Saturday, May 31, 2014

Morton Arboretum's Salt Berm

Between IL-53 and Finley Road there are a bunch of office buildings between Warrenville and I-88. I stopped in the parking lots of those building when going from west to east down this segment of Warrenville to take pictures of the Morton Arboretum's salt berm. The berm protects the plants from salt spray in the winter. This berm was built for the arboretum as part of a three-way trade among the arboretum, the Tollway Authority, and the DuPage County Forest Preserve to build I-355. I remember the old I-88 berm was a rather boring 20-foot hill. The new berm has varying heights and some landscaping on the road side of the berm. As part of the trade, the arboretum planed to do research concerning the salt tolerance of various plants. I include I-88 in the foreground of this picture so that you have some context.

20140526 0032

The following three views were taken from the same spot looking towards the west, then north, then towards the east.

When I took these pictures, I tried to wait until there were no trucks in the view. I see I missed avoiding one in my eastern view.

Note the power lines on the right of the eastern view. Below is a better view of the power lines. Another aspect of the I-355 contruction was $30 million dollars spent for utility relocation. These lines are part of the corridor that we have already seen in Hidden Lakes and over the CB&Q tracks. Just past the power lines on the right side of the picture is where I-355 goes under I-88.

The  following was taken from east of the I-88/I-355 intersection looking towards the west.

 I-355 is below grade in this stretch because it goes under I-88. I wrote a lot of words trying to describe where it was in the above view before it occurred to me that I could have my wife drive me on I-355 while I take some pictures. Below is the part of I-355 that is in the above view. In this stretch, it is buried with retaining walls. The bridges carry I-88. If you look at the map, can see that I-355 does most of its curving to the east while south of I-88 and goes under I-88 with a heavy skew angle to minimize the amount of land that Morton Arboretum had to surrender as part of the trade. That made the length of the bridges and the spans significantly longer. Note the tollway authority's microwave tower in the center of the view. That can be used to help correlate this view with the following view.

To put the above in context and to include a "prettier" view I include a view before we get to the above view. I-88 is on the "grassy hill" to the left. So I-355 is beginning to separate from I-88 and is starting to go underground here. On the right we see the berm and power lines. The microwave tower is just to the left of the light post that is closest to the camera. The office building to the left of the microwave tower is the tollroad's headquarters.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

BNSF Color Schemes and Railfanning

When I saw the second BNSF engine this morning with a color scheme that did not include orange, I decided it was time to learn more about the paint schemes. I had also noticed that the locomotive liveries that included orange had different details.

I soon learned the paint schemes that include orange are four Heritage schemes that are called H1-H4. The first non-orange scheme I saw several days ago was the Warbonnet scheme (below). Today's non-orange scheme was the second locomotive for a unit coal train. It was grey and off-white. As  best as I can tell, it was the Executive paint scheme.

H1 has a thick orange stripe down the middle for the black lettering and just one yellow stripe between the orange stripe and the "dark Pullman Green" that is above and below the orange/yellow area. And it has the SantaFe cross logo on front but with the lettering of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The colors are based on Great Northern Railway's pre-1967 colors of  Omaha Orange and Pullman Green. Another railfan indicated the dark color is "Northern Pacific dark green."

H2 removes the dark color from the bottom and shrinks the dark color band on the top. I think the dark color is still Pullman Green instead of black. And it adds multiple yellow stripes and the BNSF lettering is now yellow instead of black.

The following has a Warbonnet scheme as well as H2.

In 2005, the company changed their name from Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway to BNSF Railway. The the BNSF letters are no longer their reporting marks, they are the name. So they created a new logo that motivates the railfan's nickname of "swish." H3 is H2 with the yellow lettering replaced by the black logo and the dark color is supposed to be black instead of Pullman Green. But exposure of a picture seems to make more of a difference in the dark color than the name used to describe it.

Sorry about the exposure in this H3. This is a screen shot from one of my first attempts to use the video feature of the camera, and I learned that it doesn't handle back lighting as well for video as it does for still pictures.

H4 is the same as H1 but with the modifications of green->black, the new logo, and a wider orange band. One source said that H4 was for use on the cab units. Another said that H3 was for wide cabs and H4 was developed when they started repainting SD40-2 units. Some sources call the H2/H3 scheme the Premium Heritage and the H1/H4 scheme the (standard) Heritage.

There are still some of the BN and SantaFe schemes running on the system.

The second unit on the video I took today:

 The picture above for the H1 scheme was the second in a consist that had a patched BN engine:

20140521 0084c

These units were switching a string of covered hoppers and crossed the road more than once without letting the gates up so I had more opportunities to take pictures than I wanted. I assume they are old units which is why they have old paint schemes and are assigned to switching duties.

And while I was by the CB&Q tracks trying to get pictures of freight trains, there were commuter trains...

...and Amtrak trains.

This Amtrak train was rather long for a passenger train. The Zephyr line to San Fransisco has used this route since its inception. The Southwest now switches from the old SantaFe route to this route at Galesburg, IL, because Amtrak did not want to pay 100,000 dollars for a stretch of track in Chicago that is being abandoned by the parent railroad. It is the same abandonment that is threatening the continued existance of the St. Charles Air Line Bridge. The overpass in the background is I-355. The electric power lines are in the same corridor that goes by the Hidden Lake Forest Preserve.

Of note was a tank-car unit train. Not only was it being pulled by two NS engines, it did not have all black tank cars like the BNSF trains do. It did have the buffer covered hopper cars at the beginning and the end that I see on this route but not on the SantaFe route.

These cars have at least some of the improvements that are needed to avoid fires when they derail--- the shield plate at the ends and the shield around the valves on top so that they don't snap off if the car rolls over.

The details for the container train of which I took a video:

TTAX 654376 – 5-unit trailer
FEC 72368 – 1-unit container
TTAX 653921 – 5-unit trailer
TTAX 355140 – 5-unit trailer
TTAX 554364 – 5-unit trailer
FEC 72383 – 1-unit container
CTTX 656350 – 1-unit container
DTTX 470301 – 1-unit container
SMW 210251 – 5-unit trailer
TTAX 553421 – 5-unit trailer
? - 3-unit trailer
CTTX ?23194, DTTX 723194 – 3-unit container
DTTX 787538 – 3-unit container
DTTX 723278 – 3-unit container
DTTX 732167 – 3-unit container
BNSF 211550 – 3-unit container
AOK 55147 – 3-unit container
? – 3-unit container
? – 5-unit trailer
BNSF 253586 – 3-unit container
DTTX 646825 – 1-unit container
DTTX 765590 – 3-unit container
? - 1-unit container
TTX – 3-unit container
?(green) – 5-unit trailer
TTAX 367085 – 3-unit trailer
TTAX 370458 – 3-unit trailer
TTAX 355059 – 3-unit trailer

All of the trailer flat cars were flat cars. I didn't see any of the type where there is metal just where the wheels would be. And several of the flats were carrying a single-high container instead of a trailer. And several of the flats had two short UPS trailers. Including a few that had just one short trailer on the front of the flat. This train was much more"rural" than the typical container train on the SantaFe route. SantaFe tends to have just one double-high container well after another.

William Wozniak posted in Facebook
Update: William Wozniak posted someones speculation of what heritage units might look like.
Matthew Albert posted
BNSF 3013 all repainted with brand new PTC equipment
KC, MO 5/27/2017
Robert Foster H4 is the intermediate and H3 is high horsepower.
I uploaded this a while back...
Will G Benson posted
Drone shot? Nah. Ballast pile! Here's the local manifest M-CHIGAL as it takes a string of empty centerbeams out of Joliet on 4/22/18
Jacob Metzger posted four photos with the comment:
"Santa Fe Sunday"
A day of the year I always seem to hit the jackpot with vintage Santa Fe equipment is April 22nd, for seemingly no reason. Today was no exception, as I caught the HNTWBRC at Long Common Road on the Racetrack in Riverside, and again at Nerska on the BRC... and on the other half of BNSF's massive Chicago terminal, the BNSF2846, a Bluebonnet GP38 led the YHOD303 from Clearing into Hodgkins around 8am this morning, turning into the MCHIGAL and heading west around three this afternoon..
What. A. Day!!!

the HNTWBRC at Long Common Road on the Racetrack in Riverside

the HNTWBRC at Nerska on the BRC

a Bluebonnet GP38 led the YHOD303 from Clearing into Hodgkins [here, facing towards Chicago]...

...turning into the MCHIGAL and heading west

The paint schemes of the merger partners continues to survive. It is not too unusual to still see BN green covered hoppers. But BN painted engines are getting rare.

Kevin Piper posted

Lisle I-88 Overpasses

On my way to see Hidden Lake Forest Preserve, I took IL-53 under the I-88 tollway overpass and noticed that it was decorated. So on the way back home, I pulled off the road to take some pictures of the north side.The words across the top say "Welcome to Lisle - The Arboretum Village." The next stop light north of here is the entrance to the Morton Arboretum.

20140526 0024c

The retaining wall on the left extends quite a way because of the exit ramp to IL-53:

The leaves decoration is worthy of a closeup:

And if I turn from facing South to facing West and walk over to the fence, I see a lake in the Morton Arboretum:

I wasn't planning on taking a picture of the south elevation because the roads in DuPage County are not pedestrian friendly. But I noticed that I had a clear shot while stuck at a stop light, so I was able to get a picture. The text reads "Welcome to Morton Arboretum."

To go home, I would turn left on Warrenville, but since it rained the previous night I turned right (West) to check out the height of the East DuPage River. I used to cross this bridge everyday during my commute to work, and when there are floods in the area, the water is out of its banks. Today, the river is high, but still within the banks.

I took a picture to the West to remind me that there is a non-trivial hill here. I don't think it is because the East DuPage River has carved a flood plain because there is not a hill east of here. I wonder if the hill is because of a moraine.

I had to walk under the I-88 overpass over Warrenville from the Hilton parking lot on the other side so on the way back I got a picture.

Note that even the regular retaining walls are decorated with a stone appearance. They rebuilt this bridge when they added the fourth lane to the tollway. And as part of that rebuilding, they spanned 4 lanes on the right (eastbound) to have two left-turn lanes onto IL-53 which leads to the entrance ramp to I-88. It took them two years to do the rebuild and, because they moved where the center pier was, both directions had only one lane, even during the winter. They are normally very good around here when planning road projects to make sure they have the road back to full capacity during the winter months.

This construction was the reason why I started working from home. The traffic jams caused by having just one lane open was more than I wanted to deal with. And by the time they got the bridge done, Alcatel-Lucent had decided that I was one of 600 employees that did not need an office.

On the way back to the van, I sat down to catch a picture of the overpass beams.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Downers Grove Hidden Lake Forest Preserve

This is another hidden nature neighborhood post, but this time it is practically in my own backyard! I found it when I took a look at the list of historic bridges in DuPage County.  I've lived in Downers for 38 years, and I did not  know about Hidden Lake before looking at Nathan's site because I had always assumed that the blob of green above Lisle on maps was the Morton Arboretum. I now see that Google does document Hidden Lake Country Forest Preserve, but they place it in the part that the public cannot access. You have to access it on the west side from IL-53. And take an access road south to a parking lot, which is not on the map even at zoom level 18.

After you get out of your car you can hear many different bird calls against the backdrop of road noise. I-88 is to the South and I-355 is to the East. It is a "aural" hidden nature neighborhood.

Please see Nathan Holth's collection of pictures for this bridge that includes many detail shots. In the following shot, I was trying to use the nice hand railing to frame a shot of the turbulence of the East DuPage River.  It had rained about a half-inch the previous night. There were some rocks on the far side of the river, and they were creating a relatively loud brook-babling noise.

I can't reconcile this view with Nathan's view. His view shows a lot of rocks on the east side of the river, which would be the near side in the above view. But I saw the water being deflected by rocks on the north side. Did someone remove the rocks that are in Nathan's view?

In this shot towards the upstream, the turbulence is over some rocks on this side of the "island." I didn't notice it until I loaded the picture, but someone has done a poor repair job on the hand railing.

Another shot of the water turbulence.

The brochure for this preserve says "The true Hidden Lake is a glacier-dug pond tucked away among mature oaks and hickories. For anglers, the 15-acre Round Medow Lake, created in conjunction with I-355, and the 10-acre Eagle Lake, dug in the shape of a soaring eagle by a previous owner as a memorial, off bass, bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish." It also says "It's also home to King's Grove, a remnant woodland of red, white, and bur oaks." Unfortunately, their map doesn't indicate where the Grove or Hidden Lake is. The brochure also mentions "over 2 miles of limestone trails."

I remember when I-355 was built in the late 1980s that one of the big issues was that the new toll road needed a little strip of land that was owned by the Morton Arboretum. Looking at a map, note that the arboretum used to own the land all the way to I-88. To resolve this issue, I remember that the Forest Preserve, Morton Arboretum, and the Tollway Authority came up with a 3-way trade. Morton would give some land to the Authority. The Forest Preserve would allow Morton to take control of some of their land. And the Authority would create Round Meadow Lake in Hidden Valley and create a new salt berm for Morton. And Morton decided that it would use this berm construction as an opportunity to do research concerning what plant types could better resist salt spray. According to the map, I-355 is elevated east of this green stretch so they probably needed the dirt from Round Meadow anyhow. I think they may have done some more earth moving for the Forest Preserve in preserves further north to improve their wetlands. In fact, from Wikipedia I find "$30 million (1987, $54 million in 2007) to alleviating environmental concerns, including moving and enlarging 117 acres (0.47 km2) of wetlands."

I also remember that the Tollway Authority promised that building the new tollway would not jeopardize the plan to retire the tolls by the year 2000. That plan was news to me when I heard about it in the late 1980s. I thought at the time that they were not serious. And, indeed, we are still paying tolls.

There were small trails along each side of the river on the upstream part so the following two views of the north elevation were easy to take.

Unfortunately, I was able to collect and remove quite a bit of trash considering how little of the trails I used.

 A view of Round Meadow Lake---the lake that earth-movers built.  In the background you can see two high tension lines in the major north-south corridor that ComEd has in the far-western suburbs.

I didn't take this picture in time to catch the lady holding a rod in the water so that a sensor would be near the bottom. I went back and asked them what they were doing. They were measuring the conductivity and the Dissolved Oxygen of the water. I mentioned that the river was flowing heavy enough with enough turbulence that I could not imagine oxygen was an issue. I then understood that the equipment gives both measurements. Their concern was the conductivity. They had set up an electric shock station but it was not working because the conductivity was too high. I guess they decided they better check the conductivity before they built another station. The purpose of the electric shock station was to stun the fish so that they could do a species count.

Midwest Generation Power Plants: Fisk, Crawford and Will County

Below are several pictures I took of the Will County plant because it is next to 135th street in Romeoville. I knew that the Fisk and Crawford plants did not have scrubbers and would be shutdown. But I was not aware of this plant, so I did not know if it had scrubbers. Even if it did have scrubbers, it may soon become history because the coal (and nuclear) plants are having a hard time competing with gas-fired plants because of the increase in supply of natural gas caused by horizontal drilling and fracking. According to Romeville Patch, none of the plants have scrubbers because they were grandfathered with respect to the Clean Air Act when Midwestern Generation bought all of ComEd's coal-fired plants in 1999. The article also indicates that Fisk, Crawford, and two of the four stacks of the Will County plant were shutdown in 2012. The Chicago Tribune also has an article on the closing of the two Chicago plants. It indicates that mercury emissions is the pollution issue. But


Fisk went into service October 2, 1903 and closed 2014. The demand for electricity from Samuel Insull's Chicago Edison Company (see below, HAER says Commonwealth Electric Company) was growing so fast that Insull pushed GE it increase the size of the generators. The 1894 16,200-kilowatt Harrison Street Station that used reciprocating engine units was overloaded in less than 6 years.The original 5MW (million watts) steam-turbine generating unit ordered for Fisk was such a significant advance in capacity that when it was retired it was returned to GE's headquarters in Schenectady, New York, to be preserved. 


The state-of-art before this unit was a 0.6MW unit by GE and a 1.5MW unit by Westinghouse. It was designated a national engineering landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1975.

In 1914, the plant continued its innovation by replacing the vertical-shaft turbines with horizontal-shaft turbines. This spread the weight better across the foundations so that larger, faster spinning turbines could be built.

Because this plant is in the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, the  Historic American Engineering Record has documented it as (HAER) No. IL-105, "Commonwealth Electric Company, Fisk Street Electrical Generating Station". Of note is that it says the Fisk Plant was built by the Commonwealth Electric Company which merged in 1907 with the Chicago Edison Company the Commonwealth Edison Company. The plant can receive coal from barges.


Source: Copyleft by Theodore Kloba


According to Wikipedia, this plant could also burn natural gas, so now I'm surprised that it was closed. It was built in 1924 and closed in 2012. The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) document No. IL-114, "Commonwealth Edison Company, Crawford Electrical Generating Station" has better pictures than I can hope to take. Of note is the south facade image.

The buildings were designed by the renowned architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. The building in the foreground is the pumping station on the edge of the Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Ramon Rhodes posted in Facebook
Update: Ramon took a lot of pictures of this plant because he plans to use it as a photo backdrop on his model railroad of BNSF. He got his pictures while both smokestacks were intact.

Edward Kwlatkowski has a 1989 Flick photo that also shows both smokestacks. A view from the river side. Albert J Reinschmidt Had at least one if not two SW1s based there.

When I took a picture in 2015, the red striped smokestack had already been cut down.

Former Little Village coal plant to be demolished, replaced with distribution center
Mike Croy posted
Here is an overview of the "new" Corwith yard as seen on the cover of the Santa Fe's 64th. annual report.
[Note the Crawford Plant in the left background.]

Will County (Romeoville)

This plant has four units:
  • 184 MW, built 1955, retired 2010
  • 188 MW, built 1955, retired 2010
  • 299 MW, built 1957
  • 598 MW, built 1963
From SourceWatch we learn the emmissions were:

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 6,177,903 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 17,306 tons
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 6,324 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 261 lb.
To my surprise, a Chicago Tribune article indicates this plant is dirtier than the old plants. Perhaps because it is bigger and burns more coal. Specifically:

A 2010 report by the National Research Council estimated that pollution from the Romeoville plant costs surrounding areas $187 million a year in hidden health costs, compared with $127 million for neighborhoods near the Fisk and Crawford plants in Chicago.
According to a press release, they are trying to upgrade at least some of their units rather than close them.

The plant is on the southwest quadrant of the intersection of 135th Street and the Sanitary and Ship Canal in Romeoville.

The beam in the upper-right corner is part of the coal-unloading gantry that we saw in the background of the 135th Street bridge picture. Past the west end of the bridge, I could safely cross the bridge and get a better overview.

It is easier to see the south coal-unloading gantry in this view. I assume the two close smokestacks are for the 2 units that have been shutdown. The main reason for taking this picture is to note the size of the coal storage yard. I had noticed that I had not seen much coal storage at the Fisk and Crawford plants. In fact, one Fisk source talked about dumping the train hoppers right into the conveyor that fed the boilers. Another source talked about underground storage. But you can't store a lot of coal underground. So I wonder if this coal pile was used as the backup inventory for all three plants. That would explain why it is now just half full.

A couple of bulldozers were pushing coal towards the empty part of the coal storage yard. The top on one coming up the hill is visible just to the left of the big pile and the other is just to the right of that pile. I waited a while to catch a better view of them.

A close up of the north gantry:

The following view indicates that the canal-side structure between the two unloading gantrys is a barge loading facility. That reinforces my conclusion that this storage yard provides inventory for other plants.

During a later visit to the bridge (I keep looking for barge activity on the canal), I noticed that they were using an earth mover and a bulldozer to help move the coal towards the empty part of the storage yard.

This is the second of some photos posted by Jerry Jackson in the area.