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NRHS Special Train Chicago to Cedar Rapids 6/17/2012

by Chris Guenzler

The first event at the NRHS 2012 Cedar Rapids will be the inbound convention train from Chicago to Cedar Rapids. Dave Smetko drove me down to Hanover Park.

I took Metra 2700 Into Chicago Union Station, I went to McDonalds for Hot Cakes and Sausage then finished the Silver Creek and Stephenson Railroad story then went to our first NRHS Safety Briefing Meeting of the Convention. We would have one of these first thing every morning during the convention.

Chicago and North Western Railroad/Union Pacific History

The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad (G&CU) was chartered on January 16, 1836, to connect Chicago with the lead mines at Galena, Illinois. However, it wasn't until March 1848 that construction actually started. Still, it was the first railroad built to Chicago. By 1850, the G&CU was completed as far as the Fox River at Elgin. Over the next three years, the G&CU built to Freeport, Illinois, 120 miles northwest of Chicago. In 1854, the railroad started building a more direct line to the Mississippi River, starting at West Chicago and heading west to Fulton, across the river from Clinton. Upon completion, the railroad reached the Mississippi River near Clinton, Iowa, but never reaching Galena. Meanwhile, the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad Company was building from Clinton to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Reportedly, this G&CU route was the first western railroad to operate by telegraph in 1856. In July, 1862, the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad, building between Cedar Rapids and Council Bluffs, was leased to the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad Company. The G&CU was also operating the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad between Clinton and Cedar Rapids under lease. The Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad, built as result of the Iowa Land Bill of 1856 that gave land grants for railroads, was to be the first railroad to reach Council Bluffs, making it a key supply route for the then-building Union Pacific transcontinental line. The Chicago and North Western Railway was chartered on June 7, 1859. It had purchased the assets of the bankrupt Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac Railroad on June 2nd. On February 15, 1865, it officially merged with the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. During the late 1800s, the railroad grew by adding branches and acquiring more local railroads, until it operated more than 5,000 miles of track by 1900. The railroad size peaked with more than 12,000 miles of track in seven states, making it one of the longest railroads in the US. Much of this increase in size came about due to mergers with other railroads, such as the Chicago Great Western Railway and the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway. However, major abandonments and line sales, as well as a 1972 sale of the company to its employees, led to major changes. By 1995, track sales and abandonment had reduced the railroad back to its earlier 5,000-mile size. The majority of the abandoned and sold lines were lightly trafficked branches in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Additionally, major line sales, such as the one that created the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad, helped to reduce the railroad to a mainline core with several regional feeders and branches. The final major change came about in April, 1995, when the Chicago and North Western was merged into the Union Pacific Railroad.

C&NW Passenger Service

The creation of the Chicago & North Western, with its through line between Chicago and Omaha, soon became an important link between Chicago and the west. For example, beginning in 1889, C&NW combined with Union Pacific and Southern Pacific to operate Chicago to west coast passenger service. Many of these trains were well known streamliners and domeliners, including the Overland Limited, City of Los Angeles, City of San Francisco, City of Denver, and the Challenger. However, during October 1955, UP announced that the five Chicago-West Coast trains would operate via Milwaukee Road between Omaha and Chicago, citing delays caused by deteriorating track conditions on the C&NW. With the loss of these through trains, the passenger service on the C&NW route changed greatly. The October 20, 1955, timetable showed a reduced number of trains, all operated solely by the C&NW. Trains 3 and 4, the Omahan, were daytime trains with coaches, cafe lounge, and a parlor car. Trains 7 and 8 ran at night with coaches and Pullmans as the Corn King. A mail and express train with a few coaches operated as trains 5 and 6. The Kate Shelley 400 operated Chicago-Boone as Trains 1 and #2. These trains carried coaches, dining and lounge cars, and a parlor car. Beginning mid-August of 1956, the out ended at Cedar Rapids. Further cuts in passenger service soon followed. In 1957, the Corn King was combined with trains 5 and 6 into the Fast Mail while the Kate Shelley 400 operated only to Clinton. Additionally, the Omaha trains only operated to Council Bluffs with bus service on into Omaha. Trains 9 and 10 were discontinued in 1959. By 1960, trains 1 and 2, and 3 and 4 operated Chicago-Clinton, and by 1961, only the Kate Shelley 400 remained, operating daily except Sunday. Sunday service was provided by an evening train 11 and 12. In 1963, the railroad officially dropped the name of the Kate Shelley. The Kate Shelley service ended with the formation of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

I went outside to wait for our train to arrive.

The empty Track 19 platform.

A Hiawatha train arrived into Chicago Union Station and then boarded and departed again to Milwaukee.

Our train pulled into the station.

Two more views of our train.

The Train Consist

Engines CNW Heritage Engine 1995, Amtrak 40,Wenonah Coach NSRX 202 800261, Nokomis Coach - NSRX 203 800898, Lake Pepin Coach NSRX 7616 800799, Franklin Inn - NRHX142 800957 , Braddock Inn - PPCX 800854, NYC 38 - Tavern Lounge PPCX 800655, High Iron Scenic View Dome 60 dome lounge class seats ATSF 551 RPCX 551, Super Dome 53 - NSRX 53 Dome Lounge 800862 and Cedar Rapids - NSRX 186 Observation Car 800040.

We boarded our passenger and I was assigned Scenic Dome 60 Sky View where I was a car host and helping out in general. We had a tour group of 21 passengers board from Cedar Rapids.

Our very happy tour group. The CNW Unit Cab Signal device is not working and they are trying to make repairs. I then walked the train.

The Super Dome.

Cedar Rapids.


Lake Pepin.

Franklin Inn.

Braddock Inn. We continued to sit in Chicago waiting for the problem to be fixed.

Our Trip to Cedar Rapids 6/17/2012

We departed Chicago Union Station at 12:18 PM.

Leaving Chicago Union Station.

The former Sears Tower.

Taking the final curve to go west towards Cedar Rapids.

Where the old Chicago Northwestern came into our route.

Our train got stopped at a red signal.

Tower A-2.

Tower A is where the old Milwaukee Road commuter lines took off to the northwest. It was at this point I helped pass out the lunches to our group then took apart the boxes and placed them in a trash bag.

Passing Milepost 14.

The old CNW Station at Lombard. We slowed to let a Metra train clear the Lombard Station.

A Metra commuter train heads for Chicago.

Two views on the Lombard Curve.

Taking the curve at Wheaton where my good friend Bob Alkire came from.

A curve at Wheaton.

"We Will Deliever" on the flanks of this unit at West Chicago.

Taking the curve at West Chicago.

Dave Smetko at West Chicago.

The crossing of the old EJ&E at West Chicago.

What a nice day for a ride.

Metra Overnight Yard in Elburn.

With us passing the Elburn Metra station, I was on new trackage and getting new rail miles for me.

On the way to De Kalb.

Coaling tower in De Kalb.

The De Kalb CNW Station. The train ran through Malta then stopped to fix a cable hanging off the Amtrak unit then we made our way through Creston.

More of that exciting Illinois countryside.

Before Rochelle the train crossed over to Track 2.

The Rochelle CNW Station.

The Rochelle Railroad Park was a busy place today.

Curving out of Rochelle, we ran by the Global Three Facility. We ran through Flagg and Franklin Grove then on to Dixon. The train next headed to Nelson.

The Coaling Tower at Nelson.

The Rock River.

The Rock River heads to the Mississippi River south of Rock Island. The train ran through Sterling.

Locomotive 3 inSterling at the Northwestern Steel & Wire plant. The train ran through Galthen Morrison to Union Grove and Frog Pond.

The train reached the Mississippi River Floodplain.

The train then crossed a side channel of the Mississippi River. Next the train crossed the bridges over the Mississippi River.

The train crossed the first channel of the Mississippi River.

The train crossed the main channel of the Mississippi River.

The train curved into Clinton, Iowa.

The tracks we rode during the Grand Excursion of 2004.

The CNW Station in Clinton.

The ADM Plant in Clinton.

Motive power at Clinton. We stopped for an engine crew change and left Clinton for Cedar Rapids at 3:56 PM.

Click here for Part 2 of this story