This is the story of a long drive on a nasty, wet day, in search of some Rock Island history. A few months back, I received this message via the Rock Island Technical Society mailing list:
Date: 15 Jan 97 16:38:29 EST From: "RICHARD J. COSSEY" <100411.751@CompuServe.COM> To: RITSLISTRichard set a project in motion among the members of the mailing list to document the names on the Rock Island GP-38s. The complete list is available on the RITS web site. Among these names, there is one very peculiar-looking one, "Ivan the Terrible", on engine 4345. The contributors who formed the list knew that this name had something to do with a grain elevator manager in northwest Iowa.
Subject: Named RI locomotives Sender: owner-ritslist Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com Good morning (or whatever) America Can anybody give me the origins of the names of those RI locomotives that carried them in the later years. Who were these guys ? Some of the people names I know (eg David Engles) but the majority are a mystery to me. Do any of the place-named locos have special meanings or are the just 'places along the line'. Richard Cossey Worthing England
While in conversation with a railfan friend, Mark VanWyk, I learned that Mark had a friend whose father was named Ivan and who had managed an elevator in Superior, Iowa. Mark talked to his friend and we found out that, "Ivan the Terrible", was Ivan E. Summa, who managed the Superior Co-op for 25 years. Through Ivan's son, we contacted Ivan's widow, Harriet Summa, and she agreed to meet with us and tell us the story of the man behind the unusual engine name.
We headed north toward Superior, near Spirit Lake and almost to Minnesota, on Saturday, April 5. It was cold and rainy with a strong wind from the west. We planned our route to check out some points of Iowa railroad interest along the way.
Around 8:00, just after heading north from Grand Junction, we saw a southbound grain train waiting to get onto the UP mains. However, it was too far away in the fog to get the numbers. Just a mile or so behind it we encountered a second section and were able to catch it at a grade crossing just south of Dana. On the point were CNW 6838 and 6844.
We stopped in Fort Dodge at 9:00 to have a look at the remaining Illinois Central facilities. I took pictures of the old freighthouse and the depot. Both structures carried notices of I.C. property for sale. A couple of trains were in the yard, and we caught the Ackley local pulling away behind bright red CC 2003 and 2009. CC 8260 and IC 8400 were on another train stopped in the yard in front of the depot.
Our route to the north paralleled the West fork of the Des Moines River, which was flooding with the runoff from snow melting to the north and west of Iowa.
This Saturday was the official first day of the takeover of the former MILW/CP "Corn Lines" by IMRL, but Mark and I didn't see anything of the new ownership. There was plenty of evidence of the Milwaukee Road, however, like the caboose outside the Dickinson County museum, and a passenger car, MILW 656 that we found without trucks by an elevator in Spirit Lake.
Mark and I did reach our objective, and after stopping in Superior to take a look at Ivan's elevator, we met with Harriet Summa to get the story of "Ivan the Terrible". You can read all about it on the RITS web site soon.