Friday, July 20, 2012

Land O' Corn - Part 3

This is Part 3 of a four-part entry on a trip to the Midwest to visit Kansas City and St. Louis before heading on to the convention of the National Railway Historical Society in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In Part 1 we headed west towards Kansas City and in Part 2 we took a look around K.C. In this third part we head back across Missouri, pause in St. Louis and then head to Chicagoland.
Amtrak; East St. Louis, Ill.; June 16, 2012
In our last installment we (Frank Ferguson, my brother Bruce and I) had just finished shooting trains in Kansas City and had finally pointed the ol' Ford Explorer eastbound. We had spent the better part of three fun-packed days with Kevin EuDaly, owner of White River Productions, but we weren't quite finished with him yet (as you'll see). 

We followed the former Wabash east from Kansas City into Missouri's hills, and we found a BNSF westbound coal train sitting at Maxwell. The train was parked a few hundred yards east of a grade crossing, and we paused at the crossing to see if the train was going to move. Walking out onto the crossing to get a better look, we drew the ire of the engineer who began blowing his horn and radioing the dispatcher about "trespassers" (remember -- we're on a public grade crossing). Since he was a) cranky and b) not looking like he was going to move anytime soon, we headed eastward.

Beyond Fleming the former Santa Fe transcontinental route (now BNSF) and the former Wabash (now Norfolk Southern) run very close to each other all the way to WB Junction near Carrollton, and the two railroads run cooperatively with westbounds on the transcon and eastbounds on the Wabash. We paused in the town of Hardin (the only place in this long stretch where the Wabash is torn up, so trains in both directions are on BNSF) and got a few westbound trains -- one each from Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and BNSF -- passing the signal replacement project in town. We also found a Norfolk Southern unit grain train waiting at the large mill just on the east side of town.
BNSF Railway; Hardin, Mo.; June 14, 2012
Moving on to Norborne, we found a funky elevator there and needed a westbound. In the meantime, a friendly BNSF signal maintainer pulled up and called up the train lineup on his computer so we knew one was coming. We also got a few eastbound trains in evening glint passing older wooden grain elevators. From here it was on to Bucklin, Mo., where Kevin has a house in the country. Kevin and Nadine would put us up for the night within earshot of the BNSF main line.

The next morning we were back in Kevin's Explorer to see the sights around Bucklin. We caught a few BNSF freights under cloudy skies near the old railroad site of Hart (nothing left there anymore). The sun made an appearance just in time to get Amtrak's eastbound Southwest Chief from an overhead bridge. 
Amtrak; Hart (Bucklin), Mo.; June 15, 2012
With the sun now out we pingponged back and forth between the overhead bridges at Hart and Ethel, as well as the grade crossing at Hart. Soon, though, it was time for us to move east. We had to be in St. Louis that evening, so we bid goodbye to Kevin and Nadine and continued the journey.
BNSF Railway; Ethel, Mo.; June 15, 2012
While heading east we encountered some fortuitous information that a westbound BNSF freight would be coming along with a pair of Alco locomotives from the Arkansas & Missouri in the consist. We ran into that train in Shelbina, then continued on to Kirkwood for our evening railroad entertainment along the old Missouri Pacific (now Union Pacific). Kirkwood is a pleasant town with a restored depot, and while we would have liked to get at least two westbounds there before the sun set, we had to settle for just one. We then headed over to Respondek's Port operation in Granite City, Ill., for a few night shots and then tied up once again at Collinsville, Ill., with an early morning appointment with Amtrak on the schedule.
Union Pacific; Kirkwood, Mo.; June 15, 2012
The next morning found something we hadn't had much of on previous tries -- sunshine in St. Louis. We had three things that were going to happen pretty much simultaneously and we needed good timing to get both. With friend Mark Mautner scoping out the action at the Anheuser Busch plant in St. Louis (our second stop) we set up for the Texas Eagle skyline shot in East St. Louis we had not been able to get in sun a week ago. We were rewarded with an extra long Eagle (photo at the top of this blog) sporting two locomotives and single-level cars up front (the Eagle has double-deck Superliners as the regular consist). 

Meanwhile, Mark was giving us a blow-by-blow account of what was happening across the river at the brewery. Busch had been served by its own railroad, the Manufacturers, until recently and now Foster Townsend Rail Logistics served the plant. FTRL had gone back into the plant but hadn't come back out yet when we arrived. It didn't take long for the switcher to emerge, however, giving us a nice shot under the Budweiser sign.
Foster Townsend Rail Logistics; St. Louis, Mo.; July 16, 2012
Our third goal of the day was to get the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis transfer from Madison, Ill., to BNSF in St. Louis near Laclede's Landing. The transfer job had just recently been rescheduled to run on the high line in the morning, making for a nice shot from the Eads Bridge. We found parking not far from the bridge and walked out, getting a BNSF coal train first, followed by the TRRA transfer.
Terminal Railroad Association; Laclede's Landing, St. Louis, Mo.; June 16, 2012
BNSF Railway; St. Louis, Mo.
About this time Mike Burkhart arrived at the Gateway Arch station on the Metrolink light rail. He joined us just in time to get Norfolk Southern passing under the Gateway Arch heading north along Laclede's Landing. The shot he (and the rest of us) really wanted, though, was a southbound train passing through the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and beneath the Arch. We got to the Arch just in time to miss a northbound BNSF coal train (but that wasn't what we were after). Then a light engine emerged from the tunnel just south of the Arch directly beneath us and paused at the junction before heading back south again, so we got the shot -- sort of. It still wasn't what we wanted. Disappointed, we left and headed north along the waterfront to Market Street where -- whoa! -- not one, but two southbound coal trains were making their way onto the high line. We quickly backtracked to the Arch, fighting tourists and paying for parking (a second time), then raced up the hill and across the lawn and crashed through the bushes on the south tunnel portal. The first train came just as a black cloud swallowed the sun, but the second train, with a BNSF executive SD70M leading, came through in sun. We had gotten the shot we wanted. 

Mike had not been to St. Louis before, so we set out to see some rail sights. Our first stop was at the engine house of the old Manufacturers Railway -- a sign over the doors still indicate the engine house's heritage, but Foster Townsend's bright orange locomotives had replaced the Manufacturer's green. We then went looking for the TRRA job we had shot from the Eads Bridge that morning, knowing it would have to turn back. We finally found him just pulling from the BNSF yard for the return trip. We set up along the high line at Laclede's Landing for a very nice shot of the train on the trestle.
Terminal Railroad Association; Laclede's Landing, St. Louis, Mo.; June 16, 2012
Figuring the TRRA train would cross the Merchant's Bridge on the north end of St. Louis to get to its home yard in Madison, Ill., we headed that way. We watched TRRA action in the yard in some really nice light but, alas, our train was stopped on the bridge and never made it into the yard. We then headed back over to the Port at Granite City to shoot the Respondek locomotives in daylight. Another quick stop was made at the grain mill just across the river from the Gateway Arch to shoot a locomotive there. With time ticking away and the need to be in Chicagoland that night, we then headed into East St. Louis for a couple of token shots of Metrolink.
Metrolink; East St. Louis, Ill.; June 16, 2012
Being somewhat captivated bu urban railroading, and finding decaying cities to be particularly interesting, we went into the heart of downtown East St. Louis for another shot of the light rail.
Metrolink; East St. Louis, Ill.; June 16, 2012
Mike was not with us when we had made our stop in Litchfield, Ill., to shoot Respondek's Illini Terminal locomotive, so we stopped there just before sunset. Then it was on to Chicagoland for the night.

The next morning found us in Joliet, Ill., under heavy clouds where we shot Metra passenger trains passing the nicely restored Union Station and still-used tower there. Then it was on to West Chicago where active JB Tower guards the crossing of the Chicago & North Western (now Union Pacific) and Elgin, Joliet & Eastern (now Canadian National). The EJ&E used to boast only a train or two a day, but CN has made the line a busy bypass of downtown Chicago. We got the expected heavy traffic on the UP, but a couple of southbound CN trains were a nice bonus.
Canadian National (EJ&E); West Chicago, Ill.; June 17, 2012
Our ultimate goal here was to get the westbound special passenger train from Chicago heading towards the National Railway Historical Society convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Eventually we had to leave West Chicago to get to our photo spot for the passenger train, the bucolic barn scene along the ex-C&NW at Geneva. We were there in plenty of time to get UP freights and Metra passenger trains passing the farm. Then along came the NRHS special, which will kick off our fourth and final part of this trip narrative next time.
Union Pacific; Geneva, Ill.; June 17, 2012
Next time we'll chase the NRHS trip to Cedar Rapids, take part in convention activities and see a few more sights in eastern Iowa.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Land O' Corn - Part 2

This is Part 2 of a four-part entry on a trip to the Midwest to visit Kansas City and St. Louis before heading on to the convention of the National Railway Historical Society in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In Part 1 we headed west towards Kansas City. In this installment we railfan around the crossroads of railroading.
Union Pacific; Kansas City, Mo.; June 12, 2012
On the morning of June 12, 2012, I was in Kansas City along with my brother Bruce and friend Frank Ferguson. We were soon picked up by Kansas City resident Kevin EuDaly (owner of White River Productions, a publisher of railroad magazines and books) who took us on a whirlwind tour of the surprisingly compact city -- from the north end to the south Kansas City packs a lot into about six miles of traveling. It didn't take long to find locomotives moving around Knoche Yard on the Kansas City Southern, but the first highlight came when we caught a Union Pacific coal train with the city skyline overhead (above).

It was then on to Santa Fe Junction, an incredible three-level crossing of trackage where we soon saw Kansas City Terminal at ground level, Union Pacific on the middle level and BNSF Railway soaring overhead, all straddling the Missouri-Kansas border. Around the corner from Santa Fe Junction near 29th Street we spotted an abandoned brewery that we thought would make a nice backdrop for a photo, and it wasn't long before we were rewarded with a BNSF train with plenty of power on the head end.

BNSF Railway; 29th Street, Kansas City, Mo.; June 12, 2012
We then went off in search of a Union Pacific ballast train, then caught a BNSF train at Holliday, Kan. From there it was back into the city to Union Station, where we watched trains from the Freight House Bridge (catching BNSF, UP and Amtrak) and enjoying some Kansas City barbecue in the freight house. After lunch we headed to the West Bottoms, one of the most photogenic urban railroad locations in the country. We shot the tower at Old Union Station and then caught a Union Pacific train amidst all the neat brick warehouses of the Bottoms.

Union Pacific; West Bottoms, Kansas City, Mo.; June 12, 2012
We spent some more time in the West Bottoms, catching the Kansas City Terminal's yellow "bananas" pulling a train near Old Union Station Tower and then watching a BNSF switcher set work the small 19th Street Yard. The "bananas" are a pair of former Southern Pacific GP38-2s now working for KCT in a bright yellow paint scheme. Colorful, indeed!

Kansas City Terminal; Old Union Station, Kansas City, Mo.; June 12, 2012
We returned to downtown for the sweet late light at Union Station, where the parade of BNSF and Union Pacific continued, along with Kansas City Southern. We spent our time on the Pennway Street bridge, which gives a great overview of the Union Station complex and the iconic Western Auto building. We finished off our first day in Kansas City with a chase of a BNSF coal train to Lenexa, Kan.

BNSF Railway; Union Station, Kansas City, Mo.; June 12, 2012
Day two in Kansas City found us at the diamond east of town at Birmingham, Mo., where we shot an eastbound Norfolk Southern auto rack train before returning closer to town to shoot Amtrak at Sugar Creek and Rock Creek.

Norfolk Southern; Birmingham, Mo.; June 13, 2012
Heading back into town, we blitzed Neff Yard on the Union Pacific, then proceeded to overtake a westbound coal train. Kevin knew just the spot we needed to get to for a good photo of the train, and we were soon trackside with a funky abandoned industrial scene for a backdrop near the border of Kansas City and Independence.

Union Pacific; Kansas City, Mo.; June 13, 2012
We found ourselves back at the skyline shot we had snapped the first thing the previous morning where another UP train (with a very slow conductor throwing switches) was sitting, then headed deeper into town. As we passed the West Bottoms, Kevin remembered that I had commented that I had wanted to shoot a scene with Old Union Station Tower and a warehouse converted into a haunted house in the background. We soon pulled into a side road where we encountered a minivan full of British railfans also waiting for a train. Pleasant conversation ensued, and soon a BNSF transfer of Schneider containers, complete with a locomotive in Burlington Northern cascade green and wearing the original Burlington Northern & Santa Fe herald on the nose, made an appearance.

BNSF Railway; West Bottoms, Kansas City, Mo.; June 13, 2012
I had somehow thought that Lawrence, Kansas, was somewhere in the middle of the state, but I had noticed the previous day that it was only 30 miles or so outside Kansas City. I had always wanted to shoot a train at Don Ball Curve in Lawrence, and since we had already done so well in Kansas City, we decided to head west. After a brief stop at Holliday, Kansas, we found ourselves at the Lawrence train station, now a visitors' center. The late Don Ball, Jr., one of my favorite railroad writers and photographers, had grown up in Lawrence and taken many photos at the curve just east of the station; the curve now informally bears his name. The UP cooperated by sending many trains past the towering grain silos along the curve, and since the sun was only getting better as the afternoon progressed, we spent the rest of the day in Lawrence.

Union Pacific; Don Ball Curve, Lawrence, Kan.; June 13, 2012
That evening we were joined by the Brits we had met earlier at Jim EuDaly's (Kevin's father) house in Kansas City where we spent the evening running trains on his incredible O-Scale Chesapeake & Ohio layout.

The one railroad we hadn't gotten our fill of during the trip was Kansas City Southern, so day three in K.C. found us heading south along the KCS main line in search of trains. We finally stopped at Amsterdam, and soon we had a northbound to chase back towards the city.

Kansas City Southern; Amsterdam, Mo.; June 14, 2012
After a spirited chase north, the train met a southbound at Grandview so we chased back south a short distance. At this point Kevin had to get back to work at White River Productions so we bid farewell. Bruce, Frank and I proceeded into downtown Kansas City to get an overview shot of Union Station from the park across the street, then headed back to 29th Street where a dead-end bridge gave us a nice overview of the bridges at Santa Fe Junction as well as State Line Junction. The location is directly adjacent to the former Kansas City Terminal roundhouse, which has been nicely restored as office space, and we were able to work that into our shots.

BNSF Railway; KCT Roundhouse, Kansas City, Mo.; June 14, 2012
Just as we were ready to leave, we heard the switches throw beneath our vantage point. Knowing that when switches throw there is usually a train movement shortly thereafter, we stuck around and saw an Amtrak train pass through State Line Junction and come beneath us. Westbound Amtrak trains terminate just east of our location at Union Station, but the trains need to be turned on the wye at State Line between runs so they can head back east, so the deadheading Amtrak train passed beneath us, then reversed direction to head up the west leg of the wye to Santa Fe Junction.

Amtrak; State Line Junction, Kansas City, Mo.; June 14, 2012
Now it was time to leave Kansas City and start working our way east. The city had been great to us, and a lot of great photos were taken. Lawrence would prove to be the western-most point of the trip, and everything from here on out would be "heading home" (sort of).

In the next installment, we shoot in the mountains of northern Missouri, visit St. Louis and wind up in Chicagoland.

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