Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another Weekend: Mixed Freight and False Gate Closings

While standing in line one Saturday waiting for a tour of the Tivoli, I took pictures of the trains that came through Downers Grove, IL. At 10:55:42 there was a westbound commuter being pulled by two engines -- 105 and 198. It is rather rare to have two engines pulling a commuter.

201400913 0046 10:55:42
Then at 11:14:54 there was a westbound freight. I had noticed that there were gaps in the fence so I had crossed the street to get better pictures. Unfortunately, when I got there I discovered the gaps where fenced off. Evidently the gaps are safety islands for the people working on the platform construction. The platform has been torn up since Spring. The train did not blow its horn when it approached the workers. So when we hear the horn, it must be because someone is not in the safety island and/or track work is being done.


According to the Diesel Shop, engines 4646 and 4623 are Dash 9-44CW locomotives.

At first I thought the train was a unit covered-hopper train. But then I saw a couple of box (refer?) cars. (I just noticed while looking at the pictures that the construction workers had left the safety island.)


The ratio of mixed freights to unit trains continues to be much higher on the weekends. Most of the cars were covered-hopper and tank cars. So I ended up taking pictures of all of the remaining cars that were not either covered-hopper or tank cars.

11:15:20 11:16:20 11:16:24

11:16:26 11:16:32 11:16:34

I didn't notice the newer safety features on any of the tank cars. But those that were carrying liquids such as corn oil don't need the features. And I have yet to figure out what a tank car is carrying.

At 11:36:12 there was another westbound commuter. There were also two false gate closings while I was waiting in line. That is, the crossing gates went down over Main Street even though there was no train in sight. Then after a few minutes they would go back up. I wasn't able to see the gates to get a picture to record time stamps. But I heard the crossing bells. False gate crossings have been happening at an alarming rate all Summer long. I hope it is because of the platform work and not because of the new signals that were installed this Summer so that there will be no more false closings after the platform work is done. I never saw a false closing when we had the old signalling equipment. I've seen an ambulance held up for a few minutes even though there were no trains coming through. And I don't spend a lot of time watching the crossing gates. It makes me wonder how many ambulances have been held up this Summer. Also the false closings add to our traffic problem on Main Street during the commuter rush. I consider the false closings a much more serious safety issue than me parking on their property. I wish BNSF was as diligent about fixing their crossing equipment as they are about kicking me off their property even though I was well out of the way of anything they were doing.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Land Scars (Tattoos) = Strip Coal Mining

(Update: I learned from a comment by William Oldani in a post that the accepted term for what I have been calling land scars is "tattoos." I can't fix all existing occurrences of "land scar" in this blog, but I will switch to using the accepted term in new notes.
Some limestone quarry operations also use draglines to strip the overburden. Land tattoos can be seen west of Fairmont, IL, and north of Nokomis, IL.)

When there are multiple strip mines adjacent to each other, you get meta-tattoos.

While researching the Gardner, Coal City, and Northern Railroad, I was reminded that coal used to be mined in northern Illinois. When I was studying the Morris Terminal RR, I noticed there were tattoos northeast of the Morris. I now believe they were the result of strip mining coal.

Shaft mining of coal began in the Grundy/Will County in the 1860s and grew because the Chicago based railroads were a big market for coal. In fact, some of the railroads bought land and operated their own mines. The last shaft mine was closed in 1954, but many had already closed in the1920s. (Kernc) In 1928, Northern Illinois Coal Company began strip mining. The following are pictures of the Marion Type 5560 shovel that was assembled in 1935 on site after its parts arrived at a railroad spur. It was the largest built at the time with a 32 cu yard capacity bucket. In the left picture, look at the man standing to the right of the base of the boom in front of the control cabin to get some scale.


The following illustrates the end of a dragline and another shovel that was used in the Coal City/Braidwood/Essex area.

By 1954 Peabody Coal Company owned most of the mining operations. In 1974, they discontinued mining in the Will County area and moved all of their operations to southern Illinois because the coal seams in northern Illinois were not competitive with the thicker seams in southern Illinois, because of a long history of violent union conflicts, because of the continued growth of the oil and natural gas industries, and because of the introduction of environmental legislation. The northern coal fields were not abandoned because they were played out. From the Goose Lake Area page we learn:
A circular prepared in 1985 by the Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources defines deep mineable coal as 28 inches or more and having overburden depths of 150 feet or greater. Surface-mineable coal is 18 inches or more in thickness and having overburden not exceeding 150 feet. Grundy County still has 453 million tons of surface mineable coal, of which 51 million tons has high development potential. Deep mineable coal amounts to over 1000 times the surface mineable coal at 486,554 million tons. Grundy, Livingston, and LaSalle Counties have six billion tons of coal reserves. Peabody Coal Co. still owns approximately 1200 acres of land in Wauponsee Township with high development potential for surface mining. Goose Lake and Felix Townships still contain 18 million tons of surface mineable coal. When the thicker seams of Southern Illinois are mined out, attention may again turn to the resources that remain in the area. 
But I assume all Illinois coal has a high sulfur content, so I think the southern mines will also close before they are mined out. Currently Illinois coal is being shipped to China because Illinois burns coal from Wyoming. And that coal is being replaced by natural gas and wind power.

About two-thirds of Illinois is underlain by coal-bearing strata which belong to the Eastern Interior Basin of the Pennsylvania system. The deepest part of this basin is about 2,600 feet in Edwards County, Illinois. Grundy and Will counties are at the margin of the basin. That is why it is relatively close to the surface. In fact, the Illinois river cuts through some of the seams, which is why coal was first discovered in the 1600s in the United States near Ottawa, IL. That is almost a century before it was discovered in other places in this country such as Pennsylvania. (hinton-gen)

The following photos are from Goose Lake Area page with the captions on that page.

CCPLD: One of the last draglines in Goose Lake Township

CCPLD: Peabody's Krupp "Wheel"

CCPLD: One of eight crawler tracks of the "wheel"

CCPLD: Stripping shovel and coal loading shovel filling a truck

CCPLD: Marion dragline with 35 cubic yard bucket

CCPLD: Wilmington Coal Mining Company operation

CCPLD:Aerial view of the "Northern" tipple
And a lot more photos are available on the Coal City Public Library District's strip mining photo pages. For example, the one below illustrates the scars left by the mining operation. And page 2 has a picture of a car inside the 32 cubic yard bucket and near the bottom of that page is another view of the Krupp "wheel." Page 3 has pictures of the Marion 6360 mucker (overburden removal shovel) , which has a 185 cubic yard bucket. Near the bottom of page 6 are some pictures of a walking dragline.


Below is what the Coal City Area Club grounds looked like when it was mined out in 1955 and before it was converted to a recreational area.

I remember hearing that the hills and lakes in Four Lakes in Lisle, IL, were made by coal mining operations. But I have not been able to confirm that.

Now that I understand what I'm looking for, I believe that the areas with a bunch of squiggly lakes are former strip mines. This is reienforced by the satellite view because they are tree covered rather than farmland. And this is confirmed by the ILMINES after appropriate zooming and panning. The orange areas were strip mines.


Panning over to the Morris, IL, area confirms those tattoos are also from strip mining coal.


Update: Pyramid State Park illustrates how large the coal mines were in Southern Illinois. This park may contain the 16,000 acres donated by the Captain Mine, at one time the larges surface coal mine in the world. [lexyky]

In 1990 Illinois allocated nearly $10m to clean up abandoned mines. [niu]

History of Reclamation Research

Gardner, Coal City & Northern Railroad.

John Weeks documented that the railroad that originally used an Illinois RR Bridge east of Morris was the Gardner, Coal City and Northern Railroad Co. It was purchased in 1891 by EJ&E just a few years after it was built. Its main purpose in the early 20th century was to serve the coal mines around Coal City and Gardner. It had several spurs to the various mines.

After some of the strip mines were played out in the 1950s, they were sold to a recreation club -- Coal City Area Club -- that did a lot of earth moving and tree planting to create a recreation area complete with a beach. The history of the club mentions that Com Ed leased the right-of-way for high lines. Given this clue, I used a satellite map to trace the route. It continued straight south along North Coal City Road, east of Carbon Hill and through the west part of Coal City. (In a 1940 aerial map, Coal City was still completely east of the railroad.) The power lines continue straight south past Central City. Then they head southeast so I think they leave the GCC&N right-of-way.

The satellite image to the right shows a land scar and tree line that indicates the route jogged east. (The southern-most power-line tower is in the upper-left corner of the image.) Switching to an 1940 aerial photo, the diagonal part continues until it is just north of South Coster Road, and then it turns south and goes along the east side of the road. And the next aerial photo confirms the route continues south. In fact, it intersects with a railroad that runs almost east-west. The east branch went to Gardner and the west branch went to another coal mine. The west branch is still visible as a fence line. The mainline route follows Coster Road to South Wilmington. The resolution of the aerial photos is not good enough to determine if the track is still present in 1940.

The railroad is intact north of the Illinois River, so it is easy to trace the track back to the Walker Junction where it connects with the EJ&E mainline northeast of Plainfield. An article on page 2 of the Fall 2011 Newsletter of the Carbon Hill School Museum concerning a strike by coal miners lists the mileposts of the railroad:

Mile 0  Walker Junction
Mile 1  Plainfield
Mile 5  Caton Farm
Mile 12  Minooka -- connects here with Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway
Mile 18  Divine
Mile 21  Dell Abbey
Mile 24  Carbon Hill
Mile 25  Coal City -- connects here with Santa Fe Railway
Mile 27  Centerville
Mile 30  Mazonia -- connects here with the Chicago and Alton Railway
Mile 31  Coster -- connects here with the Kankakee and Seneca Railway

Thursday, September 25, 2014

EJ&E (now CN) Illinois RR Bridge #552

(1895 Bridge Hunter, 2011 Bridge HunterKenderry Flickr Album of the 2011 ConstructionSatellite)

EJ&E employees call this Divine.

Photos of the new bridge in the up position.

RiverWorks Discovery posted
Marquette Transportation Company's M/V Theresa L.  Wood southbound above the EJ&E RR Bridge on the Illinois river mile 270.  
She's  following Ingram Barge Company's M/V Daniel P Mechlenborg while meeting Canal Barge Company, Inc.'a  M/V Hamilton and Marquette's  MV Titletown USA.  
Courtesy of Marquette Capt John Vaughn.
Dave Dewey: Much better than the old bridge!
John Vaughn: 185' better.

Update: you can't see the bridge from the dam. But, thanks once again to power line corridors, you can get a couple of glimpses of it from the road going to the dam.

North tower
South tower

20140710 0044
The Cemetery Road is tree lined but there is a gap where a power line corridor crosses the road and I found a safe place to park close to the gap. You can see from the EJ&E bridge over Cemetery Road that I'm pretty close to the railroad.

I went back to the car to get the telephoto lens. At least the power lines are less clutter than a bunch of trees. I'm not a morning person, but I need to go back and get a photo with morning light. Also, there was another clearing in the trees further East that I need to check out.

As you can see, the bridge is normally kept in the raised position. It looks like the conductor has to climb all the way to the top and center of the bridge to control it. 

As John Weeks documented, this bridge was a navigation hazard because the lift span was only 120-feet wide and tows are almost 110-feet wide. According to Bridge Hunters, the old bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 2011. If you look at the "old bridge" link, you will see some pictures by Steve Conro of the new bridge being built. Google and Flash Earth show the new bridge, but Bing is still old enough to show the old bridge.



And by using the magic of Bing Maps, I got a more interesting view of the old bridge.

I read in some comments that there is only one industry that still uses this branch. According to Google, it is Reichhold. They must get an awful lot of raw resin and make a lot of paint to justify the expense of a new bridge.  Actually, I read in a comment (that I now can't find) that the bridge supports just 1 or 2 trains a week. I'm generally not in favor of industries using trucks, but the satellite photos show they already use a lot of trucks. So this new bridge does seem to be a poor use of federal (Coast Guard and Homeland Security) money.

CN Stations and Terminals after zooming
I found a "Stations and Terminals" map from CN's map site. After switching from Firefox to Internet Explorer, I was able to zoom in to the branch that crosses the river. Reichhold are the tracks to the West and just South of the river. Clicking each of the red triangles starting from the Northwest we have East Morris, Beven, Divine, and Goose Lake. The branch to the east just south of the river is the Dresden Nuclear Plant, but I'm sure it does not get regular rail traffic. The lakes Southeast of the Goose Lake branch are from an old mining operation.  I came across a reference to Clay Pit so I assume they were mining clay. There were coal mines further south by Coal City, but a 1940 aerial view of this area looks like the material was removed rather than strip mined. In the image below, the railroad is on the left side and a branch goes to the East. Note that about only half of the land was mined by 1940.
ILHAP aerial photo
I assume the reason why the Goose Lake branch line is still maintained is to have a Y that allows the trains to Reichhold to be turned.

Update: an Illinois State Geological Survey map verifies that the mining operation served by the EJ&E Goose Lake branch was not coal mining. I'm still speculating that it was clay because I know there were brick and tile industries and pottery industries along the Illinois River that wanted clay. In fact, while I was researching strip coal mining, I read about a brick and tile company that mined a coal seam so that they could get to the clay seam that was under it.
Eric Berg commented on his posting
Except, I hate heights and bridges, and when I was called for Divine, I whined all the way there.
Eric Berg posted several photos with the comment: "EJ&E Divine Bridge in 2000. Dad went with me to work 1 day and took most of these, he loved this location. I wasn't to thrilled with the whole height thing....." These are pictures of the old bridge.









Michael Bachmann posted
Here is an oldie, about 1920ish. Divine, before the lift bridge.
Eric Berg commented on Michael's posting
October 2000 when I was working it...

Lewis Daniel posted three photos with the comment:
I have in My collection a sign that came off the EJ&E rail road when it was torn down in 2011 , the EJ&E RailRoad was J P Morgan’s Rail Road that ran to his steel mill U S Steel,the Rail Road crossed the Illinois River at the Devine/ Morris area,Built in 1895 by the E J & E which was bought out by the CN in 208, the E J &E bridge has the distinction of being the most accident prone bridge in the United States,it was struck by navigation traffic 170 times between 1992 and 202,the problem is the lift span is very narrow ,allowing for 120 feet of clearance , the Dam just upstream creates a fast current, a tow that is 3 barges wide just barely fits through the bridge , the bridge was replaced in 2011 with a wider span for navigation.
I will try to show a picture of a picture of the bridge , and a picture of the sign when it was on the bridge , then of that sign that is now in My collection.
Rich Pagnusat: I never understood why the government spent all that money replacing a bridge on a weed line. I believe there is only one active customer south of the river. They probably want the option to haul away Dresden once they decommission the facility.



Ervin Rineheart posted

Lloyd Scott Hardin commented on Ervin's post
The original j bridge

Comments on Ervin's post

1 of 12 images posted by Bing Owens
[He must have used a boat for access. When I tried to take photos of it I found the access roads were gated shut.]
Another bridge in todays adventure was North East of Morris, Illinois...near a town of Minooka. Not sure of the name of the bridge, the rail line is labeled 'Elgin Joliet and Eastern' on one of my maps and 'Wisconsin Central Limited' and Canadian National(CN) Railway on a third map, so I am not sure. Lift Bridge that looks pretty run down. Looks like a chemical company is using part of the railway just south of this bridge as a storage yard.

Dennis DeBruler commented on Bing's post
EJ&E #552. CN bought EJ&E. Wisconsin Central used to be the corporate name for things that CN owned in the USA. I read that the EJ&E employees called it Divine.
This was an EJ&E branch that went further south because there used to be a lot of strip coal mining south of Coal City.
Bill Molony posted the map with the comment: "This map of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway is from the June 1922 Official Guide."
It is a real bummer if it is run down because it was built just a decade ago in 2011. I've read that it was funded by the Coast Guard. The old bridge had a narrow navigation channel and a lot of accidents. But it makes you wonder why they didn't just remove the old bridge. I presume the new bridge was built more because of the eventual need to decommission the Dresden Nuclear Generating Station than because of the chemical plants.

Dennis DeBruler commented on Bing's post
I used Google Earth to get an Aug 2010 image of the narrow span of the previous bridge.

Google Earth, Nov 2011

I found this comment on a K&S posting. I need to research if the GCC&N route is what went over this bridge.
Bill Molony: The EJ&E chartered the Gardner, Coal City & Northern to build from Walker south through Minooka, Devine, Dell Abbey, Carbon Hill, Coal City, Centerville and Mazonia to Coster in the 1880's in order to reach the coal fields in that area. That line was extended from Coster to South Wilmington in the 1890's. The southernmost 12 miles of the former GCC&N was abandoned in the 1930's.

Tom Hunter posted eleven photos of the old (skinny) bridge including a tow passing through.
I added Google and Bing links to the new and old bridges.
Al Pawloski Nice pics, Tom . Back around 1967 I remember learning to operate Divine bridge from Harold Watkins (who at one time, when that job worked daily, actually stayed in a little trailer just south of the river, on the east side of tracks). He was telling me how he once had to crawl across the bridge due to the strong winds. I dismissed that as an old man trying to scare me. It was only a few months later when I was leaving the bridge to get back to my car, and indeed I had to crawl on my hands and knees, with my duffle bag in my teeth, because the gusts were so strong. I later found out that wind gusts of 75 mph were recorded that night. Back then the bridge had wooden planks instead of the metal grating in your pictures (lucky for my knees). Also no telephone in the shack, just the old railroad line to the dispatcher. Had car trouble once and there was a nice old couple in a farm house, down by the road, that let me use their phone, to call a friend. Man, I'm old!
Michael Steffen The old Bridge 552 at Divine was the most struck Railroad bridge in the country. Tows would have to stop before reaching the draft and turn to line up for the passage. With three barges across, there was about a foot of clearance with each wooden fender. The bridge was a hazard to navigation and was on the governments list for replacement for years. The money was finally accrued and the replacement occurred, after CN took control. I was the bridge tender/operator one day during the early 80's when the south fender was heavily damaged. Frank Gabry (the Claim Agent) showed up to take pictures for the claim. He mentioned then that a replacement project was in planning stages.
Frank DeVries I somehow became in charge of the bridge job for signals on CN. They were well on their way to replacing the lift span when I left to go to "America's Railroad". CN management did not want the signal equipment. I was told in no uncertain terms were they going to upgrade signals. Could not get a word in edgewise that it would allow remote control of the bridge. Sigh.....
Michael Steffen Frank DeVries Doesn't make sense to replace that bridge and not allow it to be remote controlled, especially since the technology is so advanced.
Frank DeVries Its the CN. It doesn't have to make sense...

Brian Skabutenas posted 21 photos from when the River Line had a lot more freight including removing a piece of equipment from the Dresden Nuke Plant.