RITS National Peoria

September 21 - 23

Friday, Sept. 21

I skipped school Friday to drive to the Rock Island Technical Society's national convention in Peoria, Illinois.  Friday was clear and cool, 57 degrees as I left town at 7:45.  I decided to follow the BNSF along Hwy 34 at least as far as Burlington, and drove south on Hwy. 65, monitoring the BNSF channels to see what trains might be in the area this morning.  Dispatcher "DTC" was on the KC desk and "KRS" on the Ottumwa this morning.  Within a few minutes I'd heard about several eastbounders already out or called at Creston, EMD 9003, BN 9640 and BN 9253.  Just after 8:00 I heard the Osceola detector on Main 2 and figured that I could catch that one at Lucas or Chariton.  It sounded like the 9003 was already on Whitebreast Hill and would be ahead of me.

I got stopped by a single-lane restriction for road construction on 34 just east of Lucas, and 9640's train passed as I waited.  Once we were released, I hurried into Chariton and set up at Auburn Ave., just east of the depot, to wait.  The train's headlight was already showing when I got to the right of way.  They came by the depot at 8:38 with BN 9640 and 9684, and a set of CWEX coal loads.  The Russell detector later reported this train at 490 axles.

It appeared that a ribbon rail train was in the south yard at Chariton, and radio conversations indicated that they were waiting to get out and cross over to Main 1.  As I headed on east on 34, I heard 9253 report out of Creston at 8:53 and 9003 clear a warrant at Halpin just after 9:00.  I bypassed Albia and made straight for Ottumwa.  A visit with the agent in the depot there revealed that Amtrak No. 6 was not expected until around 3:00 p.m.

Dispatcher KRS was talking to several other trains as I drove on east out of Ottumwa.  9995 East was by MP 275 at 9:48, 8975 East by MP 232 at 10:11, and 9268 East was by Rome at 10:13.  Obviously, I should have gotten on the road a little earlier!  I passed 9003 and caught up with 9995 just as I was entering Mt. Pleasant.  By this time I could hear KRS talking to some westbound trains near Burlington.  Once on the 4-lane east of New London, I turned around stopped at MP 222 to catch 9995 and a westbound train with NS power.

BNSF 9995 and BN 9520 were pulling CEFX hoppers and passed me at 11:15.  Just a couple of minutes later the NS-powered train came by with ex-Conrail 8405 and NS 6660.  This was a DEEX coal empty with seven autoracks on cut in on the head end, giving the train a total of 130 cars.  I passed 9995 again as they slowed up at Danville.

My next stop was the Burlington depot, about ten 'til twelve.  An empty was just coming off the K-Line with BN 8082, BNSF 4811 and IPWX cars.  While 9995 waited at Lucas Street, they crossed over to Main 1, made a crew change at the depot, rolled again at 12:04 and started up Burlington hill.

9995 came down the hill and took the K-Line at 12:20.  I went off and got some lunch and brought it back to the east (south) end of the Burlington yard.  Another fan was there and he got out of his car to visit.  He seemed to be full of rhetorical questions and long-winded replies to the same, and eventually I excused myself to finish my lunch.  Just before 1:00, another coal train dropped down to the bottom of Burlington hill.  This was a DTCX load behind EMD 9003, BN 9228 and 9250.  I've always kind of liked the look of the SD-60's, but not that three-windshield cab.  I watched 9003 go onto the bridge and then drove on over to the Illinois side.

I went south off of Hwy. 34 down "Carman Road" though Lomax, Dallas City and Niota.  I met an eastbound piggyback train while driving through Dallas City.  I crossed back over to the Iowa side at Fort Madison and headed down river toward the Amtrak depot.  A westbound manifest was stopped on Main 1 waiting (as it turned out) for the Southwest Chief, No. 4, which was running quite late today.  A crowd was on the platform when I arrived at ten after two.  The Amtrak train appeared at 2:15.  I walked to the head end and watched the outbound engineer check over the units and confer with the inbound man.  They rolled out at 2:23.

AMTK 184, 166, 158 and 84
Baggage 1001
Transition Sleeper 39035
Coaches 34134, 34004, 34046 and 31524
Sightseer Lounge 33011
Diner 38046
Sleepers 32099, 32031 and 32030
Lots of freight!  Material cars 1464 and 1557, seven boxcars, two "ExpressTrak" reefers, and twelve roadrailers.
The westbound waited for the Chief to cross over and then pulled into the station for a crew change.  On the point were BNSF 8261, 6896, 702 and ATSF 866.  The train had trailers on the front and miscellaneous freight on the rear.  While I waited for them to clear the crossing, I could see through the cars an IPWX coal load go south on the K-Line with BN 9253, EMD 9047 and BN 9219.  I would see this train again, empty, on my way home Sunday.

I headed back over into Illinois and started following Hwy. 9 toward Peoria.  In Dallas City once more just before 3:00, I heard a train on a detector east of town and stopped in time for a picture.  This was a stacker with four units - BNSF 965 in the lead.  They were moving too fast to get the rest of the numbers.

I made straight for Peoria and spent some time in rush hour traffic before finally locating the hotel where RITS was having its meet.  I had time for supper and then went on to the board meeting, which started at 7:00.  Many of the usual crowd were not in attendance this year, missing in particular, Engle, Willett, Cannon, Zahn, Worones, Hanouer, Bertholf, etc.  We did have some California representatives, secretary Byron Weesner, and Bill and Bob Riebe, among others.  I learned Saturday morning that the meeting had gone into the wee hours, as it usually does.  I only lasted until 9:30 or so before retiring.

Saturday, Sept. 22

After breakfast and a stop at the registration desk, I hit the "swap meet".  The swap meet is where you swap money for toys.  There were a couple of equipment displays and one operating train set.  I stopped and visited with Ross Dando and spouse, and bought one of Ross's passenger car kits.  After several other purchases (doing my part to help get the economy moving again) I started looking for someone who could direct me to some railroad sites in and around Peoria.  The locals actually weren't much help, and the one person I found who did seem to know how to get to the yards felt I needed to be lectured about trespassing and such.

About 9:30, Scott Reid from Fort Dodge and I took off to see what we could find.  We went downtown and started north on Hwy. 29 toward Chillicothe, following the old Rock Island main line.  Before long we caught up to an IAIS train headed north on the line.  We stopped to get pictures of the train, a short manifest behind IAIS 407 and 466, as it passed a grade crossing.

We passed the train on the highway and stopped next in Chillicothe where there is a Rock Island depot converted to a museum.  Scott posed near the Santa Fe caboose north of the depot and we got a few more pictures of the IAIS freight as it passed the depot and rattled on up the line toward Bureau Junction.  The museum was open only on Friday and Sunday, not today, so I just had a look in the window at the HO layout in the freight end of the old station.

Scott and I next followed the instructions that came in our registration packet to find an overpass on the BNSF mains on Edelstein Hill.  Interestingly, at the northwest corner of the bridge we found this memorial, perhaps to a railfan or railroader, I've not yet found anyone who knows the story behind the stone.  We could hear detectors in the neighborhood on the scanner, so I set up my external speaker on the Jeep, and Scott went off to check a milepost sign for our location.  (Hint to convention planners:  It would have been very helpful to have this information in the packet.)

We waited for quite a while for a train to show up, but once things started moving there were several in rapid succession.  At 11:55 we had an eastbound stacker with BNSF 4671, BN 7271, BNSF 6745 and badly faded 4457.  Another eastbounder showed up about 10 minutes behind.  This was piggybacks with BNSF 4468, 5453, 4709 and 8280.

At 12:30 we had a westbound pig train led by 4439, a couple I didn't get, and 4770.  Before they cleared the viaduct, there was a meet with an eastbound led by ATSF 609, 619, BN 9291 and ATSF ??.  After these two trains were out of sight, Scott and I headed back down to the RITS meet.

At the hotel, I headed straight for the model contest to vote for my favorites.  There was a large collection of diesels, a few passenger cars, a number of non-revenue entries and several complete trains, including this RI 630 on a push-pull commuter train.  There was also a photography contest, not typical of such, because the pictures did not have to be ones you'd taken yourself.  One category was pre-1960, another 60-80, which had lots of entries.  There was also a post-1980 division but only one entrant, yours truly's image of the stonework on the east end of the Des Moines depot.

Clinics were held throughout the day and I dropped in on the afternoon's fare, "The Golden State Route" by Dick Hutchins, and "Laser Kit Manufacturing" by Ross Dando.  After the clinics there was a not-very-well-attended general meeting for reports and nominations conducted by RITS president Bob Riebe.

In the evening we had a buffet banquet in the hotel atrium with about 50 persons in attendance.  I sat across the table from the always-amusing brothers Riebe.  This affair included the awarding of prizes for the model and photo contests and presentations by Tom Sandlin and Bill Riebe.  Convention chairman Brian Schmidt had a computer projector set up and used it to introduce the program.  One very nice touch was having pictures projected of the winning models.  Schmidt and Dando conducted an auction to benefit the RITS sustaining fund.

Sunday, Sept. 23

Sunday came up cool and rainy, so I cancelled my plan to visit the RI depot in downtown Peoria before leaving town.  I was up early, checked out at 6:00 and drove up I-74 to Galesburg for breakfast.  The rain continued as I drove through Cameron and Monmouth, where I picked up Hwy. 34 again.  KRS was dispatching the Ottumwa sub. again today.  I reached Burlington around 8:30.  It was just beginning to appear as though the rain might let up.  An extra engine was being added to the rear of the "Kemper Train" down on the K-Line.  They got their air working and started south at 8:42.

Just a couple of minutes after, a westbound started across the Mississippi Bridge.  Interestingly, this turned out to be the same IPWX train I'd spotted going south on the K-Line at Fort Madison on Friday.  They stopped with the head end just off the bridge at 8:52.  A manifest that had been waiting on the hill came through next with ATSF 800, 609, BNSF 2321 and EMDX 758.  Note that 609 appears in Saturday's sightings as well.

From the radio, it sounded like there was more traffic coming down Burlington hill, so I caught one shot of the trains meeting before moving to the west end of the yard.  Just after 9:00, BN 9219, with EMD 9047 and BN 9253 started up the hill.  Before they cleared Main Street, I could hear the dynamic brakes and horns, and see the headlight under the IPWX cars of an eastbounder.  The empty cleared just in time and revealed a set of three "Oakway" lease units, 9099, 9015 and 9020, leading a set of ACCX and UCEX loads.

I moved on west along Hwy. 34, listening on the scanner as 9219 tripped the detectors along the line, remaining just a few miles ahead of me.  In Fairfield I heard "Okay..." messages exchanged as they met an eastbound train, so I stopped at a grade crossing near MP 256 to wait for the headlight, and watched BN 9499 and BNSF 9423 bring DTCX tub gons through town at 10:25.

My next stop was at the southwest side of Batavia for another eastbounder, which arrived at 10:46.  This train had BNSF 7216, 8209 and EMD 9068, pulling CEFX cars.  I'd been hearing the dispatcher talking to a westbound that I  knew was not far behind, so I decided to wait in Batavia for them.  I heard the "Okay..." messages at 10:54 and the train, an empty unit cattle feed outfit, arrived right at 11:00.  On the point were BNSF 4943, 4827 and BN 6924.

I'd heard no mention of the Zephyr on the radio today, so I stopped at the Ottumwa depot and checked on No. 6.  Only 5 hours and 20 minutes down today - let's see, that would put them in here at 3:30 p.m. or so.  I decided not to wait.  As I passed the IMRL yard on the way out of town, BN 9627 and BNSF 9446 were just starting their second cut of MPWX coal hoppers up Rutledge Hill.

I'd seen the cattle feed train again, going through Ottumwa, and decided to see if I could catch them at the county line as they took the switch and went up the Cargill Spur.  The train already had the crossing blocked when I arrived, and there was some sort of excitement going on involving law officers and truckloads of hunting dogs.  I grabbed a quick shot of the rear of the train heading up the branch and made for the highway, scrupulously avoiding eye contact with the cops and other guys.

I stopped briefly in Albia to visit the small interchange yard of the Appenoose County railroad.  Their locomotive, No. 116, was parked there along with some interesting non-revenue APNC equipment.

I'd just passed Chariton when I heard, "Hello JJ?  Can you hear me?  Bring 'em on, I'm at the top of the hill."  This meant two eastbounds were coming up Whitebreast Hill, which merited a U-turn and a stop at the west end of the Chariton yard near Curtis Avenue.  The first train arrived at 1:00, with BN 9505 and 9480 pulling WFAX hoppers.  They were followed just 14 minutes later by BNSF 8228, 8207 and EMD 9073 with DTCX tub gons.  While driving on toward home, I heard the first train reported by the Russell detector at 472 axles and the second at 494.

That's It!