Rails & Trails Pages

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On September 23, 2012, Dick Johnson and I rode the "Nebraska Zephyr."  This train is on exhibit at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois and it was run from Chicago to Galesburg to Quincy and back on both Saturday and Sunday.  Dick got the last parlor seat available and I rode coach.  We only did the Galesburg to Quincy and return trip on Sunday.  We arrived in Galesburg on Saturday evening and caught it at the depot, returning from Quincy.

This trainset was built in 1936 for service between the Twin Cities and Chicago.  The trainset was built for speed with lightweight cars and was articulated, meaning one set of wheels served the ends of two cars. The engine is an E5A, built in 1940 and is the only one left in existence.  It is powered by two 1,000HP 12-cylinder engines and was originally geared for 117 MPH (we only got up to about 83 MPH!).  This engine is named the Silver Pilot.  Following is a picture taken by Tom Sharratt, who along with his wife rode the train on Saturday.

 Here is a video of our train at 'running speed.'

Galesburg is a 'railroad town' with 2 mainlines of the BNSF Railroad crossing in the city.  With its rich tradition, it has several railroad displays as well as a railroad museum.
 Beside the depot was this short train which is a test train for the new 'Positive Train Control' which will be implemented on major railroads in the near future.

Here is the coach I will be riding in, called the Minerva.
 The land in this part of Illinois is mainly flat with lots of corn and soybean crops.
 At Quincy we find the small Amtrak depot, built in 1985 and a few miles from downtown.  A new Amtrak-bus terminal closer to downtown is in the planning stages.
 It's always a good view passing over bridges, this one over a highway.
 Here we pass over Quincy Bay Channel.
And now we get to cross the Mighty Mississippi.
It's a long way down to the water.
On the far side of the river at West Quincy is the wye where our train will be 'reversed' for the trip back north.
Now is time for our lunch and we proceed to the dining car.  Here are some of the passengers awaiting their meal.
Going back over the 'Big Muddy' and looking out the other side of the train we see the city of Quincy.
A GREAT Ride.  But a fun part of the trip was the ride down and sight-seeing.  This included seeing as many trains, and variety of trains, as I have seen on a trip.  I left Barron on Friday morning to stay overnight in LaCrosse.  In Menomonie I saw a Canadian Pacific train with a CP engine and a Canadian National engine--running on Union Pacific track--very unusual.  In Alma I stopped to watch a barge go through the locks and FOUR trains passed under me as I stood on the walkway bridge over the tracks.  In Winona I saw the Union Pacific train running on CP trackage with a Missouri Pacific transfer caboose.  And that was just the start of the trip!!

On Saturday morning, Dick and I left to head for Galesburg.  Here's the neat depot in New Albin.
Street running (trains running in the streets) has always intrigued me.  Lansing, Iowa has such a neat track but no train was running through here as we passed.  In Bellvue, there is great street running but again we didn't catch a train.
We spent quite a bit of time in Dubuque. We explored the industrial section.  There would have been lots of tracks in this area in the 'old days.'
For nostalgic reasons, they left some of the old rail in place.  But I would like to see the train that could traverse this track:

 Here's the neat bridge over the Mississippi River that was Illinois Central trackage, then Chicago Central, and now Canadian National.  Note the tunnel at the far end as the track runs straight into the rocky hill.  The tunnel will make a right angle turn in the hill and we'll see the far portal later.
The entire waterfront has been cleaned up and much of it is convention oriented.
Here is the old Burlington (CB&Q) depot.  Dick is waiting in front for a passenger train.  Actually, he may find one here some day as Amtrak is looking at instituting passenger service between Chicago and Dubuque.  Will this be the station they use??
We crossed the Mississippi to East Dubuque.  Here's the east end of that tunnel--but no train coming.
We stopped at Clinton, Iowa--looks like a really neat town.  I'd like to spend some time back here some summer.  Here's the CNW depot--which is for sale!!!!
At Sabula we found this really neat bridge.
This time we got lucky as a DME engine set crossed.
On display at Sabula was this Milwaukee caboose:

Crossing the river, we went into Savannah.  A great museum here with a Civil War display and a large model railroad and advertised to be open on weekends.  Guess what--closed!  We found this caboose and Milwaukee coach displayed.

South of Savannah we came to Thomson, which had a train depot including a museum, and advertised to be open on weekends, and of course, . . . 

On Sunday morning, before we left on the train ride, we met up with Richard Lee, a son of one of my grade school friends who I grew up with.  Richard is the Supervisor of Locomotive Repairs at Galesburg.  He gave 6 of us a great tour of the BNSF yards.  The first 3 pix are some of the yard, taken from Richard's vehicle.
This yard sees an average of 120 trains a day, sometimes up to 160.  It is the third largest yard on the BNSF system, behind Kansas City and Barstow, CA.  360 engines are assigned to Galesburg.  There formerly were 2 hump yards but now there is one and it handles 1200-1300 cars a day, or, on a good day, 2000 cars will come into the hard, 2000 humped and sorted, and 2000 shipped out.  There are 48 tracks off the hump which are called "Bull Tracks."  They try and get cars out in 48 hours.  Occasionally, when the wind is blowing, the cars will come off the hump so fast that the switches don't get switched in time and cars derail!7 different tracks come into Galesburg.  Over 2,000 people work for the railroad here.
Richard's facility services 60 engines a day.  He took us up into the tower where he works.  Here's his office:
And this is one of the computers he uses.  He can track any train within 60 miles of Galesburg.
On the south end of the yard there is a highway overpass.  This is a very popular picture taking site for railfans.
A GREAT trip.  There was a lot of 'action' in a few days!!!

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