Tipped off via email by Wade Calvert that the Washington Investment Group was running a shippers' special over the lines of the I&MRL, Jan and I took off early Saturday morning for Nahant Yard near the Quad Cities. We drove straight east out of Indianola on highway 92. At the Beech underpass, the UP had autoracks parked in the siding.
We heard nothing from the IMRL dispatcher until we running parallel to the tracks between Cotter and Columbus Jct. It sounded like a westbound was in Muscatine, headed toward us, so on the east side of Columbus Jct. we took to county roads and stayed near the tracks. We stopped in Letts to wait on the train. At 10:15, it came around a bend from the south and slowed for an absolute signal at the west end of the siding in Letts. On the head end were IMRL 8940 and 8925. The dispatcher could not get the signal to come in for them and ended up talking them by it.
We continued on 92 up into Muscatine where we found an ex-SOO GeeP, IMRL 105, working in a yard southwest of town. On the scanner, it sounded like a coal empty was getting ready to pull out of the powerplant near Fruitland, so we turned around and went back out of town. We could see the hoppers moving about one half mile away, and we raced down a county road just in time to see catch two BNSF SD-70MACs rolling west through the Mississippi River valley. BNSF 9766 and BN 9402 pulled their GCCX hoppers by us at 11:00.
We drove back through Muscatine and took route 22 along the river and beside the IMRL tracks. I stopped to get a picture of this (Alco?) switcher at the PSC Phosphate plant near Buffalo. The engine was lettered RE 715.
We met another westbound in Buffalo at 11:45. This train had mixed freight, with blocks of autos and piggybacks, and had IMRL 701 and NREX 2039 on the point.
I made another stop for a "critter" just south of Davenport at the Harvest States corn elevator. This engine didn't appear to be in operating condition any longer.
Around noon (after getting lost in the southwest bottoms of Davenport (again!)), I found my way to Nahant yard and we spotted our objective. The IMRL had very thoughtfully parked the passenger train right next to a public road. I had a short visit with the security agent assigned to the train, in which I was told only to "stay out side the yellow rope", and then got some pictures. The inspection train had three cars:
According to Wade:
"the two dome cars were built by Budd, del'd in 1954 to the NP for the North Coast Limited. IMRL 104 as NP552 and MRL 105 as NP 553, 46 seat cars with 24 non-revenue seats in the dome. The cars transferred to BN in 1970 purchase of NP, sold to AMTRAK in 1971, operated until 1995 when purchased by MRL. They have been refurbished and upgraded a couple of times and are truly stunning as well. Silver Cloud, as pretty as it is on the outside, is absolutely breathtaking inside. It has grey marble floors, grey valour on the walls, a large glass table and very soft cushions in all the sofas and chairs. It's truly one of the finest business cars in the world."You can read about the history of the Silver Cloud on the Rock Island Technical Society web site. The article is located in the News Archive.
Power for the special is provided by HEP-equipped F45 IMRL 391, which was being shuffled around the engine service area of the yard.
After lunch, we drove across to the island, but found that we could not go directly along the old Rock Island route because the government bridge was closed. So, we drove north through the island, crossed into Moline and doubled back to find the restored Rock Island depot.
The depot, complete with clock tower, is right across the tracks from the Iowa Interstate yard. The building is ready for occupancy when a suitable application can be found. Near the depot driveway is a monument, erected in 1952 to mark 100 years of Rock Island service to the state of Illinois. The three towers depict the Rock Island route in 1852 (Chicago to Joliet) and in 1952, and describe various "firsts" by the Rock Island.
We decided to see what the old Rock Island shops at Silvis (now National Railway Equipment) looked like. It was interesting to find the remains of a couple of RI switchers, 944 and 942, still in yellow and maroon, sitting just outside the building.
On our way back southwest from Silvis, we caught up to an eastbound BNSF local just out of Barstow, Illinois. They passed us in Moline with BNSF 2837 on the point, and a caboose on the rear, at 2:35. I think it's so nice of the BNSF to have painted their new locos for Halloween!
Speaking of cabooses, nearby, the CP had set one aside to use as an office. The CP lettering had recently been painted over with a brush and a small IMRL sticker applied to one corner.
We drove back toward home along the IMRL line, just missing another of their trains in Washington. At the Beech underpass, it looked like the UP had things rolling again, and I could see the excess height marking of an autorack moving above us. We got back to Indianola almost exactly 12 hours after we left.