Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Land O' Corn - Part 5

This is Part 5 of what started out as 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. However, the week of the NRHS Convention produced so many great photos that we gave it its own entry and made this a five-part story. In Part 1 we headed west towards Kansas City and in Part 2 we took a look around K.C. In Part 3 we spent a day in St. Louis and then headed up to Chicagoland. In Part 4 we attended the NRHS Convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In this part we'll look at a few other highlights of rail activity in Iowa, then head home.
Union Pacific; Clarence, Iowa; June 17, 2012
After chasing the NRHS Convention inbound trip on June 17 and getting it at Geneva and Nelson, Ill., (see last post) and once again at Calamus, Iowa, we broke off the chase in favor of hanging out on the Union Pacific (ex-Chicago & North Western) main line. An eastbound stack train came out of the setting sun at Clarence, but it had a Distributed Power Unit (helper locomotive) on the rear which we shot passing the Land O' Lakes Feeds elevator in Clarence. From there we headed into Cedar Rapids to check in for the convention.

The first day of the NRHS Convention went to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, to visit the Midwest Central Railroad and the Midwest Electric Railway. Mount Pleasant is on the route served by Amtrak's California Zephyr and during a break in the action we headed to the station in town to shoot the CZ as it made its stop.
Amtrak; Mount Pleasant, Iowa; June 18, 2012
As the events in Mount Pleasant wound down, we (my brother Bruce, Mike Burkhart and Frank Ferguson) headed east to Burlington, Iowa, where we found a lot of other photographers who had left the NRHS Convention trip to do the same thing we were doing -- waiting for the westbound California Zephyr to come snaking through the old industrial buildings not far from the Mississippi River.
Amtrak; Burlington, Iowa; June 18, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, was a busy day at the Convention, and we spent all day with activities there. But on Wednesday, June 20, the NRHS trip was running against the sun for most of the day so we chose to head out and do regular service trains on the Union Pacific. One of several trains we got included an eastbound stack train passing the elevators at Norway, Iowa.
Union Pacific; Norway, Iowa; June 20, 2012
Canadian National; Cedar Rapids, Iowa
A busy schedule of meetings the next couple of days kept me close to Cedar Rapids for the next couple of days, but there was a lot to see. Various industrial areas, mostly revolving around Iowa's prime export of corn, are located in and around Cedar Rapids. Down by the waterfront, near the sprawling Quaker Oats plant, one can find Union Pacific, Canadian National and Iowa Northern working the yards there, while nearby the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City and Iowa Interstate also work. Of special interest was CN, which had an SD38-2 from the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern working the yard (the EJ&E was merged into CN in 2009). We caught the unit working near the power plant on June 21.

While the Quaker Oats plant is large, even larger is the Archer Daniels Midland plant just south of Cedar Rapids. Served by the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City (CRANDIC), the plant also boasts its own small fleet of switchers. Unfortunately, ADM is pretty much off-limits to anyone -- especially photographers -- but fortunately the elevated right-of-way of U.S. 30 provides a nice view over the fences. The early morning of June 22 found us on the shoulder of the Lincoln Highway getting the elusive shot.
Archer Daniels Midland; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; June 22, 2012
We noticed the Quaker Oats plant was nicely illuminated at night, with the lights reflecting off the Cedar River. This made for a nice diversion for a night shot. Rail access is from the bridge at the left.
Quaker Oats; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; June 22, 2012
And, of course, that EJ&E locomotive was still hanging around on Canadian National over in the CN yard. Hard to let an opportunity like that slip by, so a quick visit to the yard was in order.
Canadian National; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; June 22, 2012
The rest of the Convention didn't allow for any non-Convention shooting, and soon it was time to head home. After shooting the outbound Convention trip between Cedar Rapids and Chicago at Morrison, Ill., (photo in last installment) on June 25 we took a more leisurely pace home and paused at the Rochelle Railroad Park in Rochelle, Ill. The ex-Chicago & North Western crosses the ex-Chicago, Burlington & Quincy on a diamond in the middle of town, and the city has established a park for train watching, complete with a pavilion, rest rooms and gift shop. A Union Pacific westbound train passed the park on the ex-C&NW.
Union Pacific; Rochelle, Ill.; June 25, 2012
The gift shop has a screen with ATCS Monitor running, which allows viewers to see what the railroad dispatchers are seeing on their screens. Thus, it was easy to anticipate which railroad would be running a train over the diamonds next, allowing for easy movement between the two railroads. BNSF Railway provided action on the ex-CB&Q, including a westbound passing under Rochelle's (non-railroad) water tower.
BNSF Railway; Rochelle, Ill.; June 25, 2012
Upon leaving Rochelle, we bypassed downtown Chicago and instead headed for the suburbs on the Indiana side of the Windy City. Our next stop would be at the Hammond-Whiting Amtrak station in Hammond, Ind. Here, in addition to Amtrak, Norfolk Southern has a heavy presence. Thus, we were a bit surprised when Canadian Pacific came westward under the signal bridge in the late afternoon light.
Canadian Pacific; Hammond, Ind.; June 25, 2012
The final day of the trip was Tuesday, June 26. With 4000 miles under our belts, the last blast home would feature a quick look at Cleveland. Norfolk Southern has two lines through the city, both crossing the Cuyahoga River on lift bridges. Our first train of the day was on the former Nickel Plate Road just east of the Cuyahoga River. Cleveland's famed Terminal Tower at the left was the main train station for the city.
Norfolk Southern; Cleveland, Ohio; June 26, 2012
We tried to find a few other angles of the ex-Nickel Plate bridge, but new highway construction had made the area into a battle zone of sorts. We heard a westbound train on the radio, and found an overhead bridge to shoot from. The bridge had a high chain link fence, but there was a small concrete wall under the chain linking that you could stand on if you grabbed the chain link and hoisted yourself up (then used your elbows at the top of the fence to anchor yourself). As the train appeared, the four of us grabbed the chain link fence and lifted ourselves up onto the wall. When we turned around, a Cleveland city cop was standing there. Fortunately he was more amused than anything else.
Norfolk Southern; Cleveland, Ohio; June 26, 2012
We stuck around on the same bridge for one final shot of Cleveland's light rail, which runs parallel to the ex-Nickel Plate in many places. After getting the last shot, we got into the car and started the final ten-hour segment of the trip back to New Jersey. From Kansas City to St. Louis to Iowa to Cleveland, this was one ambitious trip that turned out pretty good! (Oh, and in five days we'd be back in the car for a trip to the Norfolk Southern heritage unit Family Portrait in Spencer, N.C., but that's our next story).

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