Burlington and RITS Convention

Saturday, September 11

On Friday, Susan and I drove down to Keokuk and stayed at the River's Edge B&B.  We had an "expired" gift certificate from my kids, but the management graciously honored it.  On Saturday morning Susan remained to visit a friend who lives in Keokuk and I headed back up river to the Rock Island Technical Society's national convention at a motel in Burlington.

Along the way I stopped at the Santa Fe yard in Fort Madison to see if I could catch any traffic on the "transcon" line.  It was just after 9:00 and pretty quiet - literally - nothing on the radio, either.  Behind the Amtrak station and yard office there was a set of CSX units and a couple of BNSF locos.  One eastbound freight was parked on the passenger track.  With no rail traffic around, I traveled on north out of town.

It was pretty close to 10:00 when I arrived at the RITS meet.  I wasn't pre-registered, nor planning to stay for the program in the evening.  I'd wanted to just check out whatever was on display and attend the general membership meeting in the afternoon.  I started looking for the model contest and a modular HO setup brought in by a local club.  In the hallway I encountered a long-time member with whom I'm well acquainted, and listened politely to a rant about the organization's publications problems.

Actually, I found that most of the time I spent at the meet was taken hearing about members' issues with RITS and its financial and political problems.  At this informal get-together, I overheard "...he's not going to return that stuff because his lawyer told him not to!"  The membership recently received a letter detailing the registered letters, civil action filing, subpoenas, IRS reports and so forth involved in attempting to get an accurate picture of RITS finances.  I'd hate to see the organization self-destruct, but I have a few concerns about its operation these days.  Particularly, I wonder why the physical resources have been gathered at a location far from the mainline operations of the Rock Island?

At this time, Dan Sabin, President of Iowa Northern and a former Rock Island employee, is proposing a railroad museum in Manly, IA.  Manly  would be a much better fit for the historical remains of the Rock Island, since it was once a division point.  Sabin has already acquired several Rock Island locos, two E units and three GPs.  He is open to RITS participation in this project.  I recently received an email describing the museum project.  Here is a link to a project description and some follow-up notes from a meeting regarding the proposed Manly museum.

I took several pictures of the modular setup in the "Cambridge" room.  The modules were obviously pretty well-traveled, but the outfit was running several trains quite reliably.

HO Modular
HO Modular
HO Modular

The model contest was in the same room.  Many of the rolling stock entries apparently came from the one person.  We visited and I tried to buy his transfer caboose model, but apparently it belonged to someone else and he couldn't sell it.  This hobby could really use a good transfer caboose model.

RI 17065
RI 17832
RI 19138
RI 405

My next stop was the vendor area where I ran across a large collection of Plasticville buildings, many in original boxes.  If I were only still operating the American Flyer set I'd received for Christmas when I was seven, this stuff would be perfect!

After about an hour at the RITS meet, I decided to go downtown in Burlington and see if I could catch any traffic on the BNSF.  It was a beautiful Iowa day, and I almost immediately intercepted a coal load at the bottom of the hill.  Leading the DEEX/CEFX tubs were BNSF 9203 and 5733.  The cars snaked slowly downhill through the city, with BNSF 9887 bringing up the rear at 11:10.  The load met a freight as it crossed the Mississippi bridge and shortly that westbound came around the corner at the end of the passenger platforms to start its climb up the hill.  Four locos led the freight, BNSF 9613, 5715, 5642 and 5762.

After watching the manifest roll up the hill, I drove down to South St. to check out a couple of units parked on a stub track at the east end of the yard, BNSF 4617 and 8166, an old SD-60M in original green and black paint and still carrying the BN logo.  Construction on the new bridge span continues, with the new lift section on barges southeast of the old rotating span it will replace.  By this time, a coal load was changing crews at the depot.  At 11:45, they came my way.  This train had BNBX hoppers with 5656 and 9937 on the point and 6314 behind, and headed down the "K Line".

After this train, I made a quick run to the west side of town to pick up lunch, arriving back at the rails just in time to hear Amtrak report by the CTC at Lucas St.  The eastbound Zephyr's scheduled departure from Burlington is 11:16, so I got lucky today and caught them a little over an hour late.  No. 6 pulled away from the Burlington depot at 12:25 with this consist:

AMTK 49 and 61
Sleepers 39038, 32037 and 32034
Diner 38042
Sightseer Lounge 33044
Coaches 34029, 34016 and 35010
Sleeper 32098 bringing up the rear

From the radio, I knew that a train was waiting at the east end of the bridge.  It had registered 488 axles on the detector over on the Illinois side, and came across at about 12:40.  This was a set of empty, three-bay WPSX hoppers pulled by just two units, BNSF 5961 and 6067.

The plan for today was for me to drive back down to Keokuk to pick up Susan at 3:00 and come back to Burlington for the RITS membership meeting at 4:00.  I wanted a little time to stop at the Santa Fe yard in Fort Madison again, so I started back down river.  At Fort Madison I arrived at 1:45, just in time to see an eastbound stacker pull away from the depot.  This train had BNSF 5320, 4312 and 7505 leading.  A manifest with a mix of power was waiting on Main 1.

I knew from the BNSF K Line radio channel that there'd been a meet at Montrose between 5656 that I saw go south at Burlington and a westbound coming up toward Burlington.  At 2:00 the westbound, a coal empty, came through behind me with BNSF 5767 and 8942.  By now another eastbound had pulled up on Main 2, yielding a set of warbonnets in front of the ATSF yard office.

I'd still heard nothing from the ATSF channels, 160.650 and 160.560, that I'd used here for years.  There was another railfan taking pictures and visiting with an employee down by the Amtrak depot, so I asked if he knew anything about the radio.  He said he did not, but he was having the same problem as I.  Since I had the full set of AAR channels in the bottom 100 slots of my scanner, I turned them all on to see if I could pick up anything.  I soon heard radio conversations between BNSF trains and the bridge on 160.380 - apparently they have changed radio channels!

After picking up Susan and returning to the RITS meet, I waited in the Cambridge room for the general meeting to start at 4:00.  Others, including the organization's treasurer, waited with me in the appointed location.  Soon, we learned that the meeting had been postponed, the excuse being that the room wasn't ready, even though we were there and the room had in fact been set up by 4:00.  I went and checked to see what was going on and heard rumors that the board was still trying to get ready to face the membership, so we decided to just hit the road.

That's It!