Galesburg Railroad Days
June 28 and 29, 1997

On the Way Over - Saturday Morning:

My wife Jan (a railfan!) and I left Indianola around 7:00 Saturday to visit Galesburg Railroad Days 1997. We went east and south, arriving at Chariton about 7:40, just in time to see a coal load leaving the east end of town. We decided to intercept the train at Halpin, just west of Albia. They showed up at 8:10, with BN 5118, 9255 and 5535 pulling AEPX coal cars. We would pace this train most of the way to Galesburg.

We stopped by the IMRL yard when we arrived in Ottumwa. A BN coal train, of GCCX cars, had just pulled in with MACs 9505 and 9401 on the point. While they were running around their train, we checked out the IMRL power on hand. Ex-Soo GP 112, IMRL 224 and 202, and NREX 2038 were at the east end of the yard, with IMRL 701 and 375 hidden behind them.

At the diamond where the BNSF and IMRL intersect, we met BN 5118 again at 9:17. As soon as the coal train cleared, the IMRL freight we'd seen in the yard came across the BNSF and headed up the hill toward Rutledge.

Our next stop was at a wooden bridge over the BNSF four miles west of Fairfield. We'd heard the Fairfield detector announce a train on the north track, which turned out to be a 27 car freight led by BN 2770 (probably the Des Moines train, formerly known as 447). They were by us at 10:05.

In West Burlington, we could see a coal empty moving behind the BN shops, but didn't catch the head end. Down at the bottom of Burlington Hill at 11:20, we found an empty just starting around the corner by the depot. It had two SD-70 MACs, BNSF 9762 and 9727 in charge, which is not unusual, but they were both facing the rear of the train, which is rare. They made arrangements to add a different lead unit (8061) when they reached the shop at the top of the hill.

Before long, 5118 caught up to us again. I set up to take his picture at the curve by the K-Line connection, where the double track curves onto the bridge over the Mississippi River. Just as the train arrived, so did a minivan from Minnesota. It disgorged eight camera-equipped railfans who, like us, were on the way to Galesburg. They'd reached Burlington at midnight and still hadn't left town.

Several trains, including Amtrak, got by us as we drove more or less directly on over toward Galesburg. We'd packed a picnic, and found some shade by the "passenger line" just east of Graham where we had lunch. Railfans were all over the BNSF between Cameron and Galesburg this morning.

Galesburg Saturday:

In Galesburg, we first went down to the depot to look around. The main equipment display items this year were MILW 261, the Nebraska Zephyr articulated passenger train, CB&Q E5 9911-A, "Silver Pilot", and a row of speeders. While crowds milled around the place, the BNSF tried to generate some revenue with the one track remaining.

Most of the equipment was open for inspection, including the cab, controls and engine compartment of the E5. Several of the speeders had been painted for the owner's favorite railroad, such as CNW or SF. Naturally, MILW 261 was a major attraction, with a line of people waiting to visit the cab and photographers everywhere around the loco.

We decided to come back downtown on Sunday morning when things were less crowded and drove out northwest to Carl Sandburg College, site of the CSC Train Show. This is the third year for this event, organized by CSC business professor and railfan Harry Grossman. The show features a "swap meet" of hundreds of tables for vendors of everything from model railroad supplies to railroad-theme underware (well, not really, but it seemed like it!). Virtually everything a railfan or model railroader could desire is represented.

Better yet, model displays and operating model railroads abound, with every popular scale represented. Here are some that I saw:

The CSC train show also provides some programming in the evening. We attended a slide show of "Midwest Fallen Flags" and still had time left to go down to the Santa Fe depot and watch a few trains before bedtime.

Galesburg Sunday:

We got to the BNSF depot early on Sunday morning in order to get tickets (free, but FCFS) for a tour of the BNSF yard area. While we waited for our yard tour, Amtrak train 346 arrived on time with ATK 505, Dinette-Cafe 48227, and coaches 54541 and 54532.

The Galesburg yard tour is provided on Metra bi-level commuter equipment. From the upper level, the view of the yard, hump and engine service facility is pretty good, and on our trip, the narration was excellent. The tour passes by the southeast side of the yard on the way out and on the north on the way back. The train reverses at Graham, making the roundtrip about 12 miles, covered in 45 minutes. Our power this morning was METRA 200.

We got back into the depot just before the BNSF Employee Appreciation train was to come in. This train had BNSF 9771 on the head end, and was a mix of green and tan and stainless steel equipment:

Steven's Pass
Snoqualmie Pass
Regal Manor
SF 62
SF 60
Flathead River
Skagit River
Fox River
Glacier View
As each passing train reached the depot area and blew its whistle for the grade crossing, MILW 261 would play "dueling whistles" with it. Here's a sample (190K .AU file). In the recording, there's someone else chiming in - I never did figure out where that was coming from!

We looked around a bit more in Galesburg before starting back toward home. On the yard tour, we'd passed a freight standing west of the depot area. We found them still there at 10:45, with LMX 8554, BN 1506, SF 8136, 3414 and 3422 on the point. Shortly, the power was cut off and ran down into the yard. We saw them again from the long viaduct over the yard.

There's much more going on at Railroad Days than I could possibly cover, of course - you just have to come see it for yourself. It's a great show - I recommend you come to Galesburg in '98!

Homeward - Sunday Afternoon:

Jan and I redeemed a couple of coupons that Byron and I had received in Galesburg Thursday (long wait at Hardees) and went back to our spot by the passenger line for lunch. Two photographers were set up just up the line from us at the next grade crossing with their tripods and cameras. I drove over after lunch to ask what they were waiting for and learned that they wanted to catch ATK #6. Jan phoned 1-800-USA-RAIL and was told that they "estimated" it into Galesburg at 3:30. Our photographers decided to take a break and get out of the sun, since they had a couple of hours to wait, and it was nearing 90 degrees.

We stopped in Cameron and took a picture of SF 7448, sitting dead on a spur next to the BN mains. Things were pretty quiet on Sunday afternoon, although we did see one stacker westbound on the SF line flyover. As we drove back to Burlington, we met a BN freight just east of Biggsville and saw a coal load, of AEPX cars with BNSF 9812 on the head end, just before crossing the river.

Several passengers were waiting for Amtrak at the Burlington depot when we arrived at 2:30. Two damaged DEEX cars from a derailment on the hill were sitting just across the mainlines from the depot. In the yard, BN 2963 was shut down for the day, coupled to one car and BN caboose 10781. South of the depot, I found SD-60Ms 9218 and 9214 coupled back-to-back.

Amtrak arrived at 2:48 behind engines 93 and 813. In the train:

Material 1412 and 1454
Baggage 1703
Transition Sleeper 39042
Coaches 34091, 34006 and 34022
Smoking Coach 31504
Sightseer Lounge 33001
Dining Car 38063
Sleeping Cars 32017, 32102 (North Dakota) and 32073 (California)
Baggage 1740
At the first spot, it sounded like the HEP shut down, and the whole train went silent. As they pulled down for the second spot, everything came back to life. The second spot turned out to be superfluous, since in spite of an attendant searching from door to door, no one could be found to detrain. They were rolling again at 2:53.

The next train by the depot, at 3:02, was a coal empty from the K-Line which had some five-packs of JHMX cars, and DEGX, GALX and ECGX singles. They were pulled by BN 9548, 9551 and 9485.

Jan and I drove on west, meeting AEPX loads just east of Danville at 3:45 behind BN 9597 and 9673. We stopped in Mt. Pleasant to check out a work train parked east of the depot with engine SF 2318 and caboose 12266. At 4:15, a westbound freight train came into town behind BN 6807 and cabless 4086. We stayed in Mt. Pleasant, but moved over by the college to get a picture of another coal train as it arrived at 4:25. This train had BNSF 9712 and BN 9465 in front of CEPX gons.

Back at the IMRL yard in Ottumwa, I stopped to get shots of some old MILW equipment stored behind the yard. This spreader, plow and flanger all still carried the MILW logo. Interestingly, the plow was mentioned during the slide show at CSC. IMRL engines 375 and 370 were in the yard, as well as IMRL 200 and NREX 2038. At 5:40, an eastbound freight pulled into the yard behind IMRL 372 and NREX 2039.

We got some supper and drove to the BN depot. Amtrak #5 was on time, according to the agent. We waited around for the first eastbound to show up at 6:30. It turned out to be BN 1505 and EMD 791 with a mixed freight train (Probably 492).

On the scanner, we heard a warrant read to BN 9620 East at Melrose, and thought we might have a chance of catching it at Maxon. We hurried westward down 34, passing through scattered afternoon thundershowers. When we got there, we checked a couple of the crossings in town, and just about concluded that they'd gotten by us when we heard them call the dispatcher and say that they were down to 6 mph on the south hill because of the wet rails. I parked at the "packing house" crossing and listened to the singing of the welded rail grow louder until MACs 9620 and 9571 came into sight and ground loudly by us at 7:15 on their way toward Maxon.

Another coal load was to follow, and once they were assured that 9620 was going to make it, they started up the hill. We moved down the hill to a cut and waited for the next train. It was rapidly growing darker due to the rain clouds in the area, but I got two good shots of BN 9667 and 9536 as they brought their IOPX cars under the Appenoose County rail line.

We knew that a westbound train was going to come down the south hill and wait for Amtrak to pass, so we went to the west end of the CTC at Halpin and watched the clouds. I was hoping for better light, but Jan encouraged me to wait for the CZ anyway. They came blasting by us at 8:30 with 825 and 52 on the point and, as she put it in her notes, "10 big cars, 3 little" behind. At 70 mph, we couldn't get the numbers! In a few minutes, BN 7025, 7154 and 4001 came through the crossover and followed west toward Creston. Check that sky!

We had a terrific weekend - I hope you enjoyed it virtually.

That's It!