At dawn on June 9, 1996, I was set up near the west end of the old Kate Shelley Bridge. Mist clung to the valley floor as the sun painted the sky to the east.
Across the cornfield to the west I could hear an eastward Union Pacific freight blowing for highway crossings, the roar of its locomotives gradually getting louder.
I opted for this semi-silhouetted view. My subject is the bridge; the train is meant to be incidental. Yet the train makes the photos more interesting, and the couple of Conrail engines in the large consist of locomotives provide added interest for the keen observer.
This was little more than a year after Union Pacific had absorbed Chicago & North Western.
A decade later, UP began construction of a new bridge here using a modern structure. I imagine that the scene is much changed today.
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.
In the mid-1990s, I’ve made a variety of similar images along the Chicago & North Western’s Chicago-Council Bluffs mainline that offers a literal depiction of the classic textbook illustration showing railroad tracks to demonstrate perspective.
Why C&NW? The angle of tracks and arrangement offers classic simplicity. This is a largely tangent east-west double-track line that crosses comparatively open landscapes in western Illinois and central Iowa, where installation of advanced signaling combined with burying of code lines and other communications minimized line-side poles and wires.
I’ve exposed for the sky that produces a silhouette of tracks and equipment. C&NW’s highly polished mainline rails nicely reflect the evening sky. For added interest I’ve included a set of interlocking signals in the distance. If I placed them too close, the signals will have become the subject, and that was not the intent of this image.