It was the evening of June 15, 2004, and I was out along the old Burlington C&I line at Chana, west of Rochelle, Illinois. The sunset was this amazing tapestry of color, like a Turner oil painting. I had a few minutes to make the most it.
The old General Railway Signal searchlight signal with its classic finial and the code lines beyond made for good silhouette subjects. I blasted through about a half a roll of film before the color faded. I’ve found you have to make the most of these cosmic moments when they happen.
Often there’ll be a great sunset, but I won’t be in a position to use the light for anything constructive, and so I’ll just have to gaze at it with regrets. Seeing a missed opportunity in a sunset; that’s one of the downsides of being a photographer.
At one time, just about every town in North America had at least one railway station. Tens of thousands of station buildings dotted the continent. Most were small. Often railroads would have their bridge and building departments draft standard station plans of various sizes and apply these where appropriate.
Steward, Illinois is a village on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy several miles east of Rochelle (where the CB&Q crossed the Chicago & North Western). It has been many years since this small standard-plan station hosted trains. It survives as a tie to the era when the railroad was the town’s lifeline to the outside world.
The May 1949 Official Guide of the Railways lists CB&Q train 52 stopping here at 7:32 am eastbound, and train 49 stopping at 10:51 pm westbound, while a mixed train could make a stop on request (no time listed).
Now the station has little to do with the main line running nearby. Dozens of BNSF Railway long distance freights pass daily. There are no passenger trains on this route—not since Amtrak assumed most long distance passenger services in 1971. But Steward probably had lost its local train long before then.