Rails & Trails Pages

Monday, September 23, 2013

Soo Line Convention 2013

On September 19-22, 2013, I attended the Soo Line Historical Convention in Crystal Lake, Illinois, northwest of Chicago.  On Thursday evening, September 19, I presented a picture show about "The Blueberry Line."  Friday was dedicated to a bus/train/bus tour of railroad sights.  We bussed to Antioch to catch a Metra train.  Here is the depot.

Here comes our train.  It will pull into the yard, get a quick cleaning, and the shove back to pick us up.
This is the interior of the commuter cars.
At Deval, there is a crossing of 2 railroads, on a wood bridge, over a highway, and is the only one in the United States.
We are traveling on Canadian National tracks, the same tracks that run from Superior to Stevens Point through Ladysmith.  I missed a picture of the new connecting track to the EJ&E.  We get off the train at Schiller Park and load onto a bus for the remainder of the trip.  First stop is a visit to the Franklin Park Tower.  It has been moved but is restored to operating condition.
The upper level contains the levers and the interlocking which protected the switches and signals from incorrect positions.
Next stop was the immense Bensenville Yard of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.  These pictures are taken through a tinted glass bus window so are dark and a little blurry.
There was even a Soo Line diesel at the gate to greet us (an unplanned event).
The Union Pacific Railroad passes over the Bensenville Yard.  Interestingly, the UP track formerly passed through the south side of the O'Hare Airport but was recently moved along the CP track so the airport could extend a runway.
Their turntable is still used to turn engines.
The old enginehouse has been demolished and this structure is used.
This was the CP Hump Switching Yard but last year was converted back to the traditional "Flat Switching" Yard.
The gigantic yard is impossible to capture in photographs but here is part of it.  Notice the autorack cars.  The CP interchanges about 200 of these cars a day.
Next stop was Veterans Park where a neat small steam switch engine was located along with a Milwaukee Road passenger coach and caboose.  The steam engine was originally used at the Studebaker Factory in South Bend, Indiana.

 The steel rib-side caboose was the last one built in Milwaukee Road's shops in Milwaukee.
We visited Des Plaines Hobby Shop for shopping and lunch.  (I didn't buy anything).  Then we visited the restored Mundelein depot which now houses the Fort Hill Historical Society.  The depot was formerly Soo Line.
And they have this neat CB&Q Waycar (caboose).
Friday evening was dinner and a Swap Meet and Soo Line slides.  Saturday was more Swap Meet and Special Interest Sessions.  Saturday evening's banquet featured speaker Ed Burkhart.  On Sunday morning we headed home, stopping to visit George Forero's O-Gauge and HO-Gauge layouts.  Here's his beautiful 3-rail O-Gauge layout.
His double deck HO layout is still under construction.
And it features the Long Island Railroad where George grew up (and of course some Soo Line).
The O-Gauge is on the upper level in the basement and the HO on the lower level and they are connected by a stairs.
On the way home we found this neat "critter" in Zenda, Wisconsin that is used for switching.
The trackage is Wisconsin Southern, formerly Milwaukee Road.  This neat Milwaukee switchstand with the chevron has had a large green reflector added in deference to the small green diamond that the Milwaukee had on top of the switchstand.
We took a little side trip to cross the Wisconsin River on Wisconsin's last free ferry.  It holds 15 automobiles, operates 24 hours a day, and takes about 7 minutes to make a crossing.
Note the cables that the ferry uses to cross the river.
It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rob Becker of Hudson traveled with me and was my roommate.
The Wisconsin Southern Railroad bridge parallels the ferry route but no trains crossed while we were there.
On the south side of Baraboo we found this C&NW caboose and Kewaunee, Green Bay & Western car.  No details.
Another fun railroad trip.  Next year this Convention is only 40 miles away--in Ladysmith.

Monday, September 2, 2013

New York Trip 2013 Part 5

Today I am riding the Saratoga & North Creek Railway tourist train.  They have a full dome car and guess where I am riding.  As I step out of the motel I am greeted by a beautiful sunrise over the city of Albany.
 Saratoga Springs looks like a neat town with many historic homes or mansions.  We passed the massive horse track complex but my camera was still packed away.
 The neat Saratoga Springs depot serves Amtrak trains as well as the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.
The ticket office inside the depot.
Our train today will travel from Saratoga to North Creek.  The S&NC track and the Amtrak track are both former Deleware & Hudson (D&H) Railroad tracks.  We will run about one mile on the mainline before branching off to North Creek.
Here is our train for today.  Guess which car I am riding in!!
Here are interior views of our dome.
It is difficult to get good pictures through glass because of reflections--and this glass dome was very dirty.  The first part of our trip was mainly through wilderness but a few places opened up for pix.  But check below for much better pix.
We cross the Hadley Bridge where the Sacandaga River enters the Hudson River.  This is the most photographed location on the route for publicity shots.
The front of the dome was especially dirty so I couldn't get "down the tracks" shots through it.
We now parallel the north Hudson River and the scenery is much better.
We are now at North Creek where after a 3-hour layover, we will head back south.  North Creek is the "home station" for the S&NC and the home of their shop and where they keep their equipment.  One of the S&NC's diesels is the classic BL-2 of which only 59 were built.  BL stands for branch line so these diesels could be used in road service or switching.  They were often called "Ugly Ducklings" but most railfans seem to enjoy them.

Did you notice the rear handrail is missing?  A couple of weeks ago the conductor forgot to remove the chains between the walkways of this engine and one coupled to it.  When they separated them, the chains were stronger than the walkway!  Probably hard to get replacement handrails for this engine.

One reason I like riding tourist trains is the crews and staff are always very friendly, unlike Amtrak and most Class 1 railroads.  Conductor Mike and Engineer Brad were great and Brad gave me a personal tour of the BL2.  Here's the inside.
Brad is really proud of this engine, keeps it very clean, and calls it his baby.
Wouldn't it be great to run this engine at track speed??  It won't happen today as a traction motor is shot and would be replaced the next day.  But we can imagine . . . 
Here is just some of their other equipment.
Much of their equipment is painted in Illinois Central colors.  Owner Ed Ellis worked for the IC and is especially fond of their color scheme.  Here are his E units.
They have a neat turntable which they use infrequently to rotate their equipment.
This coal shed proudly displays its D&H heritage.
Note this neat switchstand's handle.  Lifting the handle lifts a whole casting to allow the track to be moved.
Our diesel today is a model B39-8E.  It pulls the train each way so it runs around the train on a side track at each destination.
History abounds here.  Years ago, a lot of lead ore was shipped out on this line to places like Albany.  The S&NC wants to get involved in freight service but so far has moved only 2 boxcars.  But they are hoping to start hauling lead tailings for use as road fill.

North Creek is well-known for the Teddy Roosevelt story.  It is here that Roosevelt found out that President McKinley had been assassinated and he would be President.  If you want more of the story, here it is:

The coach cars were basically empty--almost everyone wants to ride in the dome.  There is a lower level in the dome also, serving first class.
On the return trip I was allowed to stand in the vestibule.  These pictures are much clearer as I'm not shooting through glass.
As the sun sets over Albany and my vacation, I cross more items off  the Bucket List.  Another great railfanning trip for this railfan.