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By Ben “Dutch” Myers


    Below is the fourth and final part of this travelogue.  Part 1 took me from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to La Plata MO via Wash, DC and Chicago.  Parts 2 & 3 found me enjoying La Plata, Missouri and the area and the hospitality of the Depot Inn and Suites.  In this part, I will be riding the Southwest Chief eastward, pick up the Capitol Ltd in Chicago and be joined on the trip by my son who boards during a snow storm in South Bend, Indiana.  We continue overnight through Pittsburgh, pass a former wreck site near Sand Patch, finishing our trip in Philadelphia after traveling through Washington, DC.


    Bob Cox had performed the waving duties when I left La Plata station.  He had been a great help in making it a good visit.  In fact, it had been a magnificent visit, proving that even cold temperatures and abundant snow could not reduce the enjoyment of La Plata and area.  Aboard the eastbound Southwest Chief, I found a seat in coach and stowed my luggage.  After a while I wandered to the rear of the train through a car filled with college students on a trip.  I stopped and talked with several of them and found they were a fun loving but nice group.

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Leaving La Plata well behind

MOW crew bteen LAP and FtMad

MOW crew

    Reaching the rear window about fifteen minutes out of Fort Madison, IA, we were just passing a crossing with BNSF track crews engaged in repairs.

ISP Barn Ft Mad

    Suddenly out of the landscape on our left, a bright red barn appeared.  The letters “ISP Farm 3” across the front most likely means it’s a site run by the Iowa State Penitentiary.  A pretty picture, but you don’t want to spend time there.

FM BN973524 Tank

FM Open Hoppers & Gons

FM Tank & MOW Gondola

Ft Mad Shops

Ft Mad Tank cars

BN 7262 Loco (ES44DC)

UP 7462 (AC45CCTE) NS 9451 (C40-9W)

    Minutes later, we were pulling into Fort Madison, Iowa.  Fort Madison is just a station stop to many Amtrak riders.  However, this town of some 11,000 people has a remarkable history.  It was started in 1808 as the first U.S. military post on the upper Mississippi River to protect trading with the Sauk and Fox tribes.  The Native Americans in the area were peaceful and all went well until the outbreak of the War of 1812, when Black Hawk and his allies besieged the fort and it had to be abandoned.  On a riverboat trip in 1832, General John Knapp saw the ruins, stayed and erected the first building in the area since the fort and been abandoned.  Sending for his family in Pennsylvania and building hotels for people ferrying the river, Fort Madison became a prosperous area.  The CB&Q Railroad arrived in 1869 as part of a route between Hannibal and Burlington.  Then the Chicago, Santa Fe and California Railway was incorporated and in 1887 the decision was made to run the main line from Chicago to the West Coast through Fort Madison.  A bridge across the Mississippi was completed for the railroad the same year.  This single track bridge was replaced in 1927 with the current swinging truss bridge with automobile traffic on the top deck and trains on the lower deck.  You may already be aware that it is the longest double-deck, swing-span bridge in the world.  With grants to build a replica of Old Fort Madison in 1983, the city started work in Riverview Park, which now has living history demonstrations in the reconstructed historic fort site.  If one had the time to step off the train for a visit, Fort Madison should be interesting to explore.

Cond Gerald Car Attn Linda EBSWC

    Just before our train had arrived in Fort Madison, the Amtrak ticket office called my cell phone that they had voided the second half of my trip by error.  Upon arrival, our conductor was kind enough to go inside the station with my paperwork and straighten it out.  Another great Amtrak employee!  Conductor Gerald is pictured with Car Attendant Linda who was also doing a super job.  Many thanks to this dynamic duo.

Ft Mad Swing bridge

Ft Mad Bridge to Illinois

Ft Mad Bridge

FM Mississippi River

Frozen Mississippi

FM Swing Span Bridge

Between Iowa & Illinois

Illinois side

Across river to FtMad

    Leaving Fort Madison, we moved toward the swing bridge to cross between Iowa and Illinois.  Notice the boat slips, normally filled with water craft in warmer times, encased in snow and ice.

Knox College Galesburg

Galesburg Station



Less than an hour later, the SW Chief was approaching Galesburg, IL as we passed Knox College (founded in 1837), and pulled into another snowy station.  Galesburg is the birthplace of poet Carl Sandburg, whose father worked for the CB&Q railroad.  They boast of both a children and railroad museum.

On prairie east of Princeton

Just outside Princeton, farmers gathered at a snow covered field.

West end Princeton

West end Princeton

West end Princeton

Princeton IL

Princeton footsteps

Princeton old bldg

Princeton CB&Q 13593

Princeton fresh fudge

Princeton fudge store


Princeton Coffee Cup

Coffee Cup Restaurant

Coffee Cup crossing

Coffee Cup crossing

Princeton showed all the signs of winter.  Princeton holds the personal distinction of having the only favorite café that I have NEVER been inside – The Coffee Cup Restaurant.   It has passed by the window on several train trips and I just like the look of it.  Imagination has the waitress taking a plate of piping hot eggs, hash brown potatoes with toast from the cook and placing it before the customer at the counter.  She says “here ya go, dig into that” while he deftly picks up the piece of parsley from the dish and hands it to her saying “you must have walked under a tree - a leaf fell on my plate.”  They both smile at the same old routine they’ve played on one another over the years.  OK, my imagination gets a bit out of hand at times.

West of Mendota

Mendota BNSF 2005

Whistle Stop

Reflections on steam

Mendota CB&Q 4978

Mendota caboose



Mendota RR cars

Mendota RR Museum





Mendota mini church

Next stop was Mendota

Farm west of Naperville

A farm between Mendota and Naperville reminded me of home country in Lancaster County PA.

View dome w of Naperville

Travelers enjoyed the observation car view as we neared Naperville.






We entered Naperville, IL.  Here’s another location with an interesting background.  Naperville had what is probably one of the worse train accidents in the area in 1946.  The CB&Q’s Advance Flyer and the Exposition Flyer crashed nose to tail, killing 47 and injuring over 100 people.  The first rail link with Chicago dates back to 1864.  Today, the BNSF operates trains through the area and Amtrak and Metra handle passengers travelling to and from Chicago.  Amtrak trains include the Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg.  Metra is the Northeast Illinois Regional Transportation Corp that services the surrounding suburbs to Chicago.  It was originally called the RTA with a fleet of EMD F40PH locomotives.  On a human note, Naperville achieved some fame when local man Evan Lysacek won the 2009 Olympic Gold Medal for figure skating, defeating the favored Russian Evgeni Plushenko.  Lysacek then went on the TV show Dancing With the Stars and placed a strong second in 2010.  His ice skating started in Naperville with coaches Deborah Stoery and Candice Brown.

DLCX 181 (GP 18) near Naperville

East of Naperville, a red Diesel Locomotive Company engine was working.


East of Brookfield

Ten minutes out of Chicago we passed through Brookfield.

Chicago Yards


CR Boxcar

Container cars

UP 722


SWC head end


Metra 201

Metra 126

Metra car 751

Metra car 8605

Chicago tracks held some interesting equipment.

Union Sta skylight

CHI Tower in fog

New front Union Sta

Canal side entrance

Working on canal bridge

Union Sta clocks

High perch statue

Union Sta steps

Union Sta worn steps

Worn steps close-up

Union Station hall

Union Station roof

To Trains

You are here!

Union Sta NRHS plaque

Union Sta NRHS plaque

Metra tickets

Amtrak tickets

Lower level trains

Info & metro lounge entr

CHI Metro lounge

CHI Metro Lounge

CHI Metro lounge

Union Sta Italian wines

Italian wines

Italian wines

Whatcha talkin bout Willis (bldg)

Willis Tower

Chicago canal

Metra locos under street

Potbelly’s Restaurant

Panera & Walgreen’s

Panera & Walgreens closeup

Route 66 in Chicago

AMTK 90219

Amtrak locos

Beneath Union Station

Amtrak equipment

Union Sta tracks

Union Station was just as I had left it several days prior.  I walked across the canal bridge to grab a turkey sandwich at Potbelly’s Restaurant.  There was also a Panera’s and a Walgreen’s drug store across the canal.  Just about anything a traveler needs is within walking distance of Union Station.

 South Bend IN snowstorm

South Bend son boards Cap Ltd

South Bend son boards Cap Ltd

At South Bend, IN, my son boarded the Capitol Ltd.  He had been on a business trip to the Chicago area, then another snow storm hit.  What a winter!  His flight home and many others had been canceled and delayed.  I received his text message while waiting for the departure of the Capitol Limited in Chicago.  He had flown into Chicago for meetings a few days earlier, then rented a car and drove to visit customers in Ohio and Indiana.  He said he was stuck there until the airports were able to dig themselves out.  I told him that I had an extra bunk in my roomette if he could buy an Amtrak ticket and meet the train in South Bend.  The rest of the train was already sold out due to the usual flyers trying to travel.  Yes – the train gets through!  That evening, I put him in the lower bunk since I had grown used to an upper rack in the military, although that was many years ago.  And no – we didn’t have wooden ships with sails in those days.  He found that he liked the experience of a comfortable and relaxed travel mode while keeping up with work via his computer, Internet and cell phone devices.  Business people take note – if you don’t have to fly – why do it?  Travel in a civilized manner without the hassle of airports, etc.

Catherine & Aasgeir EB CAP

Next morning at breakfast I had a fascinating conversation with a couple named Catherine and Aasgeir, who were headed to Washington, DC and I believe from there to North Carolina.

Frozen streams

Frozen runoffs rock walls

Insulator pole


Near Rockwood PA

Near Rockwood PA

Clapper’s Rockwood

Casselman River

Casselman River


Somerset County

Overhead bridge

Plowing snow

Head end


Icy crossing

NYC/CR 279246 1960s boxcar

Rockwell Painting look alike

Headend snowstorm

RR house on hill

Snowy lane

Snowed in


After Pittsburgh we passed through beautiful snow covered countryside.

Wreckage wheels

Wreckage wheels

I had been on the left side of the observation car enjoying the scenery and snapping a photo now and then, when I decided to get up and move to the right side.  At one point, a fellow passenger mentioned that I missed all the wrecked freight cars on the left side.  Oh brother – timing!  Of course it was too late for the “big picture” at that point.  However, I had captured a couple of shots of a large number of wheel sets through the right side window.  Unknowingly at the time, I had taken photos of the wheels being salvaged and moved from wrecked hopper cars to that location.  The best information I could obtain was that we were near Glencoe PA between Meyersdale and Hyndman on east slope of Sand Patch grade near Touland Rd.  The previous month had seen 113 of 130 coal cars wrecked from a runaway train that raced down hill with speed into the 60s in a 25 mph zone.  Weather was the culprit with over two feet of snow and icing with temps in the 20s, the train was apparently too long and heavy for the brakes to handle on that grade.

Church in the valley

Snowed in town

CSX MOW equipment

CSX Ballast spreader


Cap Ltd headend

CAP in snowy mountains

Near Fairhope

Follow the river

Crossing ahead

Fairhope Road

Heavy cloud morning

Hyndman PA

Hyndman Post Office

Hyndman shanty

Hyndman B&O parlor car 1940s

C&O 903556 caboose cupola late 1940s

Farm east of Hyndman

More scenes on the way and into Hyndman.

Cumberland MD

Cumberland crossing

Cumberland signals

“Let’s Talk” Cumberland

CSX 7318

Morning church

Cumberland Shoe Hospital

VFW & Gulf War Memorial

Pulling into Cumberland, Maryland (built as a natural gap between two ridges of the Allegheny Mountains), meant we were nearing our destination at Washington, DC.  In photo 1467, one can just see the words “Let’s Talk”.  The trailer blocked the rest, so guess it was Let’s Talk Cumberland, not the Let’s Talk Trains radio show.  Wonder how many shoes went through the doors in the old days of the Cumberland Shoe Hospital in photo 1470?  In photo 1471 we see the VFW behind the station, and stop and give thanks for our brave military at the Gulf War memorial.

Near Cumberland

Loco CSX 83 (AC4400CW)

Barney & Ann on the EB CAP Ltd

    There was still plenty of pleasant scenery to enjoy east of Cumberland as my son and I enjoyed conversations with Barney and Ann, a great couple who had the roomette across from ours.

    Arriving in Washington, we took one of the many trains to Philadelphia, 30th Street Station, shared a taxi to the airport to pick up my son’s vehicle, and drove home.

Chris & Ben with shirt

Shirt front

Shirt neck

Shirt back

    As an addendum to the end of this four part article, it occurred to me to make a couple of comparisons between this journey and my first to La Plata in 2007.  The original trip had been to attend the celebration of the million miles of train travel accomplished by Chris Guenzler.  I felt an immediate bond with this community and its people.  The La Plata area is rural, yet contains so many of the amenities available to more metropolitan regions.  Between 2007 and 2010, I wouldn’t say La Plata hasn’t changed – it has gotten better – much better!

    The other comparison comes between the million miles traveled on steel ribbons by Chris in 2007, and the million miles of slow destruction achieved on the commemorating shirt he presented to me in 2007.  Above are some pics of Chris giving me a brand new Chris Guenzler Million Mile shirt back then and what is left if it now.  Although I can no longer show it off in public, it is still comfortable to wear around the house.  My wife cringes if I even have it on to pick up the newspaper in the driveway.  She keeps telling me to throw it out, but I’ve grown fond of it.  It’s still in great shape and hey, it’s a keepsake from the rail rock star himself.  Thanks for the great shirt Chris – it’s a beauty!

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