Rails & Trails Pages

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lexington Group 2012

I attended the annual Lexington Group Convention on October 3-6, 2012.  This year's meeting was held in Peoria, Illinois and I drove down on October 2nd so I wouldn't miss any activities on the 3rd, which started at 8 AM.  As I got to Peoria, I phoned my roommate George Forero and he told me he had been railfanning for a few days in the area.  So I checked into the hotel and just as I stepped outside, I heard a train a few blocks away.  Running down the sidewalks, I was a block away when the train went by.  But George was waiting for him and got this picture.  It is passing the original Rock Island depot in town.  A new one would later be built north of here to alleviate train traffic in the street.  The engine is lettered Illinois Midland and owned by Genessee & Wyoming.  G&W engines have this distinctive paint scheme with the logo for the local road.  RS 1325 #31 demonstrates the characteristics of both a road unit and a switcher and only 2 were ever built.

Since George knew the area, I asked him to take me on a automobile tour so I would have an idea of what Peoria looked like (before all of our history presentations about the railroads and city) and it would be the only chance to see the city by automobile.  Here is the only railroad bridge left crossing the Illinois River.  Note the train on the bridge--that's the 51-car freight in the above picture.  We would cross this bridge ourselves on Thursday on one of our 'Inspection Trips.'

Here is the biggest yard in Peoria.  Note the string of flat cars with Caterpillar pieces.  Caterpillar has a LARGE presence here with many buildings and factories.

We had lots of great presentations but this Blog will be about our 2 Inspection Trains.  For both trains, we had an Iowa Interstate engine and 4 cars.  For some reason, 2 cars that we were supposed to get didn't show up and they substituted 2 old commuter coaches.  The other 2 cars were Iowa Interstate business cars, the diner 'Abraham Lincoln' and the open-end observation 'Hawkeye.'  Here are 2 pix of our train, taken on Saturday by George.

Note the back platform--you will see great pix from here on the Saturday trip.  The commuter coaches had no heat which was no problem on Thursday, but on Saturday they were affectionately, make that unaffectionately, referred to as 'meat cars.'  Also, the windows were cloudy and only opened from the top.  So people had to stand to get clear pictures.  On the right, standing, is Matt Van Hatten of TRAINS magazine.  The last 2 Iowa Interstate cars were reserved for members of the Genessee & Wyoming Railroad so the Lexingtonians were assigned to the commuter cars.

Thursday's trip was on the Tazewell & Peoria to Havanna.  As we cross on the bridge over the Illinois River, we find this barge transloading facility.

 A couple of pictures on the way.

It looks like engines in Illinois are named!  As we pass the large Powerton Power Plant, served by UP and BNSF unit trains on a loop track, we find this switcher named SYLVIA.

Also at the Powerton Power Plant is this Tazewell & Peoria engine:

Part of the gigantic Powerton Power Plant:

Heading back (more and better pix from Saturday's trip):

Crossing back over the Illinois River, the big highway bridge is I74.  On the left is the former Johnny Walker Distillery which has since moved to Arkansas.  There is some distillery still operating here.

As we unload, Henry Possner III, the owner of Iowa Interstate, steps off his car.  He's second from the left and always wears a bow tie.

Our evening entertainment is a dinner cruise on the 'Spirit Of Peoria.'  This great paddlewheeler does sight-seeing trips, dinner trips, and several day or week long cruises down to the Mississippi River.  It's now thundering and lightening and we hurry aboard.

Our dining room:

It's quickly dark and here's a night scene.  BTW, I saw the Silver or Asian Carp, the invasive flying carp and yes, there are a LOT of them and they really can jump high.

On a very cool Saturday morning, we board the train to head to Rock Island.   Today the Lexington Group had the use of all 4 cars.  I was actually the first one on board as I entered the second commuter coach and walked toward the rear.  But with the cold temps, I knew the 'old folks' on board, men and women, would want the warm cars so I grabbed a commuter coach seat that had a full clear window for pictures.  We highball north along the Illinois River.

Soon we passed the beautifully restored depot at Chillocothe:

We passed under several other railroads, the first one on the BNSF Chillocothe Sub:

Most of Illinois is quite flat with crops.  I was surprised at the number of soybean fields as formerly, most fields would have been corn.

But there was some neat scenery along the way:

Peoria is on a branch off the Iowa Interstate mainline.  At Bureau Junction we enter the welded rail mainline and quickly find a diesel,

And meet a freight in the siding waiting for us to pass:

After about 2 hours, I decide to take a walk back to the last car, the Hawkeye.  I'm surprised to find no one sitting in the dining area so I grab a seat by the heater and large window and start shooting (pictures):

A view from this location:

If you have some extra time, and are looking for a project, here's a depot you can restore:

A large ethanol plant on the line:

They brought us SUBWAY sandwiches for lunch, so I decided to check out the back platform of the Hawkeye.  Surprise--everyone's eating and no one is on the platform (for a while).  Well, I'm there now and I'm shooting pix.  Enjoy:

Yours truly, enjoying the 'Good Life.'

At Colona, the BNSF crosses the Iowa Interstate.  But instead of a diamond, it enters the Interstate track and a few hundred yards behind me, it branches off to the north.  Note the concrete ties on the BNSF.

More pix from the deck.

After the train ride we bussed to Galesburg and got a tour of the large Galesburg Train Yard.  Then we bussed back to Peoria.

I stayed overnight on Saturday night to visit the Monticello Railway Museum on Sunday.  I arrived early and toured their facility.  They have dozens of great displays, way too many to take pictures of everything.  Here's the entrance to the Museum:

And here is their main depot and office:

Part of the facility, looking west:

And looking east:

They have many shops and display barns.  Here is their classic Wabash F7 on the left and their steam engine (which runs) on the right:

They have a VERY LARGE barn in which they can store the whole train they will be using today:

They run their trains into downtown to this depot.  This WABASH depot was moved to this location and passengers may board here also:

But the main reason I visited this Museum is to have 'Throttle Time.'  People can make a reservation and run a train for about an hour.  My engine today would be a classic:  Canadian National ALCO FPA-4, made in 1959.

Here's some scenes from the engineeer's seat:

A Great Convention and Great Memories:


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