Mississippi River Floods, Chicago, and Glacier National Park
July 16th-August 1st, 1993

Don Winter

Introduction

The proximate cause of this trip was the 1993 NRHS Convention in Chicago. On the way home, we have chosen to stop off in Glacier National Park for a couple of days to fill out the second week. To get to Chicago, we have chosen to take the Texas Eagle connection (with through cars) off the Sunset Limited, since we have never been that way (beyond Dallas, for me). This turns out to be a fortunate decision, since our train is the last trains from Los Angeles to make it to Chicago for awhile, and the only one leaving on that Friday to get through (out of three possibilities), due to the record flooding of the Mississippi River in the midwest.

The Journey East (7/16-7/19)

Friday, July 16th, 1993

This evening, we start our journey after dinner by driving from home to Los Angeles Union Station. On arrival, we turn the car over to Henry to take it back home, enter the station, and check our luggage through to Chicago. When the train came into the departure platform, we walk out and boarded our sleeper. As usual, there is time to walk to the front of the train and inspect the power before departure. On departure, we leave town via the SP main line, through the trench in Alhambra and San Gabriel, the only time we have even been this way. After passing the yard at City of Industry, whose operations we have been listening to from home, using the radio scanner (particularly when yardmaster Dennis Wilson is on duty), we go to bed.

 [consist]

F40

F40

Baggage

Transition

Sleeper

Sleeper

Diner

Lounge

Coach

Coach

Coach

Coach

Coach (to #22 at San Antonio)

Sleeper (to #22 at San Antonio)

Train 2, 7-16-1993

Schedule

Actual

Los Angeles

10:30pm

11:41pm

7-17-1993

 

 

Phoenix

7:35am

8:30/50

Coolidge

8:47

10:08

Tucson

9:47

11:08/22

Benson               PDT

11:03

12:54pm

Lordsburg          MDT

2:00pm

4:15

Deming

2:51

5:03

El Paso

5:05
5:/25

6:37
7:18

Alpine               MDT

9:59pm

12:18am

7-18-1993

 

 

San Antonio     CDT

5:55am

8:45am

Sunset Limited route description

The Sunset Route is largely single track, with long sidings several miles apart for trains to pass. Most of the line is operated by Centralized Traffic Control (CTC), in 2001, but there are still some stretches of Direct Traffic Control (DTC). A few stretches of the route have been double tracked (signaled for "current of traffic") since the 1940s. (?)

Saturday, July 17th, 1993

We arise during the stop in Phoenix, this morning, taking advantage of the lack of motion to dress and pack more easily. Our Chicago-bound sleeper is at the far end of the train from the lounge and dining cars (which are adjacent to the New Orleans sleepers), because our sleeper and the coach ahead of it must be at the rear of the train to minimize the nighttime switching of cars in San Antonio. We walk to the other end of the train, and eat breakfast before reaching Tucson. The entire day is spent on the train, with lunch still in Arizona, and dinner east of El Paso (but west of Sierra Blanca).

Sunday, July 18th, 1993

Once again, we awake to find ourselves in a station—this time San Antonio, where our through cars have just been added to the rear of the Texas Eagle, which is getting ready to leave for its northward journey. Once again, we’re at the far end of the train from the dining car, due to the limitations of switching through cars at the end of the train.

The various segments of the route are largely single track, with long sidings several miles apart for trains to pass. Most of the line is operated by Centralized Traffic Control (CTC), in 2001, but there are still some stretches of Track Warrant Control (TWC) or Direct Traffic Control (DTC).

Texas Eagle route description

[consist]

F40

F40 (from Houston, on at Dallas)

Baggage (from Houston, on at Dallas)

Sleeper (from Houston, on at Dallas)

Coach (from Houston, on at Dallas)

Coach Café (from Houston, on at Dallas)

Diner

Lounge

Coach

Coach

Coach

Coach (from Los Angeles)

Sleeper (from Los Angeles)

The Texas Eagle uses the SP station in San Antonio (so it can connect with the Sunset Limited). The spur to the former MP is west of the SP station, connecting at Tower 112. So, the first move of a northbound Texas Eagle, and the last move of a southbound, take place in reverse.  The former MP line and the Sunset Route cross at grade east of the SP station, but there is no connection between the two lines there. This costs the Texas Eagle at least half an hour in running time, in each direction.

Train 22, 7-18-1993

Schedule

Actual

San Antonio

7:05am

9:20am

Austin

9:38

11:54

Taylor

10:25

12:34pm

Temple

11:30

2:03

Cleburne

1:08pm

3:40

Fort Worth

2:10
2:30

4:20
4:40

Dallas

4:05

6:15
6:52

Longview

6:46

9:20

Marshall

7:18

9:50

Texarkana

8:49

11:18

7-19-1993

 

 

St. Louis

6:55am
7:35am

10:55am
11:33am

Alton

8:23

12:42pm

Springfield

9:43

2:00

Lincoln

10:13

2:40

Bloomington-Normal

11:00

3:45

Joliet

12:13pm

5:28

Chicago

1:35

6:35

Again, the entire day is spent on the train, with breakfast before Austin, lunch between Taylor and Temple, and dinner east of Dallas.

Monday, July 19th, 1993

I awake this morning, expecting to be nearing St. Louis on the DeSoto subdivision. Instead, I see a sign saying “Gorham, IL” poking up out of the flooded countryside, on what turns out to be a road on the east side of the Mississippi River. We have detoured over the IllMo Bridge across the river, on the Joint ex-MP and SP (ex-SSW) route to East St. Louis, and are treading water gingerly along the east bank of the river. When I get a chance to look out of the other side of the train, (the river side, as it now turns out), I see nothing but water, with trees sticking out in places, as far as I can see. As we get further north, the line moves away from the river channel but not out of the flooded area.

Approaching St. Louis, we pass Dupo Yard and Valley Junction, turning west onto the MacArthur Bridge to cross the river into St. Louis from the opposite direction from this train’s normal arrival there. At the west end of the bridge, we turn southward onto a running track just behind the floodwall, proceeding just far enough to clear a switch, then reverse back up onto the main trackage near Gratiot Tower and reverse into the St. Louis Amtrak station, several hours late. We later find out that, at St. Louis, the river is currently 49 ft. above flood stage, on its way to a 50 ft. crest a couple of weeks later.

Amtrak trains normally leave St. Louis over the Terminal RailRoad Association’s Merchants District, along the riverfront, under the famous Arch, through north St. Louis, and across the Merchants’ Bridge into Illinois. Today, however, we cross back over the river on the MacArthur Bridge and wend our way northward through East St. Louis on the lines of the TRRA on the east side of the river. At WR Tower, trains leave the TRRA for the former Alton, former GM&O, former ICG, former Chicago, Missouri & Western, and latter Southern Pacific Chicago Short Line heading northeast. There are steel mills alongside the line where it runs as paired track with the Norfolk Southern (ex-Wabash) as far as Alton.

Poplar Bluff to St. Louis on the former MP line

Reaching Chicago Union Station many hours late, we reclaim our checked bags and take a taxi over to the NRHS Convention Hotel, the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago. For dinner, we patronize The Berghoff, one block to the south on Adams, the German restaurant, which we had patronized on previous visits to Chicago.

In Chicago (7/20-7/26)

Tuesday, July 20th, 1993

Today, we’re going on our own to travel on the South Shore interurban (Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad, now run by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District), then visit the historic Pullman town site (since we didn’t get on Friday’s escorted tour) and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. We walk from the Palmer House over to the pair of commuter stations at Randolph Street to take a post rush-hour train out of the South Shore station there. While waiting for the train, we observe that we are going to be joined for at least part of the day by Ed Graham and Don Kehl, from the Central Coast Chapter, and others whom we remember seeing at the San Jose convention, but can’t (yet) name. Don and Ed tell some others about their experiences arriving on the inbound excursion from Omaha via Kansas City and St. Louis, with UP 4-6-6-4 3985, which ran hours late on Saturday due to torrential rain in Nebraska, almost didn’t make it across Missouri on Sunday, due to the floodwaters of the Missouri River, and finally the bus bringing them from UP’s Dolton Yard getting lost and taking then east into Indiana instead of north to Chicago.

South Shore route description

From its separate station at Randolph Street, adjacent to the ex-Illinois Central suburban station now run by Metra, the South Shore runs over the former IC electric lines with their 1500V DC electric catenary, south the Kensington Junction.  The Metra electric line runs double deck “gallery” cars, while those on the South Shore are single level.

Unlike the mileage collectors with whom we’ve been traveling (who are here to collect the last two miles from South Bend to the Michiana Airport), we detrain in Michigan City, use the facilities in the station, buy tickets back as far as 115th Street (for Pullman), and board the next westbound train, a few minutes later. We retrace our route to Kensington Junction, then leave the train almost as soon as it has started north on the ex-IC. Pullman is several city block north of the station at which we leave the South Shore train. There is a Metra Electric station closer to Pullman, but it is served neither by the South Shore trains nor the main (and most frequent) Metra Electric service.

We walk north alongside the elevated railroad lines to our west until we reach the southwest corner of the one time Pullman property where the town built for the workers at the Pullman factory was built, over a hundred years earlier. Most of the facilities are still extant, and all of the housing is still in use today, rented out to individuals. By now, we’re also looking for a source of food for lunch, and as we walk around we come upon the Florence Hotel located next to the main gate of the one time Pullman factory. This serves as the focal point for tours and information, souvenirs, etc., for visitors to the Pullman town site, but it has been fully restored to its former glories as a hotel, and in that capacity (while not providing sleeping accommodations for visitors), it has a full service dining room in operation.

We ask for a table for two, and are told there will be a substantial wait. Two other potential diners turn out to be NRHS conventioneers as well, so we take a table for four (which is immediately available). One of our companions works as a new moving equipment test manager for the FRA, and has worked many trials on the northeast corridor and other places.

After lunch (which is excellent), we go our separate ways, taking the self-guided walking tours of the Pullman town site. The buildings that were once the grocery store and the social center are in various states of disrepair, but the inhabited houses still look pretty good, albeit with detailed modifications like indoor plumbing and (very visible) window air conditioners. Pullman was an initially favorable experiment that ultimately failed—the employer-provided housing was far in advance of the housing standards of the day for equivalent workers, but became a weapon in management’s hands when those workers went on strike. The impacts of the Pullman strike forever tarnished the idea of employer-provided housing for blue-collar workers in unionized industries.

When we’re ready to leave the area, we try to utilize the 111th St./Pullman Metra Electric station, but discover (after reaching the platform) that it is serviced only every other hour, and the last service was within the last half hour. Since the main service is half hourly, or even more often than that at times, we walk south to 115th Street, and take a Metra Electric train north to the 55th/56th/57th Street station serving the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Here, we walk the several blocks towards the lake, and make a visit to the museum. We spend most of our time inside visiting the railroad-related exhibits, as well as those relating to a few of the local industries, acquire some liquid refreshment, and go out back to visit the Pioneer Zephyr and the two steam locomotives (New York Central 4-4-0 999 and a Santa Fe 2900-series 4-8-4) that are stored outside in a fenced off area. The exhibits are quite impressive—this is one of the best museums of its genre in the country.

Returning to the Metra station, we take another Metra Electric train north to Van Buren Street station, were we acquire timetables for the routes served by that station. We walk north to the Art Institute of Chicago, where we visit the exhibitions on Chicago Design (1943-93) and Russian Orthodox icons, and then walk back through the streets of “The Loop” to the Palmer House. Here, we visit the NRHS Registration Room, now that it’s open, check in and get our tickets and goody bags. Dinner is again at The Berghoff.

 Wednesday, July 21st, 1993

The major NRHS excursions all seem to start with buses leaving the Palmer House just after dawn. We have located a donut shop behind the hotel that will be serving coffee at that hour of the morning, and today we have made our first visit to it. Joining the line of people waiting for the buses at 6:00 this morning, we find ourselves next to Ray Wood, NRHS National President, whom we had met on the ferry crossing San Francisco Bay in 1992. Today’s excursion is using a Metra service to get us to Elgin, IL, from which there will be more buses to take us to Union, IL, home of the Illinois Railway Museum. This first set of buses is only to get us to Union Station for that Metra service, so comprises only a few buses running multiple trips.

As we wait to board the assigned (extra) cars on the Metra Milwaukee West-line service to Elgin, Metra train 2207, we meet the Chicago Convention’s train operations manager, Gene Severa. Chris has been wearing a foam neck brace since our car was rear-ended back in May; Gene notices this and asks what it is about, since he is concerned about aggravating some condition during an NRHS excursion. Later, we meet car/bus host Art Lemke, who will be our car or bus host several times this week, always accompanied by his teenage son Andrew.

Milwaukee Road (CMStP&P) West Line route description

In Elgin, there is time to photograph the ex-C&NW FP-9s, 305 and 308 on the front of the train before boarding the buses that will take us to the Illinois Railway Museum. (There is a Metra F-40, 110, on the train as well as the FP-9s, intended as insurance against the failure of the F-units, but it is the F40 that has failed!)

The Illinois Railway Museum is a large operations, with five miles of “mainline” trackage, as well as a mile long loop through the facility, all wired with 600V DC (or so) trolley overhead for streetcar and interurban operation. There are also a number of buildings enclosing tracks on which equipment is stored, as well as several acres of outdoor equipment storage. The collection is well balanced between traction and “steam railroad” equipment. The museum has an operational Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee ‘Electroliner’ as well as several other operational streetcar and interurban vehicles. It also has an operational Nebraska Zephyr five car stainless steel trainset with E-5 locomotive 9911A, a Norfolk & Western Y6b articulated steam locomotive, a UP turbine locomotive, and a South Shore ‘Little Joe’ electric locomotive among many other items of note.

Our visit here starts with a series of runbys of operational complete trains on the ‘mainline’, controlled from the museum’s operating Spalding Tower, a tower cum dispatching office. We start out arrayed on the south side of the lines, east of an open field adjacent to the tower. After four trains (the Electroliner, ex-Milwaukee F7 118C with five heavyweight passenger cars, ex-BN SD24 6244 with freight cars, and the Nebraska Zephyr) have passed, heading east, the assembled conventioneers are then asked to move to the west end of the open area. The next train will be running the other way (due to the orientation of the steam locomotive, Frisco ‘Russian Decapod’ 2-10-0 1630), leading its heavyweight passenger cars. After we have assembled, but before IRM runs its train, a freight train passes along the operational track just north of the museum’s ‘mainline’ trackage. Art Lemke feels the need to tell the assembled conventioneers that this is a “Chicago and Northwestern freight, not a museum runby”.

Chris and I elect to take a walk around all of the static collections of the museum, inside and out, once the runbys are done.. This occupies us for an hour or so, after which we partake of the barbecue lunch provided as part of the event. We then take a ride on a trolley running around the local loop and a ride on the train on the mainline hauled by the ‘Russian Decapod’ steam locomotive. Before we can get a ride on either the Nebraska Zephyr of the North Shore ‘Electroliner’, the announcement is made that we must return to the buses, which have to make a connection with a specific Metra inbound train at Elgin, on which our extra cars will be present. On the bus, we note that many conventioneers, ourselves included, have copies of the Chicago Railfan Timetable, an anthology of employee timetable excerpts for the Chicago (and Illinois) area railroads.

When the train arrives at Elgin, after all the buses are back, the F-units are missing, and the train is hauled by a different F40 (F40C 600) from this morning. The return trip on train 2242, with the F40C pushing, covers exactly the same trackage as the outward trip, but we sit on the other side of the train to see the different sights. Approaching Tower 2, we see the Amtrak California Zephyr heading west on its flood-induced detour on the C&NW. Back in Chicago, we walk back to the Palmer House for an hour or so’s break before leaving for our evening excursion. Once again, buses are provided to take us to the tour boat dock on the Chicago River, adjacent to Wacker Drive just upstream from Michigan Avenue. Here, we board a chartered boat for an evening excursion, during which we will dine on pizza of various kinds and styles.

Unusually for the tour boat company, we railroad enthusiasts want to start out by going away from the lake, as far as the tour boat can go among the railroad facilities and bridges across the river. (I would say ‘upriver’, except the Chicago River has been engineered to flow away from Lake Michigan and into the Sanitary Canal leading to the Des Plaines River which flows towards the Mississippi, and has done so since 1900.)

We start out heading west, past the Marina Towers and the Chicago Sun Times’ building and then the Merchandise Mart. Our attention is drawn to some of the ornate ironwork on the sides of the road bridges as we pass under them. We go up the north branch of the river, as far as the first railroad bridge, then turn around. Along here, the Milwaukee lines out of Chicago Union Station are on the west bank of the river, with the Merchandise Mart in the northeast corner of the branch split. The first railroad bridge across the north branch carries a C&NW spur to the Sun Times building, near the original location of the passenger station on this line.

We continue along the south branch of the river, past the Chicago Daily News building and Union Station on the west side of the river, and the Opera House and Sears’ Tower on the east. On the through track in Union Station, we see a couple of the private cars here for the NRHS Convention, then the Amtrak coach and locomotive facilities between the river and the lines south from Union Station. Passing the two bascule bridges—the permanently open one that used to carry the B&O Chicago terminal into Grand Central Station and the still used one carrying the IC St. Charles Air Line, the river turns southwest and passes under the 21st Street Bridge, a straight lifting bridge that carries the former PRR lines south from Union Station. We continue west past various dock facilities, some of them railroad served, and under a variety of road bridges, until we reach the four parallel railroad bridges, belonging to the Chicago Junction, B&OCT and ConRail (ex-PRR)—three railroads over four bridges—that block our way further west. Tour commentary to this point has been by a railroad expert from the Chicago NRHS Chapter. The tour boat’s usual guide provides regular river/lake commentary.

We turn around and head back the way we came, in the deepening dusk. By the time we reach our starting point, darkness has fallen. We continue straight on, past the Wrigley and Chicago Tribune buildings, through the lock gates, and out onto Lake Michigan. Here, under nighttime skies, we are treated to the full spectacle of the lights (mostly in tall buildings) of downtown Chicago, and spend about an hour cruising slowly past them as the tour guide identifies them to us. Eventually, we return through the lock gates and dock at the tour boat dock. Chris and I elect to walk back to the Palmer House, and soon go to bed, anticipating our very early start time in the morning.

Thursday, July 22nd, 1993

At 5:30 am, coffee and donuts in hand, we again find ourselves standing next to Ray Wood in the waiting line for the buses, along with Greg Molloy, NRHS National Secretary. This results in them sitting across from us on the UP excursion train heading south from the former C&EI Dolton Yard (“Yard Center”), now owned by UP as a result of the MP merger in 1982.

Dolton Yard is a long way south of the Palmer House, so the original plans for the buses did not call for any bus to cycle back for a second load. In the event, at least one bus had to do that, delaying departure of the train by over an hour. Our bus takes us out onto the Dan Ryan Expressway, and southeast from the point where that expressway splits into two, south of Englewood. At Yard Center, Chicago Chapter members are assigning space in particular cars of the train. We exchange our waiver signatures (absolving UP for any injuries we may incur) for buttons and car assignments, and move to board our assigned car, the Diner City of Los Angeles. For me, this car is good, since it has tables to put scanners, maps and timetables on. For Chris, it’s bad, because we have to sit in loose upright chairs all day.

Sharing our table (we’ve got the forward-facing seats) are Walter, from Charlotte, NC, and a photographer who must have spent the entire day in the vestibule taking pictures, since we see him only at meal times. Early on, I realize that the electric lamp on our table (ours seems to be the only one lit) implies a power outlet underneath the table. Soon, we have made what Walter calls ‘an unauthorized modification to Union Pacific equipment’, our lamp is as dark as everyone else’s, but my scanner is running on house power (using the ‘wall-wart’ power supply), not my batteries.

While we wait to get started, Walter briefs me on the state of the Norfolk Southern Steam Program, as seen from Charlotte, while Chris engages Ray Wood in a conversation that seems to go on all day. She is unsuccessful in engaging Greg Molloy in conversation, however, and Greg soon departs for a spot in a vestibule. Eventually, the last buses arrive, the passengers board, and we depart for Findlay Junction down the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois line now owned by Union Pacific as a result of its merger of Missouri Pacific in 1982.

Dolton to Findlay Junction route description

Our train takes the westerly (UP) fork at Woodland Junction. At Findlay Junction, the train is turned on the wye. The reversal around the south leg of the wye proceeds at a snail’s pace. We have photo runbys on both the southbound and northbound parts of the trip, dodging the various rain showers to do so. Some time during the day, we visit the Sherman Hill to buy this year’s tee-shirts, and inspect their array of books (such as the Maury Klein two-volume history of the Union Pacific) and videos for sale. On the return leg, we stop for 45 minutes at Villa Grove to service the locomotive. Here, the passengers are allowed off the train for the duration, so we walk around and take some photographs of the train and other UP equipment in the vicinity. During the afternoon, each passenger is served a portion of cake to celebrate 3985’s 50th birthday. The 10:30 pm return to Dolton is well after dark—thankfully, box dinners as well as box lunches are provided on this trip. Climbing on the buses, we return to the Palmer House and fall into bed.

Friday, July 23rd, 1993

There are no NRHS excursions today, to facilitate member attendance at the national NRHS board and annual meetings. Since we had been unable to ride the excursion over the Chicago Transit Authority’s elevated and subway lines yesterday, we decide to ride as many of them as possible today, and cover some of the rest on Monday morning. We start out at the Elevated station on Wabash, next to the Palmer House, traveling south on the elevated line towards Englewood. This leaves the Loop at the southeast corner, close to the former site of Dearborn Station, then passes the interchange tracks where the elevated trains headed, until quite recently, for the Dan Ryan line down the middle of the interstate, while the subway trains from the north rose to take the Englewood line. Now, the Lake Street elevated runs through to Englewood (or University), and the trains from the north run onto the Dan Ryan line. The CTA uses 600V DC third-rail for its electricity supply.

Continuing on the elevated track, we pass through an area full of apartment buildings owned by the Chicago Housing Authority, including the Robert Taylor Homes, often cited as the epitome of all that is wrong with public housing, and continue through an area of run down nineteenth-century wooden housing. Most of the remaining houses—two or three storey affairs with outside stair and balconies—haven’t seen a lick of paint in years, and are uniformly that dull grey color of weathered unpainted wood. Only about half the plots still have houses on them, the others having reverted to unkempt grassland. The large numbers of twenty-something men lounging around mid morning is suggestive of massive unemployment among the residents.

After several miles of this, the Englewood and University lines separate, and our Englewood train turns west and crosses above  (in turn) the Metra Rock Island line (once the New York Central’s entrance to and exit from Chicago), the Dan Ryan Expressway (with the CTA tracks in the median), and the former Pennsylvania Railroad line that now forms the eastward connection to Union Station for Amtrak trains. West of the latter, the Englewood line runs south alongside the expressway, and then turns abruptly west to reach the Englewood terminus. Here, to stares from the local population at our very presence, we move to the front end of the next train departing for Chicago. This neighborhood is a strong example of the city blocks of slum housing with many well built churches of all denominations, falling into disrepair as their former congregation members increasingly worship in new churches built near their current homes in the suburbs. The area was once sufficiently prosperous that express trains for the Pennsylvania, New York Central, and Rock Island railroads stopped at Englewood Union Station, where the line south from La Salle Street Station met the PRR line coming over from Union Station, east of the current location of the Dan Ryan Expressway. This was the site of many famous “races”, when PRR and NYC expresses for the east started away simultaneously on their adjoining tracks. The former station at the site is now in ruins.

We return the way we came until we reach the loop, where we pass our originating station and continue around the northeast corner of the loop, and exit westward on the Lake Street line, crossing the Chicago River, the north tracks from Chicago Union Station, and the tracks out of Northwestern station, in turn. The line continues due west, among housing that is almost, but not quite, as bad as that to the south on the Englewood line, crossing over a PRR branch and the C&NW line from the Global Yards, then under the Belt Railway of Chicago, passing through gradually improving areas alongside the Chicago & Northwestern’s west line as far as Oak Park (the end of the line). Returning again to the Loop, we use the interchange facilities on the north side of the loop to change to a subway train headed northwest to O’Hare airport. The line out to O’Hare is in tunnel heading northwest as far as Division, elevated for a while, then in tunnel again to Logan Square, emerging alongside the C&NW Northwest Line at Addison. Following that line in the expressway median to Jefferson Park, the CTA line continues west in the median to O’Hare Airport.

We get lunch at a snack bar adjacent to the airport station and bring it onto the returning CTA train. Returning the way we came, we pass through the downtown tunnels of the Dearborn Street subway and then head west for Cicero (on the Douglas Branch) and Des Plaines (on the Congress branch). This is not the same location, by a goodly number of miles, as the Des Plaines located where the C&NW Northwest Line crosses the Wisconsin Central (original Soo). We ride out to the end of both branches, returning to their separation point in between, then return to the subway station adjacent to the Palmer House as evening rush hour approaches.

The Douglas Branch runs south at a junction just east of Medical Center, crosses the C&NW Global East and Global West intermodal yards and the BN triple track near Western Avenue Yard, then turns due west, crosses a BN branch and the lines coming north from the four bridges (Chicago Junction, B&OCT, ex-PRR) and then the BN triple-track again at Kedzie. Continuing west, the line passes over the BRC and the Manufacturers’ Junction between Kildare and Cicero before terminating at 54th and Cermak, where there is a big CTA yard. We board another train for the return east.

The Congress branch runs west through the Medical Center, crosses under the northbound ex-PRR branch and the C&NW line north from the Global Yards, then some miles further west runs under the BRC and then alongside the B&OCT/ex-CGW line west to Des Plaines. Large portions of all of these lines run on elevated steelwork that is starting to show its age, and will require renewal in the coming years.

Friday evening is the time for the traditional banquet. When we go to the banquet area for the preceding conversation and ‘cocktail’ hour, Ray Wood greets us and says that he had noticed that we weren’t at the afternoon’s Board Meeting or Annual Meeting. When I say that we had been touring the CTA on our own, he says ‘that was probably wise’. Perhaps the meetings had been contentious? The banquet itself was unmemorable, with an after-dinner talk by a high-level Metra manager.

Saturday, July 24th, 1993

Today’s excursion is over the ex Nickel Plate (NKP) line now owned by Norfolk Southern. There are two reasonable places to turn a train on this line—Argos, 80 miles out, and Fort Wayne, a much greater distance. Since a turn to Fort Wayne would be even longer than Thursday’s excursion (which went to the first reasonable turning spot), the organizers have opted for a relatively short trip with a relatively long layover at the turning point.

Once again, we’re up early to get coffee and board the buses for the transfer to the NS Calumet Yard, on the southeast side just south of Pullman. There are no problems with the buses today, so after finding a coach to ride, we get settled and the train departs on time. The ex-Southern coach on which we’re riding still has a partition about two-thirds of the way back, and vastly different provision of toilet facilities at the short end, dating from the days of the ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws in the Southern states. We’re actually sitting just to the rear of the partition. Many of the coaches on the train are arranged like this.

Calumet Yard to Argos route description

The weather has varied from extremely dark to rainy all the way from the hotel to Valparaiso, but as we approach Argos the heavens really open wide, drenching the countryside with a visually-impenetrable wall of water. We’re gong to do the only runby of the day on the main at Argos, prior to parking the train for its service stop and lunch break. So, rain or not, all the photographers pile out and assemble along the south (‘sun’) side of the track while the double-header backs up and then comes roaring past. Art Lemke tries valiantly to maintain the photo line between the tracks and a rapidly-filling ditch behind us.

We reboard the train, which then reverses onto the northbound leg of the intersecting line for this service stop. Art Lemke informs us that we can all now say that we have ridden over the Indianapolis & Michigan City. The rain has stopped as we leave the train and head for the park where the Argos Fire department has prepared a barbecue for lunch. However, the ground is still wet, so there’s a capacity crowd for the available seating in the park. The rain holds off, however, and the food is excellent. After lunch, there’s plenty of time to inspect our two coal-burning locomotives.

The departing train pulls south across the main line, then backs east until it is fully on that main line, before heading west through clearing skies for a relatively early return to our starting point and the buses back to the hotel. Dinner is again at The Berghoff.

Sunday, July 25th, 1993

For Sunday, we had planned to take a steam-hauled excursion using ex-C&NW 4-6-0 1385, on a line heading north from Fox Lake into Wisconsin. However, the steamer has been marooned by the flooding, and this excursion has been canceled. The convention planners have added several cars to today’s excursion on the South Shore to accommodate those who are surprised to find themselves heading for South Bend, today. Two of today’s train of six South Shore EMU cars will separate from the main train and return to Chicago from Michigan City. After a stop at the “Shops”, the rest of the train will go all the way to the Michiana Airport, then stop for a while on the stub of track at the former Bendix station adjacent to the ex-NYC main, before returning to Chicago.

Rain is teeming down as buses transfer us from the Palmer House to Randolph Street station for the start of the excursion. We have a photo stop at 59th Street station, while still on the Metra Electric, in pouring rain, and a runby in the Indiana Dunes area in overcast but not wet weather. At one point, the motorman and the conductor try to use the toilet simultaneously. The conductor wins, citing the rule that he is in charge of the train! We also see a South Shore freight headed by a couple of orange-painted locomotives. While we’re visiting the depot at Michigan City, buying copies of the poster painted by our motorman, Mitchell Markowitz (which he later autographs), Chris asks if there are tee-shirts available. The official answer is no, but an employee sells Chris the shirt off his back! Lunches are loaded onto the various cars while the separated segments of the train are still in Michigan City. Later, there is some question about the number of lunches in the two segments, and some Chicago Chapter hosts go hungry. Ray Wood is also sitting across from us on this train.

South Shore route description

The spur to the Bendix station is just at the west end of South Bend, and we take it on the return. Several ConRail trains pass while we’re off the South Shore train at the Bendix station. We have a photo stop at the Hammond station on the return trip, in sunshine! From Randolph Street, the convention now over, we walk back to the hotel. The Berghoff is closed today (Sunday), so we eat at a restaurant just to the rear of the Palmer House, under the elevated station. After dinner, we pack ready to leave the next afternoon.

Monday, July 26th, 1993

We’re leaving this afternoon on the Amtrak Empire Builder. Prior to then, there’s plenty of time to ride more of the CTA. We arise, finish packing, check out and leave the bags with the concierge. We walk to the adjacent State Street subway station to take the Howard Street line north. This line runs in tunnel north to Armitage, where it emerges in the middle of a four-track line with the outer tracks coming from the elevated trackage around The Loop. This is an area of decaying light industry. At Belmont, we pass the junction where the Ravenswood branch goes off to the west (we had ridden it in 1990), then pass Wrigley Field just to our west, continuing on four track and then two track elevated line through Berwyn to Howard Street. Some of the housing in the vicinity of Wrigley Field has been gentrified, while other housing a bit further north is every bit as run down as the housing alongside the Englewood Line to the south of The Loop. Not far north of Wrigley Field is a storage yard for CTA trains running services that turn south of Howard Street. At Howard Street, there is a big CTA storage yard, a turnaround track over the yard, and interchanges with trains north to Evanston, and trains west to Skokie. We opt to ride the Skokie Swift west over the former Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee trackage, in cars that switch from third-rail to overhead catenary power halfway through the trip, turning north alongside a C&NW branch to the terminus at Dempster Street.

The Journey West (7/26-8/1)

Monday, July 26th, 1993 (cont.)

Returning to our starting point in Chicago, we again visit The Berghoff for lunch. Then, we return to the Palmer House, collect our luggage and take a taxi to Union Station. Here we check our bags to Glacier Park, not realizing this isn’t the West Glacier (Belton) station we’re headed for. Later, once the conductor has pointed this out, the train crew retrieves our baggage and brings it to the sleeping car for us. We board the Empire Builder on the long track adjacent to the Metropolitan Lounge, but it is headed north, not our usual south. Our departure starts out the same way as the Wednesday trip to Elgin, but continues north where that trip turned west at Tower 5. Dinner is after dark, along the west bank of the Mississippi River. We’re fast asleep by the time the train leaves St. Paul.

Empire Builder route desciption

 [consist]

F40

F40

MHC

MHC

MHC

Baggage

Transition

Sleeper

Sleeper

Coach

Coach

Coach

Diner

Lounge (to Portland)

Coach (to Portland)

Coach (to Portland)

Sleeper (to Portland)

Train 7, 7-26-1993

Schedule

Actual

Chicago

3:15pm

3:57pm

Glenview, IL

3:39

4:06

Milwaukee

4:51

5:20

Columbus

6:05

6:42

Portage

6:39

7:12

Wisconsin Dells

6:59

7:32

Tomah

7:43

8:12

La Crosse

8:25

9;05

Winona

9:00

9:42

Red Wing

10:03

11:01

St. Paul

11:40
11:59

12:00

7-27-1993

 

 

Devil’s Lake

7:20am

8:44am

Rugby

8:23

10:01

Minot

9:30
9:55

11:14
11:32

Stanley

10:35

12:36pm

Williston           CDT

11:47

1:45pm

Wolf Point        MDT

11:21

2:27pm

Glasgow

1:09pm

3:18

Malta

2:07

4:22

Havre


3:43

5:48
6:01

Shelby

5:20

7:51

Cut Bank

5:50

8:20

Glacier Park

6:47

9:14

Essex

7:42