Originally published Aug 9, 2011, on DRGW.Net
Two years ago, seeing all the steam power that gathered at Train
Festival 2009 in Owosso, MI, was an incredible amount of fun. So, when
the organizers announced that it would be held in Rock Island, IL, in
2011 – just minutes from my home town of Walcott, IA – I couldn’t resist
taking the week off to go.
Train Festival is an event celebrating railroading oriented at
the general public as well as more hard-core railfans. It includes a
combination of merchandise vendors, models, full-sized equipment, and
various trips over the host railroads. TF 2011 featured equipment such
as NKP Berkshire 765, the Iowa Interstate QJ 2-10-2s, ATSF 3751 (which
didn’t make it), CPRR 63 “Leviathan”, Flagg Coal 75, Lehigh Coal 126,
Viscose 6, and IAIS 513 (the RI heritage unit). Late in the cycle, the
surprise announcement came that the Illinois Railway Museum would be
adding the Nebraska Zephyr to the mix. The NZ, a 1936 Budd-built
streamliner with an EMD E5 for power, very rarely leaves the museum
grounds. The chance to see it on long distance runs – and the
opportunity to ride over the road on it – was an extremely rare
opportunity. In addition, the IRM also brought CB&Q SW7 9255 and
CNW F7A 411, and BNSF kicked in ES44C4 6688.
All four days of the official Festival – Thursday the 21st through
Sunday the 24th – offered visitors the chance to visit the exhibits in
downtown Rock Island between 0900h and 1800h. In addition, each day
featured a long distance train trip and two local steam-powered turns
from Rock Island to Walcott and back. Thursday’s run was an
Amtrak-operated passenger special from Chicago to Rock Island to bring
the excursion cars into town. On Friday, NKP 765 powered a trip to
Bureau and back. Saturday took a different direction, with IAIS QJ 6988
taking passengers west into Iowa, turning around at Yocum (just outside
Homestead, IA). Sunday actually had two trips – one on the CB&Q
Nebraska Zephyr to Bureau and back on the IAIS, and an Amtrak special
south to Muscatine in combination with the Celebration Belle riverboat,
allowing passengers to travel one way on each mode of transportation.
After the Festival ended, the passenger cars and Amtrak P42s returned to
Chicago on a one-way revenue run.
What follows is my week of chasing the official trips, riding the Friday 765 trip, and chasing various other freight and ferrying moves in the days before the event. Enjoy!
Monday – Tuesday, July 18-19, 2011
On the way over, I came into Iowa via US 30 and Missouri Valley. I wanted to get a look at UP’s latest double tracking efforts between Fremont and the Missouri River, and see how much they’d raised the grade through town to keep the rails above water. Here’s one of the farms south of town, completely surrounded by the river.
Another flooded road south of Missouri Valley on the drive to Council Bluffs.
It’s things like this sign that are part of why I’m proud to be an Iowan, even if in exile for the last decade. Despite the months of adversity from the floodwaters, Iowans carry on, work with what they’ve got, and still have a sense of humor about it. (It’s the Pizza Ranch in Missouri Valley, taken from Caseys when I stopped for gas.)
After seeing some of the flood-affected areas near MoVo, I dropped down to Council Bluffs and picked up Iowa Interstate. Due to the floods, lots of detour traffic has been going via IAIS, but I didn’t find anything until this very short westbound at Malcom, IA.
Looking east down the IAIS at the Grinnell M&StL crossing, showing the unique corner depot (now a restaurant). It used to be a pretty good shot from the south side of the track, but they seem to have let the weeds go lately.
The train was all of IAIS ES44AC 504, GP38-2 712, a boxcar, four covered hoppers, and four tanks. I’m not even sure what train this was, but it might have been a stub BICB originating in Silvis. Either way, they’re coming over Union Pacfic’s ex-M&StL diamonds.
On Tuesday, we went out chasing the ferry move of the Nebraska Zephyr from the Illinois Railway Museum down to the Quad Cities. We caught up with it at Davis Junction, IL, going backwards with CB&Q 9255 leading. The odd things they pull passenger trains with these days…
They’ll take the leg of the junction east onto the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern line, pointing E5 9911A westward for the run to Savanna, IL.
After nearly an hour spent getting 9255 back in the consist, they finally get out of Davis Junction. The entire rowdy (and overheated) railfan horde on the overpass falls silent as the Mars light comes around the corner.
The NZ highballs west under Illinois 72, and the chase is on.
They made good time on the high iron, but we caught up with them again just outside Leaf River. Whoever at the Illinois Railway Museum thought to put a GPS tracker onboard is an absolute genius. It helped immensely throughout the chase.
Burnin’ up the rails through Adeline, IL
We were all waiting outside Forreston for a good run-by when 9911A crested the hill and just stopped with the red nose light on. Uh oh, that’s not good…
This was the initial culprit – a signal that, likely due to the extreme heat – was telegraphing between clear and restricting every minute or two, and was passing through everything in between.
Turns out that the random signal at 108.7 was only part of the problem – the big E was also having overheating issues and the crew wanted to use the stop and proceed as a good excuse to let it cool for a few minutes.
9911’s track warrant took them as far as Kittridge, the siding just east of Lanark, IL (the siding is named after a major rail junction northeast of town, where the Milwaukee line to Chicago that we’ve been following met another Milwaukee line to Beloit and Racine, WI.) Here we would sit for nearly 3 1/2 hours waiting on a five way meet – two east, three west, with the second-to-last westbound being the Nebraska Zephyr. Here’s the second eastbound – CITX 3008, 3071, and 2792 with an empty ethanol.
Rule of afternoon midwestern railfanning – when your train shows up, the light goes away. It’s now 1830h, and the NZ is just leaving Kittredge.
At least in low light and low speeds, you can try for interesting contrasts.
Thirty seconds of evening storm light as 9911A comes around the corner through Mt Carroll, IL. It also gave me just enough curvature to hide the other two engines.
The shot many of us wanted was coming off the Mississippi River swing bridge into Sabula, IA, and so there was quite a lineup on the levee to catch CSXT 5419 and its empty ethanol train coming through first. Then those fated words came over the radio, “9911A is tying down in Savanna.” Quick – it’s a mad rush back to the cars and back to Illinois!
But first, have to get the Soo SD60. I grew up around here and saw these running when they were brand new. I do miss solid sets of Soo Line power.
Is there any debate where we are?
Pulled up along CP 9558 at the East Savanna control point.
A comparison of the nose profiles, along with a look at the RCMP Musical Ride logos on 9558’s cab side.
One last shot – NZ lounge/tail car “Juno” at Mt. Carroll.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
IAIS 6988 and 7081 moved from their home in Newton to Iowa City on Tuesday while we were out chasing the Nebraska Zephyr. On Wednesday, they’d be pulling revenue freight from Iowa City to Rock Island to complete their move to Train Festival 2011. Here they are leaving Iowa City just after 1000h.
No, it’s not an IAIS swing helper. 701 is along for the ride and is crewed, but isn’t being used to get the train over the road. It’ll be used as the rear end leader for the Rock Island to Walcott and back steam trips, since the train can’t be turned.
Passing through West Liberty by the old station and interlocking signal, they’re making track speed with hardly any visible exhaust. (Danny Holmes photo)
Smoking it up past the old elevator at Atalissa, IA. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the “Americanization” of 6988 that had been done for TF2011, but the more I watched them, the more it began to grow on me. Still, I’m glad they left one of them as the Chinese intended.
6988’s warrant went only to North Star, so we figured (correctly) that he’d be meeting the westbound BICB there. When we arrived, 510 and crew were already in the hole waiting with a short west freight.
Here’s one for you – a regional railroad’s nearly new ES44 passes their two Chinese steam locomotives pulling revenue freight across Iowa. I dare you – beat that for weirdness. 6988 and 7081 are being watered from their new water bottle – IAIS tank car 8000. 7081 is directly connected, but they have to stop and run hoses up to 6988.
Okay, I’ll try to top it – the railroad’s chairman, Henry Posner III, poses with part of his fan club while the two steamers take water. Yes, apparently HP3 has fans now… (In all seriousness, this would be the mother and sister of a local IAIS railfan, passing the time with some humor while riding along in this mad cavalcade.)
With BICB past, the crew starts running hoses to get water from the tanker up to 6988’s tender. It used to be that they’d stop in Walcott for water from the local fire department, and I’m going to rather miss the scheduled stops in my home town.
A little out of order, but this is the new water bottle for the steamers. This appears to be an older-style Union Tank Car-built ADM 17,000 gallon corn syrup tank, but I’m not a tank car expert – corrections welcome.
A closeup of the direct hose coupling between 8000 and 7081’s tender.
Henry (green safety vest) shares a few notes on the train and its stats with Trains magazine editor Jim Wrinn (orange). I, lacking a pen or paper at the time, just had to memorize it. I believe it amounted to 7078 tons of freight and then 150 extra tons for 701, since the computer counted it as power, not freight.
And with a mighty blast, we’re off again. No worry, though – they’ve still got to stop to line the east siding switch back to the main.
What can I say, the Americanized front end really is growing on me more as the day goes on.
Also, I rather like the new cabside lettering that’s been applied to both engines.
One of my favorite shots of the day, rounding a bend just east of Walcott. In an agricultural setting such as this, I could almost believe I was seeing them on their home rails in China. It just resembles so many photos I’ve seen from those who did get the chance to see them while they were still running at home. (Thanks to Erik Rasmussen for the use of his truck bed.)
The run’s almost done as they come down the middle of the street in West Davenport. (See, I used my foamer filter, and you don’t see a darn one, do you? Actually you can see three well hidden ones if you look very closely.)
Sort of a grab shot as 6988 steps off the Sylvan Slough bridge, with the Rock Island Arsenal’s clock tower in the background.
Meanwhile, KCS 3913 sits in the RI yard with a detour train bound for Council Bluffs. Once 6988 is in the yard, they’ll take off westbound. (Danny Holmes photo)
With the freight dropped, the two engines make their way up to the east end of the Rock Island yard.
Sure, it’s not a great shot, but you’ve got to get the Have a Happy Day bridge!
Before giving in to the siren’s song of Maid-Rites, my dad and I stopped at the former Missouri Division Junction in West Davenport to catch the KCS grain empty detour.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
The official Train Festival 2011 schedule and letter that came with my tickets.
The first official run of Train Festival 2011 was powered by NKP Berkshire 765, pulling passengers from Rock Island out to Walcott and back.
The runs stopped just short of County Road Y-40, on the east side of town. At that point, 701 would start them back to Rock Island. Heard on the radio this first run, from the 765 crew: “You know 765 has a 25mph speed limit going backwards, right?” 701 crew: “Uhhh… no?”
The regular east CBBI train comes through Walcott on Thursday, 21 Jul 2011, following the first RI-Walcott steam turn back to town. (Danny Holmes photo)
500, 157, 714, and 507 dropping down Davenport Hill beneath Locust Street on their way to Rock Island
We thought we’d take advantage of Thursday being a slower day at Train Festival to go in and look around. Still lots of people, still an inferno, but we figured it would be less crowded than Fri-Sun. (I’m cheating – this picture of the front gate was actually taken by my father late Sunday afternoon.)
Just as we were arriving, the second Walcott run was headed out through the yards. They had the industrial track all fenced off and staff posted at the crossings to ensure trains could move through the limits safely.
For the second run, they’d substituted QJ 6988 for NKP 765. Here they are departing the yard just after 1300h
While they’d counted on Train Festival runs moving through the limits during open hours, I don’t think they’d planned on the regular BNSF traffic. There was some interesting radio discussion on how and when to bring the BNSF Clinton Local through the limits, but eventually they did – very slowly. Pinkbonnet 555 and repainted sister unit 5437 lead the local off the Crescent Bridge towards Rock Island.
The trains on exhibit weren’t always the easiest to photograph in the afternoon light, but IAIS 513 was up at the front of the line.
513 with the Centennial Bridge and the Nebraska Zephyr in the background
Leviathan is a modern replica of Central Pacific #63, an 1868 Schnectady-built 4-4-0. It was unveiled two years ago at Train Festival 2009 in Owosso, MI.
You’ve seen Chicago & Northwestern 411 before, pulling the Nebraska Zephyr down on Tuesday. The 1949 F7A was built as CNW 4082C, and was used in commuter work work train service for CNW and Metra before becoming part of the Illinois Railway Museum’s collection in 1999.
I know, I know, it’s another BNSF GEVO. But at least 6688 here is one of the ES44C4s, making it a little unusual. Plus it’s only the second C4 I’ve ever seen.
Given the stark light, I decided to play with HDR a bit. I keep going back and forth on whether to post this one or not, so here it is – if you don’t like it, don’t look.
On the north side of the equipment display area were the small steamers. In order, they’re Flagg Coal Co. 75, a 1930 Vulcan 0-4-0T; Lehigh Valley Coal 126, a 1931 Vulcan 0-6-0T; and Viscose 6, a 1924 Baldwin 0-6-0T. It’s Thursday mid-afternoon and scorchingly hot (100+ degrees on this white rock surface), so there aren’t many people out examining the equipment.
Little tank engines aren’t really my thing, so I didn’t go to great lengths to pull off great shots against horrid light, but they’re all beautifully restored and operational machines.
While sister engine 6988 is out working, 7081 sits in the yard. Unlike 6988, 7081 retains its full Chinese appearance.
Here comes the second Walcott run back into the yard, with the Modern Woodmen building in the background. With that, the intense heat was overcoming my parents and myself, so we decided to retreat to cooler environs at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants just down the street from the event.
After dinner, we went up to the Rock Island yard to catch the inbound Amtrak special from Chicago. Routed via Galesburg and Colona on BNSF rails and then over IAIS into the festival, the train brought down the passenger cars to be used on the long distance steam excursions for Friday and Saturday.
I’m not exactly sure what CB&Q 9255 was doing out running around, but here it comes right behind Amtrak.
Clear of the main yard, the train creeps along along First Avenue towards Train Festival in downtown Rock Island. Amtrak was nice enough to provide us two of their heritage paint P42s – AMTK 156 and 66 (phase I and II heritage paint, respectively).
The plan was to take the newly arrived passenger train across the Crescent Bridge to Davenport, and turn it on the wye connecting into the IC&E mainline. However, given delays for boats and problems getting bulletins to the crew needed to enter the IC&E, it took forever. So, I just sat around sweating my rear off and taking pictures of things that interested me, like the Crescent Bridge.
Finally, thanks to some help from an IC&E man from Nahant Yard, they received authority to pass over the bridge and wye.
Almost certainly never going to see this again – two Amtrak heritage engines pulling a passenger train over the Crescent Bridge.
One of the few shots I got of Amtrak 66, the Phase II heritage engine.
Milwaukee “Sky Top” tail car Cedar Rapids hangs out over the Mississippi while they throw the switch onto the IC&E. Strangely, the car is about to re-enter former Milwaukee rails along the river.
Friday-Saturday, July 22-23, 2011
Amtrak 156 and NKP 765 are both being prepped for Friday’s run to Bureau and back over the IAIS. 765 will take the lead, but the Amtrak units will be along for HEP (as well as emergency propulsion in the event something should happen to 765).
My transportation for the day – Milwaukee Superdome 53. It’s good to have a day of riding after chasing nearly nonstop since arriving back in Iowa. (Yes, I’m cheating again, this was taken later in the day in Bureau, IL.)
The inside of Superdome 53
Well, we’re not moving yet, let me just check the IAIS list one more time in case something interesting got posted… (Danny Holmes photo)
There was absolutely no lack of a crowd waiting for us at Bureau (Dan Holmes photo)
My only complaint for the trip was that there was a very poorly coordinated run-by *during* lunch at Bureau. I hadn’t even gotten my lunch yet and they were setting up the photo line.
Shot from the aforementioned run-by. I must say, though, HyVee’s food was great, as usual. It’s just that I had to eat my whole plate in about four bites so I could get the shot. For ~$260, I shouldn’t have to choose between the only run-by and eating lunch.
The other premium dome, besides the Milwaukee, was the San Luis & Rio Grande’s SLRG 511, Nenana. She’s a long way from home.
Saturday morning brought rain and clouds for the run west from Rock Island to the Yocum wye and back (near Homestead, IA). Since the train was running against the light the whole trip, I got my shot at Moscow in the morning as it crossed the Cedar River and then just let it go. 6988 was in the lead, followed by the two Amtrak P42s and the passenger consist.
Instead, I decided to avoid the foamer gaggle and just chase CBBI into Rock Island instead. The light still wasn’t great here at North Star (just west of Wilton).
Once the crew lined the switch, 505 was on the move east once more. Power is ES44ACs 505 and 510 followed by SD38-2 154 for those interested.
Nothing like fresh bales and corn fields to speak to IAIS’s agricultural heritage
505 whooped us getting into Davenport, so we had lunch and settled for the next Walcott train heading west, seen here on Davenport’s Third Street bridge.
Missing a shot in between, we got ahead of him again in time for the crossing just east of Walcott. In preparation for having dinner on the Zephyr, we headed home to clean up. The light had gone to pot anyway.
Arriving in Rock Island after the morning rain had moved on, I caught this reflection shot with 7081 and the IAIS business cars in the background.
As we’re waiting for the Zephyr crew to be ready for us, I wandered over to get a shot of 765 simmering in the yard.
Relaxing in the Zephyr’s tail car, waiting for dinner to be served.
And the first (and only) seating for dinner on Saturday is ready to go. My compliments to the IRM staff and volunteers – they pulled off this fundraising dinner beautifully. Well organized, great food, and could you ask for better accommodations?
After dinner, with the crowds gone from the grounds, the various crews are out servicing their machines. Here, IAIS 7081 gets a little lubrication in its main rod bearings.
Also, this is the first time I’ve gotten a shot of 765’s auxilliary tender – RPCX 250001. They leased it from the Virginia Museum of Transportation. It’s usually behind N&W 1218, and was built from an L&N M-1 Berkshire tender.
The Zephyr’s E5 and ES44C4 6688 sit in the evening storm light
Guess which is newer? Let me give you a hint – the one that burns rocks.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Now here’s something you don’t see every day – an old Milwaukee MP15AC, and still in Soo candy apple red. Taken at the yard in West Davenport while waiting for the train to finish its reverse move onto the IC&E. This is the old Rock Island yard, not Nahant.
Here’s our awaited passenger move. Hard to believe the straight track behind the train is the former RI Golden State route – today it’s just an interchange lead up to Iowa Interstate.
Finally, nearly 45 minutes after getting into West Davenport, they finally make Buffalo in the pouring rain. Apparently, since they were meeting the boat in Muscatine, they’d decided to take it slow going down and then highball the return run.
That’s it, weather. I cry uncle. Let’s go chase something else.
And turns out, there’s conveniently something else running. (Actually it was my plan all along to switch to the Zephyr after Buffalo.) Here’s the Nebraska Zephyr headed east towards Bureau at Geneseo, IL. Strangely, still raining.
As quickly as they arrived, they were on their way again. Meanwhile, here we all are, standing around in the rain with tens of thousands in dollars of camera gear. Yeah, we’re all a little nuts.
Burnin’ up the high iron just north of Buda, IL, with the UP Peoria Sub overpass in the background. The light is deteriorating quickly, though – I’m already at ISO 800 and can barely get enough shutter speed.
Silver streamliners rolling through the rich farmlands of the midwest, as God, EMD, and Budd intended. Taken actually at a standstill, as the train was headed down IAIS’s Second Sub to Peoria. They’re just wying and getting ready to back into Bureau.
Backing into Bureau, past the old RI station that sits between the wye legs.
Here’s what I mean – the track to the left is IAIS’s Second Sub to Peoria, and the one on the other side of the depot is the First Sub between Blue Island and Iowa City.
The Zephyr sits in downtown Bureau as the passengers are out wandering around for a few minutes.
Along the west leg of the wye, IAIS is constructing some sort of new loading facility. I’ve heard this will be for sand loadout purposes.
The Zephyr departs Bureau under the old signal bridge. (Danny Holmes photo)
Given the pouring rain and throngs of fans chasing, we decided to jump way ahead and get a spot by the old Mineral elevator.
Making its way over the BNSF at Colona and swinging back around onto IAIS rails. (Danny Holmes photo)
Coming into Moline on the industrial track, the sun is almost breaking through the clouds.
Moving slowly through downtown Moline
One of the reasons 9911A was in no hurry was that the last Walcott turn of Train Festival 2011 was still occupying the Rock Island yard. They were holding back, waiting for the previously-returned Amtrak run to finish unloading. Here they are doing a blow-down just out of the RI yard.
With permission to proceed, 7081 leads the train into the downtown Rock Island yard to unload
Not far behind is 9911A, also waiting its turn to get into the festival
A last look at this magnificent machine from above
This gives a whole new meaning to “running on his markers” – almost literally!
And with the Zephyr’s Bureau run terminating back in the Train Festival grounds, the last day of Train Festival 2011 concludes.
Turns out it was really a four train backup waiting to get into the yard – 6988 still needed to come in.
That’s it, folks! At that point it was time to wrap it up and head for home.
All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 1D Mark III (Nathan Holmes) or 7D (Danny Holmes) using either a Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS/USM.