Railroad Days Minus the Railroad

Saturday, June 28



Susan and I visited friends in Keokuk on Friday evening, then headed for Galesburg on Saturday morning for the 25th Anniversary version of Railroad Days.  I was interested to see what the celebration would be like without the participation of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe.  The absence of the railroad meant that this year there would be no equipment displays, steam excursions or yard tours.  I'd not been to Railroad Days for two years, since I was occupied chasing the Challenger around Iowa during last year's event.

We arrived in the city around 10:00 after coming in from the southwest along the old CB&Q line through Cameron.  The Thirlwell Road overpass, with its great view of the yard and engine service facility, was full of rail buffs as usual.  We watched a remote control equipped yard job with BNSF 6397.  The yard crew was making use of solar-charged power turnouts as well.

After a quick pass by the depot area, we headed out northwest of town to the Carl Sandburg College campus and the Railroad Days (Model) Train Show.  A carnival that used to occupy some space downtown had been moved to one of the parking lots at the college.  We found it difficult to get a parking space and to locate the entrance to the train show.  Personally, I think most railfans that came to the college probably considered the carnival to be a major pain in the caboose.

The train show was bigger than ever and shoulder to shoulder with 'buffs, but that's no surprise since it was the only show in town!  I had opportunities to introduce Susan to a number of old friends, including the man who organizes the college event, Harry Grossman.  Harry's now retired from teaching at Carl Sandburg, but still manages to put together one of the midwest's largest railfan get-togethers.  Harry directed us to the school library to have a look at some prize-winning models by Duane Buck.  This display included highly detailed HO scale models of a caboose and reefer.

Also housed in the library was the "Big Bridge" portable layout from Quincy, Illinois.  This layout is particularly fun to see because it has a number of animated features like a working sand loader and this operating magnet crane.

Susan and I worked our way through vendors and numerous layout displays.  I was looking for some of those "garden variety" trains, but if there were any present, we must have missed them.  There also seemed to be almost no vendors with G scale equipment for sale at the show.

At the Great River Railway Club HO layout I looked for BNSF dispatcher Keven Schelen, who often attends and who was not on the Ottumwa sub. desk today.  I wondered what he would have to say about his employer abandoning RR Days, but we didn't see him anywhere around the club layout.  The layout included this nicely-done feed mill and some illuminated city structures.

In addition to a horde of vendors, a very large N-Trak modular layout was operating in the school gym.  One module featured the city of Crystal and included an elevated section of track and a large elevator complex.  A nearby module had a drive-in theater with a movie showing.

We went back downtown to the Packinghouse Restaurant for lunch.  Even at 12:30 there was parking, no waiting line and plenty of empty tables, very different from my previous RR Days visits to this city.  After lunch Susan walked downtown for some window shopping and I went to the platform to join others watching for the arrival of the Southwest Chief.

The passenger train arrived at 2:15, powered by Amtrak units 157, 76, 68 and 195.  The depot P.A. system called all passengers with tickets for No. 4 or No. 6 to the train, since the California Zephyr was running well behind today.

There was police protection near the depot, however I did not see any 'buffs hassled about taking pictures near the tracks as has been the norm in the past.  Part of BNSF's pullout from the affair, I guess.

Susan and I made a stop in Burlington on the way home to intercept the CZ.  It came down the hill and rounded the curve into the old depot at 4:35.  No. 6's consist today:

AMTK 155 and 81
Baggage 1194
Transition Sleeper 39021
Sleepers 32002, 32062 and 32086 (Louisiana)
Diner 38004
Sightseer Lounge 33010
Coaches 31517, 34049 and 31538
Two boxcars, One Xpresstrak, two more boxcars and one Roadrailer
The head end of the train was met by a BNSF Roadmaster who seemed very concerned about the train's delays.  He and someone from the train (conductor?) went into the depot and were eventually joined by a couple of others, apparently engine crew.

Three days from today (as I type this) Susan and I will be on our honeymoon trip, headed for Glenwood Springs on the CZ.

Can't wait!