Number 90 posted 
I'd feel safe in calling the train No.40.  Notice the early afternoon shadow.

I have commented more than once on the Rock Island universally rough track.  There just was not enough money to go all the way around, and "good enough" had to suffice for a railroad which could never afford to be excellent.  On the photo of you standing by the track, notice the "tired" condition of the ties and the very frugal application of rock ballast.  Notice the dust cloud being stirred up by the train running at 79 MPH on that thinly-ballasted track.  And this was the Golden State Route -- one of Rock Island's good lines!

Thank you for sharing these photos, and to everyone who has been sharing memories.

Thanks, Tom. Yes! The short early afternoon shadow. I have thought of that pic as being noon-ish but couldn't put my finger on why. You [I'm sure correctly] figured it out. It also fits with the way Dad did things. He would have set this up as a lunch break (we were camping and had a large ice-box) and then watched for the train.

The dust proves two things, doesn't it? That he was moving at speed and that the ballast was tired and had a lot of fines in it. I have the three pics on the train room wall one above the other telling me the little story every time my eyes focus on them.

The line to which Palallin refers to is the Missouri Central Railroad, MOC. And it could be the Central Midland Railroad, CMR, both appear to use about 30 miles of former Rock Island line out of St. Louis Mo.

Last edited by Clarence Siman

The RI from Houston to the DFW area was on the Joint Texas Division.  Joint with the Birlington.  Signaling looked like the triangle in a circle "bowling ball".  Trackwork was divided every 5 years between the two.  Guess when the division went to pot....

This line hasa complex history.  At one time is eas caled the B-RI.

Last edited by Dominic Mazoch

Great topic and thread. Learning a lot about a railroad I'd heard of as a youngster, but never knew much about until recently. I sometimes rode Metra's Rock Island District to work from Vermont Street in Blue Island in the '90s. Other times Metra Electric, or drive, depending on the shift.

Heard Johnny Cash's "Rock Island Line" on the Fordham University radio station a few weeks ago, during the Morning Question.

Thanks to all! And keep it coming...please!


Last edited by NKP Muncie

I will say I am enjoying this thread. I have one fond memory. My parents took me to Chicago on the commuter from Joliet around Christmas but I think the best part was Marshall Fields at Christmas. My aunt and uncle lived in an apartment by the tracks of the Rock Island in Joliet and I remember everything rattling when a train went by. They moved as soon as they could.

The rest of my memories are not so fond. During college in the early 60's, I worked summers in Chicago and had to take the commuter to work. The coaches (Capone cars as I found out later) were hot and stinky. Motive power were probably RS3's and E somethings. I was much more interested in checking out the girls than the engines so not entirely sure. 

I would not say it was a fun experience but it sure beat driving into Chicago. I got to read a lot and occasionally nap. Luckily the job involved a fair amount of field time which helped.

To piggyback on Firewood's post, I saw this RI hopper about 8 times back in 2017.  It was always in mixed freight on the BNSF.  In this photo it was heading east. 

-Nathan M

Rock Island - Pacific Mo Mar 2017


Images (1)
Dominic Mazoch posted:

The RI from Houston to the DFW area was on the Joint Texas Division.  Joint with the Birlington.  Signaling looked like the triangle in a circle "bowling ball".  Trackwork was divided every 5 years between the two.  Guess when the division went to pot....

The Burlington-Rock Island, otherwise known as the Joint Texas Division, was operated by the same employees year in, year out.  They operated the trains of both the Rock Island and the Fort Worth & Denver (Burlington Route).  However the salaried management was furnished by each owner railroad, changing every five years.  The intermediate terminal was Teague, Texas.  Most of the employees at Teague were related, and it was established long ago that they would do things the way they pleased.  If the Trainmaster took exception to something that a Conductor was doing, he soon found out that he was not just taking on one employee, but also the employee's Daddy and his brothers and his cousins, and . . . well, you get the idea.  Let's just say that Teague was not a Book of Rules outfit, but they got the cars switched and the trains arrived and departed -- their way.

The Rock Island had pretty good results, as they had a number of Officers who could get the desired result by pleasant encouragement, rather than by exerting authority.

I have a couple of memories of Rock Island. In the fall of '72 I decided to ride a freight train east, and ended up catching a trailer train out of Rio Grande's Denver North yard. I remember the train had 3 GE 'Uboats' I don't remember what models they were, but remember seeing the oil covered walkways and the generally filthy and run down look. The train went about 5 miles down the track then stopped in their little yard next to Denver's old Stapelton airport. Left probably 3 hours later. It was night and getting chilly out. I was riding a flatcar with 2 trailers. The train ran east to KC, but I bailed off in a little town in Kansas called Horton (?) Mistake. I stood out like a sore thumb and it wasn't long before the town sheriff came around and wanted to know who I was and where I came from and how did I get to the town. Busted.

 Another time, around 1978, I went down to Rock Island's Kansas City yard on a road trip. I went into the yard with camera in tow to grab some motive power shots. Big mistake! 2 big burly guys came up to me almost instantly. wanted to know what I was doing there and was trespassing! One of them demanded my camera and I was escorted up to the yard bulls office. The detective wanted to know why I was taking pictures. The Rock Island was on strike during the time and taking pictures, especially on railroad property, and was absolutely forbidden. He demanded the film in the camera or go off to jail. I didn't go to jail, but lost some good pictures!  

So my encounters with the RI wasn't particularly positive.  But I should have known better.

seaboardm2 posted:
mark s posted:

Rock Island was always one of my favorites.  Very handsome 4-8-4's, as a start.  In my high school days, would go "downtown" to Chicago's Loop, and spend time in the 7 or so passenger stations. LaSalle Street was a regular stop, and would see Rock Island  Alco RS3's on commuter runs. Then had a most enjoyable couple of days pacing Southern Ry 2-8-2 #4501 running on the Rock Island, to Bureau Junction, IL (1973). Talked with the engineer who was retiring after the run; he likened #4501 to "our 2300's" (USRA light Mikes). 

Was at the Blue Island Burr Oak roundhouse in the mid-70's, seeking #630, the last of the E6's. Was kicked out by the Roundhouse Foreman! Think some of the roundhouse roof had collapsed, indicative of the creeping decrepitude of the Rock Island.

Being a traditionalist, never warmed to "The Rock" marketing campaign.  But admired, from a business perspective, the gutsy final attempt at salvation.

Didn't they have a large number of 4-8-4s?

The Rock Island had the largest fleet of 4-8-4's in the United Stated. Only Canadian National had more.


Growing up in Oklahoma City in the 70s, I lived in what was then a newish neighborhood that had a local Rock Island branch running right through it. My earliest childhood memories of trains are being able to look to the end of my street and, between houses, see that train go by. As I got older, much of my time was spent along the ROW in a tree house we built next to the tracks and exploring the tracks on our bikes for a mile or so in each direction, all while waiting for that (sometimes) daily switcher run with an SW engine in the lead and a transfer caboose on the rear. 

Going to my Dad's office downtown required crossing over the Rock Island main and, once we got onto I-40, you could see another grade crossing down the road from the highway. To this day, I have vivid memories of seeing Rock Island freights blasting through at both of those spots. Throw in annual visits to the State Fair, where the CRIP main ran right through the south end of fair grounds (and where the American Freedom Train parked in 1975), and the Rock Island was always a big part of my youth.

As an adult, I bought a condo about a half mile from my parents' house, just north of the same neighborhood where I grew up. And what bordered the north end of the condominiums' property? Yep, the abandoned ROW of that same Rock Island local branch I spent chasing in my youth. From that condo, many mountain bike expeditions were spent exploring that old ROW and many road bike rides were spent lapping around the old main line and circus sidings at the fair grounds. IIRC, there was still an old Rock Island signal present along the main (now operated by the UP) into the 90s and the Rock Island name is still clearly visible on a nearby bridge. (Forgot to mention another famous Rock Island spot nearby that survived its original owner by more than 35 years; The old Rock Island diesel service shop in El Reno. I last visited in 1994 and, after becoming a magnet for trouble in the 2000s, it was finally demolished by the city in the last five years or so. To see how it looked at the end, go here.)

When I got married (my wife's father worked on a Rock Island track gang in his youth in western Oklahoma) and knowing we'd be taking care of my parents, we looked at a house nearby in the neighborhood that had backed up to the old local branch line of my youth. Long abandoned after the UP took over MKT (and the then-OKT), the ROW had been ceded over to the adjacent property owners and a fence had been extended to the new property line. While that was certainly an attractive element to this buyer, sadly other parts of the house just didn't make the grade, and I missed my chance to own a piece of the Rock Island. We bought another house in the neighborhood instead however, and I was still able to show my son where the Rock Island once ran at many spots nearby.

Today, the old Rock Island main through OKC is the UP Oklahoma City sub, though it's basically a branch line serving local customers. The better part of the line westward from the yard east of downtown is now considered yard limits so, on the rare occasion when you do see a train, they're not hard to catch and photograph. On top of all that, a friend's house in Okarche, OK backs up to former Rock Island tracks and what is now the Union Pacific Enid sub between Wichita and Fort Worth. As he has a camera positioned to watch the weather (that also captures the tracks), I can still see trains running on that mighty fine line…


Last edited by redrockbill

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