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Train Festival 2011 Day 1 7/21/2011

by Chris Guenzler

Train Festival is an event celebrating railroading oriented at the general public as well as more hard-core railfans. It includes a combination of merchandise vendors, models, full-sized equipment and various trips over the host railroads. Train Festivl 2011 featured equipment such as Nickel Plate Road 765, the Iowa Interstate QJ 2-10-2s, Central Pacific Railroad 63 "Leviathan", Flagg Coal 75, Lehigh Coal 126, Viscose 6 and Iowa Interstae 513 (the Rock Island heritage unit). Late in the cycle, the surprise announcement came that the Illinois Railway Museum would be adding the Nebraska Zephyr to the mix, the 1936 Budd-built streamliner with an E5 for power which very rarely leaves the museum grounds. The chance to see it on long distance runs – and the opportunity to ride over the road on it – was an extremely rare opportunity. In addition, the IRM also brought Chicago, Burlington and Quincy SW7 9255 and Chicago and North Western F7A 411 and BNSF added ES44C4 6688.

All four days of the official Festival – Thursday the 21st through Sunday the 24th – offered visitors the chance to visit the exhibits in downtown Rock Island between 9:00 AM and 6:00 pm. In addition, each day featured a long-distance train trip and two local steam-powered turns from Rock Island to Walcott and back. Thursday's run was an Amtrak-operated passenger special from Chicago to Rock Island to bring the excursion cars into town. On Friday, Nickel Plate Road 765 powered a trip to Bureau and back. Saturday took a different direction, with IAIS QJ 6988 taking passengers west into Iowa, turning around at Yocum (just outside Homestead). Sunday actually had two trips – one on the CB&Q Nebraska Zephyr to Bureau and back on the IAIS, and an Amtrak special south to Muscatine in combination with the Celebration Belle riverboat, allowing passengers to travel one way on each mode of transportation. After the Festival ended, the passenger cars and Amtrak P42s returned to Chicago on a one-way revenue run.

Gene, Nathan, Bob, Elizabeth and I left Motel 6 in Moline and dropped me off at Train Festival 2011 since I had arranged to be on the grounds prior to the start of the event. No one bothered me as I was wearing my Press Pass and started my coverage.

Leviathan 4-4-0 63.

A general grounds scene.

Central Pacific 63 "Leviathan", a replica built to the same standard and patterns of the original 1868 Schnectedy Locomotive Works engine. Built by David Kloke, this was the second Train Festival that it attended (the first was in 2009). It was purchased by Stone Gable Estates in 2018 for operation on the Harrisburg, Lincoln and Lancaster Railroad in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Stone Gable Estates relettered the locomotive as Pennsylvania Railroad 331, a now-scrapped steam locomotive that pulled Abraham Lincoln's funeral train.

Viscose 0-4-0T 6 built for the American Viscose Company by Baldwin in 1924 and in the early 1960's, was sold to the Gem City Iron & Metal Company in Pulaski, Virgina. In September 2004, it was purchased by Scott Symans of Dunkirk, New York and went through a three-year restoration to operating condition. Viscose Company 6 has been operated on the New York & Lake Erie Railroad out of Gowanda, New York on several occasions, as well as on the Lorain & West Virgina Railway in Wellington, Ohio.

Lehigh Valley Coal 0-6-0T 126 built by Vulcan in 1931 and sold to Heidelberg Coal Company in 1954, retaining its number. It was later sold to John Bauman of Carbondale, Pennsylvania and bought by the John and Byron Gramling of Ashley, Indiana from Mr. Bauman's estate in 1993.

Flagg Coal 0-4-0 75 owned by John and Barney Gramling of Indiana. It is a 40 ton saddle tank locomotive built by Vulcan Iron Works of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvnia in 1930. No. 75 went into service in December 1930 as Flagg Coal Company 2 in Avoca, Pennsylvania where it was used as a switch engine. In 1935 it was sold to the Solvay Process Co. in Jamesville, New York and renumbered 75. There, it was used to push four-wheel hopper cars from the steam shovel to the crusher at the rock quarry. In the early 1950's the Solvay Process Co. disbanded their railroad operation in favour of trucking and in 1953, No. 75 and twelve other locomotives were sold to Dr. Groman and his planned Rail City Museum in Sandy Pond, New York.

There, the locomotive sat untouched until 1991 when John and Byron Gramling purchased it with the intent to restore it to operating condition. The father-son duo painstakingly disassembled the locomotive, moved it to their shop in Ashley, Indiana and over the course of the following ten years returned it to service, completing it in October 2001. Since then, the steam engine has since travelled as far as Florida, Michigan and North Carolina as a living, breathing ambassador of American steam railroading.

Dakota Minnesota & Eastern GP40 4001 City of Wall", ex. National Railway Equipment 181, nee Missouri-Kansas Texas 181 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1966.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy E5A 9911A "Silver Pilot", nee Fort Worth and Denver/Colorado and Southern 9952A built by Electro-Motive Division in 1940, which is the last of its type in existance, with the Nebraska Zephyr trainset. This trainset is from the Illinois Railway Museum.

Iowa Interstate GP38-2 701, ex. Locomotive Leasing Partners 2302 2004, exx. Union Pacific 411 2001, exxx. Union Pacific 1911 1997, exxxx. EMD Leasing 742 1987, exxxxx. Conrail 7942 1987 nee Penn Centrl 7942 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1972.

Chicago and North Western F7A 411, ex. Metra 305, nee Chicago and North Western 4082C built by Electro-Motive Division in 1949 and is part of the Illinois Railway Museum's collection.

Iowa Interstate Rock Island Heritage Unit ES44AC 513 built by General Electric in 2009.

The Nebraska Zephyr train set.

Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 765 built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1944. It was one of the Berkshire fleet known for its "superpower" technology and aesthetic charm. Once a fast-freight and passenger engine for the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad - more commonly known as the Nickel Plate Road - the 765 is now a celebrated icon of American innovation and goodwill ambassador. Powered exclusively by volunteers as part of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society's educational programs, the locomotive has been restored to the way it looked and sounded when it was originally built.

The plaque, mounted on the tender of 767/765, explaining the locomotive's preservation in 1963 as a "monument to a great period of development in our country -- the era of steam railroading." In the 1940's and 50's, the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana and the Nickel Plate Road sustained an interesting love-hate relationship. The iron roadbeds of the Nickel Plate, New York Central, Wabash and Pennsylvania railroads surrounded Fort Wayne. The Nickel Plate was nestled within the city; its West Wayne Yards were only blocks from downtown. The railroad's busy route on the northern end of the city kept Fort Wayne from expanding and persisted to displease motorists, who were constantly held up by the trains. Fort Wayne had already dealt with the problems inherent with ground level roadbed, as the Pennsylvania and Wabash to the south had elevated their tracks decades prior. To the north, a heated battle between the railroad and city ensued for years, with citizens chanting, "Elevate the Nickel Plate!"

With ground broken in 1947, the elevation of the Nickel Plate Road began in 1953 and ended in 1955 with a formal celebration that saw Nickel Plate Berkshire 767 parade across the elevated tracks, breaking a ribbon among station platforms crowded with spectators. A less informal event had been held some time before, when Nickel Plate Berkshire 765 became the first actual train to traverse the new rails. After earning the reputation as the "best of the west end" on the Fort Wayne Division, Berkshire 765 had been stored during its retirement in the enginehouse of the Nickel Plate Road in Fort Wayne. At the end of the steam era, several of the eminent Nickel Plate Berkshires locomotives were stored at the Nickel Plate's relatively new East Wayne yards, which had replaced the cramped quarters of the more urban West Wayne. Both 765 and 767 were among the sleeping sisters in the engine house and after sufficient slumber, 765 was fired up in 1958 to supply heat to a stranded passenger train in Fort Wayne. As other steam locomotives were scrapped, the engine would be saved at the request of the city that had once demanded the trains off the streets.

The City had asked for 767, but 765 proved to be in much better cosmetic and mechanical condition and, unlike other engines on the Nickel Plate, had been stored indoors for several years. During an inspection, 765 was deemed to be an ideal candidate for donation to the City of Fort Wayne. The roundhouse was asked to quietly change the locomotives' numbers and 765 -- renumbered as 767 -- was placed on display in Lawton Park within sight of the Nickel Plate elevation in May 1963. The real 767 was scrapped in Chicago in 1964. Fort Wayne's engine became a downtown showpiece, but after years of exposure to the elements, a group of local enthusiasts formed the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society to secure the locomotive for restoration. Seven days shy of the locomotive's 35th birthday on September 1st, 1979, 765 moved under its power for the first time in twenty-one years. The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society had become the first non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation in the world to restore and operate a mainline steam locomotive.

After a series of test runs on the Toledo, Peoria & Western in 1980, 765 would begin its rise to stardom as a fan trip favorite. Leased by the Southern Railroad for 22 trips in 1982, the locomotive earned its stripes on routes through mountainous terrain and rocketed across the midwest in later excursions out of Chicago, Fort Wayne, Cincinnati, and Buffalo, New York, to name a few. 765's reach extended as far east as New Jersey and south to Georgia, and found a calling on the head-end of the New River Trains through West Virginia, carrying behind it the longest passenger train excursions in history. Throughout the 1980's and early 90's, the FWRHS successfully partnered with CSX, New Jersey Transit and Norfolk Southern. 765 was also seen in the company of other locomotives such as Nickel Plate 587 and Norfolk & Western "Northern" 611 and their respective caretakers.

For 14 years, the locomotive proudly displayed the sights, sounds and smells of a bygone era of railroading, accumulating over 52,000 miles service entertaining and educating hundreds of thousands. In 1993, the 765 entered the shop for a complete overhaul that has since returned the engine to the condition it was in when it was first constructed. In 2005, a freshly rebuilt 765 left the restoration shop, on its way to make railroad history once again.

Iowa Interstate QJ 2-10-2 6988 built by Datong in 1985. This and 7081 were brought to the United States by Railroad Development Corporation (Henry Posner III) to test the market for modern imported steam in the United States. During the summer of 2011, both engines were modified to connect with tank car IAIS 8000 as an auxilliary water tender. For Train Festival 2011, 6988 received an "Americanization", removing some of the more Chinese features of the engine to make it closer to a standard American design. Amongst the changes were a single headlight, an American whistle, removal of the shroud around the exhaust stack and changing all red parts to black.

Iowa Interstate QJ 2-10-2 7081 built by Datong in 1985.

General grounds scene.

Two views of Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 765.

CB&Q E5A 9911A "Silver Pilot".

CB&Q E5A 9911A "Silver Pilot" with one of the vendor tents.

Sponsor and Vendors area.

They moved the tank engines near the main gate for a few minutes.

Flagg Coal 0-4-0T 75.

Lehigh Valley Coal 0-6-0T 126.

Viscose 0-4-0T 6. I went and received my media kit and wrist band for the day then bought a program and Train Festival 2011 T-shirt.

The crowd was building outside the main gate.

At 9:00 AM the gate opened.

Everyone was orderly and then went to the correct spot whether it was wrist bands with their tickets they had pre-bought, will call, or needing to buy tickets.

The first four people to enter the grounds of Train Festival 2011.

The City of Rock Island has a really nice park here complete with a fountain.

A train movement parted the crowd waiting to enter.

This little engine, built in 1994, was about to be moved into position.

Sullivan Railroad of Horseheads, New York, two of the 15 inch gauge locomotives.

Engines of the 7.5 gauge miniature railroad.

Views of the Mississippi River with the Government Bridge, Davenport and the Centennial Bridge.

Two of the Mill Creek Central 7.5 inch locomotives from Coshocton, Ohio.

Another one of the Mill Creek Central engines.

That same 15 inch gauge engine now spotted in the right place. It was time to take a ride and I was the first passenger to board a 7.5 gauge train at Train Festival 2011.

A picture from our two-lap trip around this circle track.

The swing span was open on the Government Bridge.

Views of the 7.5 inch gauge train here at Train Festival 2011.

The crowd was still entering at the main gate. I saw Bob and Elizabeth and took them over to get their programs and T-shirts.

Bob and Elizabeth with their souvenir t-shirts.

Click here for Part 2 of this story