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Rochelle Railroad Park 8/22/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Waking up at the Baymont Inn, Elizabeth and I walked over to the Cracker Barrel where I had French Toast and crispy bacon as well as orange juice and Elizabeth enjoyed sausage, eggs, hashbrowns and toast. We met the boys, Greg and Marty, at 7:45 AM and Elizabeth drove us toll-free to Rochelle where I told the boys that I had ridden both routings through Rochelle on a Milwaukee Road 261 on a two-day Twin Cities to Chicago on the BNSF and the Union Pacific line on the roundtrip Chicago to Cedar Rapids for the 2012 NRHS Convention train.

Rochelle Railroad Park

The Rochelle Railroad Park is the first park in the nation built just for visitors to see operating trains! The story of railroads in Rochelle begins in 1854 when the Air Line Railroad was completed between Chicago and the town of Lane (Lane was the first name of Rochelle). The railroad later became the Chicago and North Western and today is owned by the Union Pacific. Sixteen years later the Chicago & Iowa Railroad was built through Rochelle in 1870 and it crossed over the Air Line Railroad between 11th Street and 12th Street. The railroad was later called the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy before becoming the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. In January 2005 another name change took place, and even though the holding company name remains the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the introduction of the new rail subsidiary name and logo took place. The railroad is now identified as the BNSF. The original BNSF depot on Main Street was built in 1921 when it replaced the original 1890 Depot. For many years both railroads had daily passenger service to Chicago or the West Coast, but the last passenger service in Rochelle ended in 1971. Today these two railroads daily haul millions of tons of merchandise on at least 80 to 90 trains a day through Rochelle in a 24 hour period. This has made Rochelle a "hot spot" for train watching, drawing visitors from every state in the nation and world wide. Because of the number of visitors Rochelle acquired the land in 1995 and constructed a park just for train watching. The park, which was dedicated August 30, 1998, includes a handicapped-accessible observation pavilion with various vantage sites for the best visitor viewing and photography. Visitors can see locomotives from many different railroad companies pass through Rochelle. They include the Union Pacific and the BNSF. Other units from railroads of the Eastern United States, Mexico, and Canada also pass through from time to time. One will also see engines wearing their color schemes from past mergers, mixed within the power of a passing freight. The radio transmissions that you are listening to are actual railroad communications from the dispatcher to the train crews and track workers. We monitor both main lines through Rochelle for the UP and the BNSF. Dispatching originates for the UP in Omaha Nebraska, and out of Fort Worth, Texas for the BNSF.

Our Visit

We all walked to the shelter and I explained the railroad to Greg then everyone split up. I used the free internet to get on-line and we did not have long to wait for our first train of the day.

BNSF 4128 East with DPU 5514 at Rochelle.

BNSF 5525 West with Norfolk Southern AC44C6M 4116 at the railroad park.

W.F. Hall Printing Company Whitcomb 50-ton side-rod 5 built in 1946 by Baldwin Locomotive Works.

Bucksgahuda & Western Railroad Whitcomb 7 ton built in 1928. I walked across the Union Pacific mainline.

Milwaukee Road side rib caboose 902083. I heard a train horn from the west, walked back and then the crossing gates came down on the Union Pacific.

The view from the grade crossing. I walked back and then the crossing gates came down on the Union Pacific.

Union Pacific 6030 East came through Rochelle.

The railroad block signal on display along with the W.F. Hall Printing Company Whitcomb 50-ton side-rod 5.

Union Pacific 6030 East with DPU 6710 finshed passing through Rochelle.

Next was Union Pacific 5277 West with Union Pacific DPU 8063. We had had our fill so drove to DeKalb to our next stop of the trip.

The DeKalb Chicago and North Western station built in 1891. From here we drove to the Fox River Trolley Museum, but alas that will be the next story.