23.9.12

WHAT A FAST TRAIN LOOKS LIKE.

Amtrak, the BNSF Railway, and the Illinois Railway Museum collaborated to return Silver Pilot and The Nebraska Zephyr to its historic racetrack for two weekend trips Chicago Union Station to West Quincy and return.  I did not promise to file a trip report at the time of the trip's announcement, as I had tentative plans for other activities that weekend.  Tentative plans sometimes change, and seats on the train were still available a week ago Sunday.

I promptly purchased a Galesburg to Quincy and return coach ticket for September 22, and Amtrak coach seats Mendota to Galesburg and return.


Here's my conveyance from Mendota, lined to diverge onto the Quincy line.  Because the current rules of railroading make no provision for the order ENG 35 DISPLAY SIGNALS AND RUN AS FIRST 381, there are no green flags on the locomotive, no matter the visual appeal or play value such might offer.

There is a small railroad museum trackside at Galesburg, complete with a boxcar that clarifies what we are looking at.


The Mendota Subdivision (Aurora to Galesburg) of BNSF is being equipped with Positive Train Control.  An Amtrak test train is present, just to be positive.  The Quad Cities trains will be on the Mendota Sub as far as Wyanet, where a connecting track to the Iowa Interstate's ex-Rock Island line will be built.  Thus Princeton, Mendota, and points east will gain additional train frequencies on The Way of the Zephyrs, and perhaps the Positive Train Control will be another step in the Cold Spring Shops "Free Rein to 110" campaign.



It's all very encouraging, and new locomotives and cars are planned.  I doubt, though, if there will be a diesel named Silver Pilot, even if the new one is geared for 125 mph rather than 117.5, or coaches named Venus, Vesta, and Minerva, or a dining food service car named Ceres, or any kind of observation car, let alone a parlor-observation car named Juno.

Venus contains the train's heating and air-conditioning equipment.  At one time the passenger space was a tavern-lounge, those early streamliners offering all sorts of amenities to the carriage trade.  The seven-car version of the train included a dinette-coach and a second parlor car with a day drawing room.  To contemplate Amtrak's business class ...


In museum service, Venus generally serves as a rest area for the volunteer train crews.  It's being used as the museum store, with various mugs, shirts, posters, and reading material on sale.  On the bulkhead is a Global Positioning System estimate of our speed.  It's not as accurate as the Barco speedometer on the diesel, which is pegged at the track speed of 79 mph.  Global Positioning speed estimates do not allow Δs to go to zero.

Vesta and Minerva are two sixty-seat coaches, configured as mirror images of each other.  The entrance to Vesta is forward, and the entrance to Minerva is aft.  Thus, the train crew can load the coach passengers through Vesta at the same time that detraining passengers are unloading through Minerva, expediting station stops, as well as giving boarding passengers the opportunity to fill the seats as they become available.


I'm standing at the rear of Vesta, looking at the baggage shelves, the connection between the two cars, and the full seating section of Minerva.  Perhaps a Burlington fan can enlighten me about the use of hull number 4627 for Minerva.

All passengers were served a meal in the dining car: breakfast out of Chicago, lunch for Chicago passengers near Galesburg and for Galesburg passengers west of Macomb, and supper for Chicago passengers out of Galesburg.  My seating came during a delay at Quincy.  Apparently BNSF headquarters had to first establish that no, our train had not set brush fires along the tracks in its westward dash.  Parlor car passengers may have been offered first seating at each meal, and the second parlor car, which went for scrap years ago, would likely have also sold out on this trip.

Because of our delays at Quincy, we returned to Galesburg just after five p.m., and headquarters in its wisdom decided to hold us near the freight yard until the scheduled Southwest Chief completed its station work at 5.31.  As I type this, it appears that today's train is being held out of Galesburg until the scheduled California Zephyr completes its station work.  The timing made for some photos of the train, well-illuminated by the setting equinoctal sun.


The same rules that preclude the display of green flags also preclude the display of white flags and the issuance of the order ENG CBQ 9911 RUN PSGR EXTRA CHICAGO TO WEST QUINCY AND RETURN.  This movie of the train leaving Galesburg suggests the engineer would like to have the consist rolling at 110 the way Ralph Budd and Charles Kettering intended.


On a sunny Sunday morning, I took advantage of the conditions to get one more movie, at Mendota.


Some people I spoke with at trackside were disappointed yesterday's train returned after sunset. Today's train is still waiting to get into the Galesburg station.  I hope they won't be disappointed again. The museum would also like to get its train back to Union late tonight.

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