Fort Madison, Burlington and West Liberty

Saturday, October 15



We left Friday right after I got done with classes to visit a friend of Susan's in Keokuk.  Late in the evening we came back up the river to Fort Madison and an overnight stay at the Kingsley Inn.  Our room overlooked two BNSF lines, the Santa Fe double track crossing the Mississippi, and the "K Line" going down the river to West Quincy.  There was plenty of traffic, mostly intermodal, right outside our window all night.  I was out early in the morning to catch some of the crew changes at the Amtrak depot and yard office.

I arrived around 5:30 and had to wait on a train pulling into the yard behind the depot.  I'd seen this train pass the motel a few minutes earlier, I believe its symbol was NSFTM.  A westbound rolled up on Main 2 for a crew change at 5:45.  On the point were BNSF 7778, 4668 and 7747. As they pulled away another westbound came to a stop on Main 1.  This train had BNSF 7742, 4573 and 4082 in charge.

Just before 6:00, as 7742 was leaving, an eastbound came in on the passenger track with BNSF 4779, 5479 and ex-CR, NS 8406.  This train would drop the NS unit before continuing its trip toward Chicago.  At 6:13 another westbound intermodal arrived, this one with Union Pacific power, UP 3917 and 8317.  After having some difficulty bringing the head end to a stop near the platform, they quickly changed crews and were rolling again.

Susan and I skipped the high-class fare at the Kingsley and walked a block for breakfast at "The Fort" diner.  She had flapjacks and I bacon and eggs.  The food and ambience were "authentic" and I've placed The Fort on my registry of historic locations.  It's an all-American roadhouse and I recommend it highly, though making it a habit might not be good for your arteries or your lungs.

After packing out of the Kingsley, we drove north up the river to Burlington.  We arrived just in time to catch a coal load coming down Burlington hill for a crew change before it headed down the K-Line.  This was a distributed power train with BNSF 5164 leading a set of PNJX "NRG" cars, and BNSF 9894 bringing up the rear.  The rear unit rolled off of Main 2 and into the clear on the river line at 9:04.

Our next stop was Columbus Junction, once a crossing of the BCR&N and CRI&P.  Today the Rock Island route remains, occupied by the IC&E.  The other route extends for a short distance north out of town.  I've always found the stair-stepped setting of the buildings that lined the BCR&N route interesting and hope to work something similar into a model railroad someday.  This town has a thriving Hispanic business community.  I recommend La Reyna, supermarket, butcher shop and restaurant, for an excellent Mexican meal.  They have a T-shirt, too!

We continued north along the BCR&N route to West Liberty and the restored Rock Island depot there.  The depot stood at another CRI&P/BCR&N junction.  The Rock Island line there is now part of the Iowa Interstate system.  Near the depot there is a Rock Island caboose, recently moved from Adair where it was the "Jesse James Gift Shop".  A plaque credits the donation of the caboose to this site.  The interior of the depot has been beautifully refurbished and houses railroad relics, a couple of rather noisy O-guage setups and assorted other community memorabilia.  Check out the glides on the agent's chair!

That's It!