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.

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