Friday, August 14, 2015

Illinois Railways OO&FRV Segment, Revisited

201507,08 3772, IR's engine terminal in Ottawa, IL
I first learned of Illinois Railways as the current shortline that owns the CB&Q/Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley route. According to some Facebook reports that I read during the Fall of 2014, they had not been maintaining their track. They talked about a 10 mph speed limit and almost daily derailments. I'm happy to report that they have invested in maintenance work and the track now looks good.

Below are closeups of the three locomotives parked by their engine terminal.

GMTX 2604 (GATX Locomotive Group)
Hudson Bay Railway 5009
HLCX 916
GMTX and HLCX are now owned by leasing companies. HLCX obviously bought 916 from Union Pacific. According to The Diesel Shop, GMTX 2604 is a GP38-2, HLCX 916 is not listed, and HBRY 5009 is an EMD SD50 built 12/1985. The history of the 5009 is "ex NREX 5087; ex UP 5087; nee CNW 7027." According to the HBRY roster, 5001 and 5008 are also at IRRY. I wonder if they are in the two-stall engine house. Or if they are stored somewhere else on the line.

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They have maintained the Ottawa depot and use it as an office.

The track is still jointed on the stretch that goes south across the bridge, but it appears fairly straight. Below are some pictures of track I took as I followed it from the depot north and then east to go check out the I&M Canal through Ottawa. (Most "railfans" take pretty pictures of the lead engine of a train, I actually take pictures of rail.) The fastener that clamps the rail to the tie-plate doesn't look like a traditional spike. And there are a lot of those fasteners. All of these pictures were taken at 55mm or less.

IR south from Superior St.
CSX west from La Salle
IR north from Superior St. 
Note that the CSX/Rock Island track is also jointed. In addition to a pronounced kink at the edge of the crossing, the CSX track has a "valley" at many of the joints. The IR rail shows that jointed rail can be maintained so that it does not have valleys.

During an earlier field trip to Yorkville to get pictures of the new Fox River Dam, I noticed ties and MoW equipment stored on a siding. A map confirms that this would be IR's tracks. It appears the rail is CWR (Continuous Welded Rail) here. I could not spot any track joints. (Update: the depot used to stand about where that pile of ties is sitting.)

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Looking west from Mill St.
The rail is straight, but they still have some muddy and weedy ballast that needs cleaning.

Tom Robbins Yorkville elevator photo is from an album that includes many other older elevators. (other side of elevator) (Update: Jimmy Fiedler also posted some pictures of the area around the elevator.)

On the way home, I went on the side roads in Oswego to get pictures of some old grain storage facilities. I deliberately included the IR track in the picture. It looks like CWR on good ballast.

Update: This article about setting a frac sand unit-train record of 151 cars and 17,469 tons says BNSF moved it from "a Fairmount Santrol frac sand mine in Illinois." Google Maps shows the office of Fairmount Santrol, not a quarry. But it does indicate the quarry is probably in the Ottawa area so IR would have done the initial leg of the movement. So did IR haul a 151-car train up to Aurora or did it run multiple trains that BNSF assembled into the long cross-country unit train?

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