RITS Meet in Burlington

Saturday, September 13


Susan and I took off Friday morning for southeast Iowa and a visit with a friend of hers in Keokuk.  It began to rain just after we left home and continued doing so for most of our two-day excursion.  Along the way we stopped in an antique store on Hwy. 218, where I spotted this crossing bell.  (Yeah, that picture was taken on our front porch - this story's to be continued later on this page.)  We drove over to Ft. Madison before going on south to Keokuk and took a tour of LST 325, a WWII era landing craft that is being restored and displayed by a group of veterans.  It was a very wet experience, but also a great reminder of the things Susan's and my father went through when we were just babies.

Around 1:30 we made a short visit to the Santa Fe depot to see a couple of trains.  A westbound stacker with BNSF 7678 and 1059 (and some DP power on the rear) came in for a crew change, and we caught a very late Southwest Chief, Amtrak No. 4, at 1:37.  Amtrak made a fairly long stop, mentioning an "ADA restroom problem..." on the radio, and was away at 1:51.

On Saturday morning it was fairly warm (75°) and still raining.  I left Susan in Keokuk and headed north to check out the Rock Island Technical Society convention in Burlington.  I stopped at 7:45 near the "East Siding Switch Montrose" to get a picture of a coal empty, PNJX cars with BNSF 9784 and 9658 on the point.  I missed a westbound load that went under the highway just after I left this location.  I rolled on through Ft. Madison and got to Burlington around 9:00, planning to do some train watching before going to the RITS "swap meet".  From the scanner, I learned that there had been very heavy rains overnight, and that the BNSF had water over the rails at the Lucas St. CTC plant.  A track inspector said that in addition to the water, a number of ties from a grade crossing project had washed over the tracks between Lucas St. and Jefferson St.  Dispatcher KRS had shut down the railroad with an eastbound waiting at the CTC and westbounds stopped on the east side of the river.  The empty I'd seen earlier at the Montrose siding now had a crew and was waiting where the "K Line" joined Main 2 just west of the Mississippi River bridge.

This seemed like a good time to go to the train meet, which was being held at the "Port of Burlington" building, once a municipal freight dock.  The Great River model railroad club had a small modular HO layout running, with Rock Island engines powering a couple of the trains.  In the model contest room I checked out the diesel entries, which included RI 455, RI 1308, and RI 630.  There were several freight cars and one caboose on display as well, along with a number of photographs.

Back in the Jeep at 10:45, I continued to hear radio transmissions regarding the flooding, "...Lucas is pretty 'ugly', there's even water in the bungalow".  Another worker described ties scattered on the right of way and in the street between Lucas and Jefferson.  I decided to drive into the area and see what it looked like now.  Here's the scene at Jefferson and 8th Streets.  You can see the railroad grade crossing in the background about a block away.  The ties had floated to this location from several blocks away.  At the bottom of the hill at the Lucas CTC signals was a coal load with a crew short on time.  They had told the dispatcher that the relief crew "...had better bring a jon boat", though by now the rails were no longer under water.  By 11:20, the track workers had informed KRS that they had a hole in the ballast to fill before any eastbounds could go through CTC Lucas St.

While I waited for trains to be moving again, I got some images of the power in the Burlington Yard.  At the west end, I found BNSF 2117, 2022 and 2836, and switching at the east (south) end were BNSF 2337 and EMD 743.  By about 11:30, the water was gone and the rails had been more-or-less cleared of ties.  The first westbound was brought across the bridge and warned to watch for debris near the track.  The switches at the CTC at Lucas St. were locked on "hand", and trains had to be talked by the red signals for the time being.  The first train was a WPSX empty with BNSF 5890 and 6053 on the head end.  In the first of the previous images, you can see the K-Line train waiting in the background.

At 11:50, dispatcher KRS brought another westbound with CEFX cars over with a single lead unit, BNSF 9193.  It was pouring at this time, and I wasn't even getting out of the Jeep to take the pictures.  This train was delayed at the bottom of the hill, so I took advantage of the time to take a restroom and food break.  When I returned at 12:30, I caught the tail end of some train, probably the same one, with two units in DP, BNSF 9703 and 9366.  In just a couple of minutes, the K-Line train was let go and came around the corner with BNSF 9784 and 9658.

The fourth westbound, a manifest, came by just before 1:00 with four units, BNSF 5884, 5860, 5795 and 5664.  I noted some antique rolling stock in the consist before they went into emergency with airhose problems as they tried to get going again at the Lucas CTC.  With some help from the fresh crew on the now moving eastbound, they got the air reconnected and moved on up the hill.  It was 1:30 before the first eastbound, with BNSF 5980 and 9655 and BNSF 9734 in DP, got to the depot and came by me at South St.

By 1:45, a couple of the Rock Island buffs had appeared at the depot along with a handful of waiting Amtrak passengers.  While we waited I got a picture of EMD 743, preparing to go west with a local, and also got a shot of the water accumulating north of the depot.  No. 6 was supposed to be in just after 2:00,  but ended up being delayed quite a bit.  Before I left to go back to Keokuk and pick up Susan for the trip home, I caught another empty with BNSF 9991 and 9283, and DEEX gondolas.  The next eastbound wasn't Amtrak, but the DENGAL, with CSX power, 8040 and 4809.  After hearing that the Zephyr was just in Mt. Pleasant, I decided not to wait for it.

On the way back south, in a cellphone conversation with Susan, I was persuaded to stop and get the bell as my 66th birthday present  Here it is again, this time in a short .MOV file.

That's It!