The Illinois Central has been part of the Canadian National system for more than 20 years.
It’s remarkable that classic IC SD40-2s (listed as ‘SD40-3s’ on some rosters presumably owing to changes to the locomotive electrical systems and other upgrades) survive in traditional black paint.
During my travels earlier this month with Chris Guss and Brian Schmidt, I made these photos of a pair of sequentially numbered IC SD40-2s working as rear-end helpers on a southward CN freight ascending Wisconsin Central’s Byron Hill.
Notice the GE builders ‘plate’ on the trailing unit.
Low evening sun and frigid temperatures made for some rosy light.
Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 90mm f2.0 lens.
My twin posts focused on Lena, Illinois drew considerable interest and answers.
Regarding the monster eastward Canadian National freight; the actual number of cars carried on this one train was 280 (plus three leading locomotives and a lone DPU). That’s a real whopper at 1,144 axles (24 are the locomotives)!
A number of Tracking the Light readers wrote to me about the unusual GREX drawbar connected maintenance train. I’ve compiled these below into a brief essay.
The curious maintenance train was built by Georgetown Industries (a spinoff of Texas-based Georgetown Railroad), which uses the GREX reporting marks. This train is described by the manufacturer as a Self-Powered SlotMachine® and commonly as ‘slot train’ which is designed to distribute materials. Instead of conventional gondolas, this is in effect a string of permanently connected articulated gondolas with the ends removed.
Since there are no bulkheads between cars an excavator can be used to traverse the entire length to load or unload material. The train is especially useful when a railroad is faced with limited track access time or locations that are inaccessible by road. One application is to dump ballast between the rails on ‘skeletonized’ track.
One flaw with the train is that the solid draw bar and articulated connections between cars make it impossible to set out a car in case of defect.
The Slot train’s power is a relatively new creation and appears to be based on LORAM’S boxy power unit. Georgetown has several Slot train sets that work at various places around the country, the machinery is still being evaluated or leased an as of yet, these trains are a rare sight on American rails.
Another Georgetown creation is its Dump Train, which is a series of drawbar-connected hoppers featuring a conveyor belt running under the length of the train and a swing out conveyor belt at the unloading end to deliver aggregate line-side. The style of construction gives the train a nearly European appearance.
As noted in yesterday’s post, I’d been inspecting a maintenance train parked on the siding at Lena, when lo and behold, the signal cleared to green.
I alerted John Gruber and we took positions to make photographs.
So there we were along the old Illinois Central at Lena, Illinois in the fading glow of the evening sun. This had been IC’s line from Chicago via Dubuque to Council Bluffs, Iowa and Back in the mid-1990s it had been operated as a regional called the Chicago, Central & Pacific, before being re-incorporated into Illinois Central on the eve of IC being absorbed by Canadian National.
A headlight twinkled into view, and I could see that a freight was coming, but not very fast.
As it grew closer I had the innate sense that it was a really huge train.
Finally it roared by with CN SD70M-2 in the lead. Many cars into the train was a lone CN DASH8-40C employed as a DPU (distributed power unit, modern railroad lingo for a radio controlled remote.)
I’ll let you in on a secret: I counted the cars. And do you know what? This was the largest/longest train I’d ever seen on the move. That’s with more than 40 years of watching trains. Any guesses as to how many cars? Trust me, it was a doosie!
(To those of you that I’ve told about this already, please keep the correct answer under your hat. And if anyone was working this monster, perhaps you have greater appreciation for its size than I do.)
The answers will be revealed in an up-coming post!
A few weeks back, John Gruber and I were on our way back to Madison, Wisconsin from the Mississippi River Valley. We’d followed the old Milwaukee Road up to Lanark, Illinois, then cut northward on Illinois State highways.
The sun was a golden globe in the western sky above rolling corn fields.
At Lena we intersected Canadian National’s former Illinois Central east-west line that connects Chicago with Council Bluffs, Iowa. I noticed that the signals were lit red and that there was something unusual in the siding.
Unusual indeed! It was a self-propelled draw-bar connected train of articulated flatcars for maintenance service. I’d never seen anything like it.
I’d love to tell you all about it, except I know precious little, except that the ‘locomotive’ had EMD Blomberg trucks and the whole machinery carried GREX reporting marks. Perhaps if I do another book on railroad maintenance equipment, I’ll have the opportunity to research this train more thoroughly.
While I was studying this unusual railway machine, the eastward signals at the end of the siding changed aspects; the cleared from all red to ‘green over red.’ A train had been lined! Hooray!
Among the most unusual 1980s-de-constructions was the result of Illinois Central Gulf’s compulsive trimming of most of its network outside the former IC principal north-south core. Among the new regional railroads created were: Chicago, Central & Pacific in 1985 on the old IC Chicago-Omaha route; Mississippi-based MidSouth in 1986; and the former Alton network spun off as Chicago, Missouri & Western in 1987. All were short-lived creations, and within a decade had been absorbed by other major carriers. In 1996, IC (having dropped ‘Gulf’ from its name in 1988) bought back the CC&P, MidSouth went to KCS, while C&MW routes were divided between Southern Pacific and Gateway Western (which was later absorbed by KCS). Also created from the ICG network was Paducah & Louisville in 1986, which continues to operate as a independent railroad in 2013.
And there are still six tracks, but now it is in effect two parallel lines; a four-track electric suburban route run by Chicago’s Metra, and a double track line run by Canadian National.
On November 7, 2013, Chris Guss gave me a whirlwind tour of Canadian National operations in Chicago, largely focused on former Illinois Central lines.
We scoped this location on East Pershing Street south of downtown, knowing that Canadian National’s southbound freight from Waterloo, Iowa (symbol 33891) was on its way. We didn’t wait long before it came into view.
In the course of about 25 minutes, we caught the freight followed by a wave of passenger trains run by Metra, South Shore and Amtrak.
The old Illinois Central catenary adds an element of intrigue to the gritty atmosphere of this line.
While waiting for trains, an enthusiastic baker came by and offered us butter cookies. Tasty too!
I exposed photos with three cameras, working with both my Canon EOS 7 and Lumix LX3, plus my Dad’s Leica M4.
During out short visit the sky over Lake Michigan quickly changed from blue to gray, a weather condition all to typical of Chicago.
The late Mike Abalos and I attended Illinois Central’s public open house on October 8, 1995. This was a well attended event.
Among the highlights was the railroad’s brand new SD70 number 1000 with its cab open for public inspection. Also on display was the railroad’s business train with former Burlington E-units.
The IC business train must have been one of the most secluded executive trains. Not only was this the only time I saw it, but I’ve seen relative few photographs of it on the move.
It’s livery was an impressive application of a monochromatic design.
Although it was overcast that day, I worked with Kodachrome 25 in my Nikon F3T. When exposed properly, K25 could produce a well rendered image on dull days. I also had Fuji Provia 100 in my Nikormat FT3. Both cameras allowed me to expose some interesting photos of the event.
Eighteen years ago today, May 20, 1995, I made this image of a CC&P former Illinois Central GP9 (still wearing pre-Illinois Central Gulf, IC black) working across the Burlington Northern crossing at East Dubuque, Illinois.
For me, this image of a train emerging from the inky depths of a leaf-covered, stratified cliff, crossing another set of tracks and reaching out of the frame, neatly sums up the short history of the CC&P.
During the mid-1980s, Illinois Central Gulf dramatically trimmed its route structure. Among the lines carved out of ICG, was the Chicago-Omaha/Sioux City CC&P. Born at the end of 1985, this ambitious regional line competed for east-west traffic on the its Chicago-Omaha trunk, while serving on-line customers. After a little more than a decade, Illinois Central (by it then had dropped the ‘Gulf’ in its name—adopted as a reflection of the early 1970s merger with Gulf, Mobile & Ohio) reacquired CC&P.
During the relatively short interval of CC&P independence, the railroad never re-painted all of its locomotives, many of which had been in inherited from ICG. Shortly after, CC&P was melded back into the IC family, it too was absorbed by Canadian National. At the time of this photo, CN was actively using trackage rights on BN, and its trains crossed CC&P’s line 8 to 10 times daily.
Railroad Family Trees Coming Soon!
My book, tentatively titled Railroad Family Trees will be available from Quayside Publishing Group later this year.