortly, the eastbound CZ showed up with AMTK 68 and 2 on the point. The Zephyr was about nine hours down from its scheduled arrival in Ottumwa.

We drove over to the IMRL yard to find this new Unwelcome sign, apparently erected since our visit Friday morning. This road was once access to a compressed gas business, but the IMRL has now closed the grade crossing at the east end of the yard and posted the whole yard off-limits. Just west of the IMRL yard, we met an eastbound waiting to get into the yard, with NS 3532 and 8761.

We could tell from radio traffic that there were plenty of trains still in the woods, but we needed to get ourselves back to Indianola, so we just drove straight through. We heard No. 5, behind us, out of Burlington at 20:52 - about two hours down. Later, at home, I heard them clear their warrant at Creston at 23:47.

For anyone who's interested, here are the scanner frequencies Byron found active in Galesburg:

160.875 (Yard Control)
160.395 (Yard)
161.385 (East)
160.695 (West)
161.100 (BNSF)
160.650 (SF - Chillicothe Line)
That's It!