Thursday, October 31, 2019

Peter Baker Asphalt Plant near Rondout

(3D Satellite)

Rob Conway posted
It is amazing how the CN managed to [get rid of] the Peter Baker business at Rondout. 16 loads of gravel, generated on line, every day, Gone! Now route 176 is jammed with trucks all day long moving in and out of Baker.
Sam Carlson I wonder if we can file a class action suit against the CN for ruining the quality of life in this area by forcing Peter Baker, which located here because of rail access, to switch to dusty, dirty dump trucks whose cargo should be in freight cars. Any lawyers out there?
B-Train David Lemke Probably did this as they were going to abandon this line, only to scrap the idea.There is little business on this route. A good shortline would do wonders,here.
Jeffrey Varney There were many times where Baker got a double spot...30+ cars unloaded everyday. They were always fast unloading cars.
William O'Neal Stringer Came out of Joliet, Illinois on the "Bug Line." Out towards the generator.
[The source of the gravel was probably the Material Service gravel quarry east of Plainfield.]
Steve Nichols When did CN stop serving them? This is the first time learning of this operation and of course its too late.
Jeffrey Varney A picture from August 7, 2008 shows an inbound train hauling Peter Baker rock into maybe 2009 or 2010...
Steven Suhs Wow they making that move in daylight. I was always at night when I switched it.

Founded in 1915 by Peter Baker and his son Arthur Baker Sr. as a roofing business, the company is currently under the control of 4th generation brothers Art and Rob Baker.
With asphalt production facilities located in Lake Bluff, Lakemoor, Marengo and North Chicago, Illinois we are able to service all of Northeastern Illinois including Lake, McHenry, Cook, DeKalb, Kane and Boone Counties.
We are committed to producing quality materials, and providing quality construction services by our team of experienced and dedicated personnel.



Before they lay the asphalt, a new rode needs various layers of crushed stone to create a foundation for the road.


Since the abandonment was relatively recent, I could use Gobal Earth to determine where the industrial spur used to be. In April, 1998, they were digging the unloading pit.
Apr 1998
I captured some other images showing hoppers on the spur. In each case there is a hopper over the pit. Some images verify that it is hard to find the tracks near stone piles. If there were not hoppers parked by the piles in some images, you could not determine there were tracks there.

Oct 2002

Aug 2005

May 2010
Now that I know where to look, I can find the tracks on the property and...
...the turnout for the industrial spur.
Back when Class I railroads had plenty of coal to haul for many miles, they didn't care about carload business. CN is the first railroad where Hunter Harrison aggressively implemented his operating tactics that he labelled Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). The tactics were focused on reducing the railroad's operating ratio (expenses/revenue). One of those tactics was to quit servicing small customers. For example, by the time Hunter got to CSX, he required a grain elevator to load a unit train of at least 65 hoppers in a day or so. He refused to serve the customers that had been getting blocks of 20 hoppers. Actually, CSX was dumping customers before Hunter took charge. Some grain elevators were lucky enough that they were on a branch that CSX did not want. So that branch got sold to a shortline and the shortline was glad to combine the smaller cuts of hoppers into a large unit train for interchange with CSX. The Evansville Western Railway (EVWR) is an example of such a shortline. Grain elevators along tracks that CSX wanted to keep simply got screwed. Screwing a grain elevator also screws the farmers in the area because they get a lower price per bushel since it costs more to haul those bushels to marked. And it puts more trucks on our roads. I learned yesterday that a farmer is allowed to haul loads of 92,000 pounds. The normal legal limit is 80,000 pounds. [video for 40 seconds]

Why the Surface Transportation Board allowed the railroads to ignore their common carrier obligations is one of those questions that makes me mad and causes me to loose sleep at night. It is hard for me to watch a few greedy railroad managers and hedge fund operators gut America's railroad network.  I've read that some people are advocating letting shortline railroads use Class I tracks to serve the industries that had built along those tracks many decades ago to get rail service. Of course, the Class I railroads are fighting that compromise. They don't care if more trucks tear up our roads.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

CE&I 1921 maps of their coal mining territories

C&EIRHS posted two images with the comment: "For those of you interested in C&EI coal mine areas."
Christopher Gobert Where in the world did you come across these? The Williamson County Illinois map is especially interesting to me inasmuch as that is where I grew up.
Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad Historical Society I came across these two maps in a 1963 memo to the board of directors in preparation of what they would see during an inspection trip of the railroad. Interesting to note that in 1963, there still were using maps from 1921.

I concluded that the solid black lines are the C&EI routes. I like that the maps include the other railroads as dotted lines. You have to click an image and then save it so that you can zoom in with your favorite photo viewer.

(Shared to Illinois Coal Mines, Miners & Railroads)

Lost/Western Avenue Bridge over the West Fork of the South Branch

(Satellite, the river is long gone. See topo maps below)

The Western Avenue bridge over the CS&SC was a few blocks south of this bridge.

Lawrence Shoop posted
A Submerged Ship from the early 19th Century Discovered near Western ave Bridge Chicago River was Drained and Filled in 1905.
Dennis DeBruler It was filled in during the late 1920s. ( and
A higher resolution copy:

MWRD posted on Mar 8, 2022
A view to the northeast showing barge traffic on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near the Western Avenue bridge in Chicago, Illinois, on July 31, 1922. 

USGS 1901 Chicago Quadrangle @ 1:62,500

If it was filled in during 1905, it is disappointing that the West Fork still shows on a 1929 topo map.
USGS 1929 Englewood Quadrangle @ 1:24,000

USGS 1953 Englewood Quadrangle @ 1:24,000

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

1942 SS Alpena(3)/Leon Fraser Laker

(Boatnerda ship tracker, another tracker)

See Old Lakers for some other "bridge on the bow" boats that I have seen.

A view of the stern of the sister ship Fairless shows it "pushing water."

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District posted
Happy 75th Birthday [in 2017] to the Grand Old Lady of the Lakes. The oldest freighter still operating on the Great Lakes launched on this day [June 21] in 1942 as the Leon Fraser and was the longest boat on the Great Lakes at the time. She was shortened in 1991 for a new career as a cement carrier but is still one of the most popular and beautiful boats on the lakes. Three long and two shorts to the Alpena!

Michael Konczak posted
Leon Fraser at Fraser Shipyards waiting to be converted to the Alpena, November 1989. Photo by Michael Konczak
[The elevators in the background are the  Cenex-Harvest States Grain Cooperatives.]

(new window) This video has an informative narration, so it has earned a position near the beginning of the notes.

Leon Fraser was retired from iron-ore service in 1982. Her four sister ships of the 1942 "supers" class were scrapped in the 1980s. But this ship was shortened, converted to a self-unloader and renamed Alpena for starting cement service in 1991. [DuluthNewsTribune]

She hauls cement to the Twin Ports about once a month. [DuluthShippingNews (lots of photos)]

More about the recent fire mentioned in the above  video  This article implies that it is still a steamship. That would explain why it has "one of the loudest whistles on the lakes."

[The aft winch suffered an electrical fault (short) and there was no circuit breaker per 1941 codes. By today's code, a circuit breaker would probably have prevented this fire. "(According to the Coast Guard, planned postaccident modifications to the Alpena would feature additional circuit protection in accordance with current regulations.) "]

Steve Vanden Bosch posted four photos with the comment: "Mail Delivery Early 1900's on the Detroit River to the Alpena."
[But this was not the converted Leon Fraser. This one was built in 1909 by Detroit Shipbuilding.]




Michigan Film Photographer Karl Wertanen posted
The classic "Alpena" (1942) downbound on the St Clair River headed for Detroit Lafarge 10/11/19.
Oldest freighter on the lakes.
As always... I'm grateful for those who take the time to like and share my images! I appreciate your support!
Archival Fine Art Prints starting at $20!

Bob Biaggio posted two photos with the comment: "The Alpena departing Green Bay September 16, 2019." (source)

David Kaye posted three photos with the comment: "Happy River and Alpena meeting in the Soo Harbor.  10-24-19"



Jim Hoffman posted
The Leon Fraser downbound at the Soo. She sails today as the cement carrier Alpena. Photo taken by Jim Hoffman.
Liam Hoffmann commented on Jim's posting
(new window)

Alpena downbound Leaving the MacArthur Lock. 10-24-19
[The end is worth watching because it is riding high and you can see the top of the rudder and some propwash.]

2:54 video @ 0:53 (source)
ALPENA - Upbound Port Huron, Michigan 12-10-2022
[It is headed under the Blue Water Bridge.]

Two of the six photos posted by Marty Floré of Alpena passing Detroit with the comment: "The oldest vessel on the Great Lakes the Alpena. 12/10/22".
[It was posted on the same day as the above video so it must be the same trip.]
Marty Floré share
Marty Floré share
The oldest vessel on the Great Lakes the Alpena. 12/10/22
Janey Anderson: Oh these shots are all so amazing!! I sweat her colour changes depending on the light the pictures are taken in. She looks a bit greenish here.


Bjornberg Photography posted
Steaming by:
It was a blue bird kind of day late as I captured a close up of the Alpena's smokestack when she passed underneath the Duluth lift bridge late last year. Amazing to see an 80-year-old ship (the oldest operating on the Great Lakes) in such great condition!

David Kaye posted two side views of the Alpena.

Drone photo of Alpena arriving in Alpena for the Lafarge Cement Plant. It is a cement plant. It looks like they have three older rotary kilns and two newer ones.

1995 Flickr of Alpena west of the Skyway

Monday, October 28, 2019

MoW: Dynamic Stabilizer, Revisited

I've already discussed dynamic stabilizers in general. These notes record some photos and video that I was able to make when a super tie-replacement gang came to the Downers Grove Yard on Oct 23, 2019, and replaced 11,000 ties the following Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. When they unloaded the work train on Oct 24, the dynamic stabilizer stopped by the station platform while it waited for more room to be made for the equipment in the yard. So I took several photos from different angles to take advantage of the daylight because I knew the equipment works only at night on the busy BNSF Racetrack.

20191024 9789

To catch the equipment working at night, I cranked up the cameras ISO to its maximum, 6400, and shot the equipment as it worked past the station platform's lights. Unfortunately, the stabilizer runs only its brooms by the platform. And only one broom was working. Fortunately, I got better clips later so the clip by the platform is on the cutting room floor.

The stabilizer has lights so that you can see the interesting parts in the dark. So I was able to get some useful clips west of Forest Avenue even though there are no platform or village lights over there. In fact, you can see the driveshafts in the nighttime shots, but not in the daylight shots, because the sun is not low enough to illuminate the underside of the stabilizer.

Both ballast regulators have brooms, but they don't use them in gang work because the stabilizer has a double-broom attachment in front. This saves the regulators from having to make an extra pass. They can focus on pushing ballast in place for the tampers. (There were two tampers, each with a drone, and two regulators in the work gang.)
(new window)
I've been able to get static shots of dynamic stabilizers when they were parked in the BNSF yard in Downers Grove, IL. But this is the first time I caught one of them in action. The first two clips are in daylight when they unloaded the equipment from the train with a scorpion ramp. They, of course, do their work at night on the busy Racetrack. So I was catching the action from the station platform where there are lights. But I learned that they do not run the stabilizer by the platform. In fact, they don't run it by the parking lot between Main and Forest. The fourth clip is where he was moving the guide wheels in place and starting the stabilization just west of Forest. I could feel the ground vibrate when the drive shaft started turning. But that clip got skunked by a train. So the third clip was made by walking west to a hole in the treeline made by ComEd. Without a train rolling past, the ground vibration was quite distinct. The work gang got track time starting at 2050, but the stabilizer is last so I had to wait until after 4am to get this clip. Note that this model still uses drive shafts. I wonder if the current model uses hydraulic motors. I could not determine the drive mechanism of current models from the photos I found on the web.

I was going to call the third sclip the money shot. But then I realized that neither my YouTube channel nor blogs are monetized. And my content is copyleft: "License: Creative Commons Attribution: Dennis DeBruler (CC BY)" So I'll call the third clip the good clip.

Willie O. Thigpen posted
I shot this machine sitting on the NS siding in Franklin Co Fla (Valdosta Ga-Lake City Fla line) this machine been sitting here for years!!!
Brendan J Dock Needed when working at warm weather to reduce slow order.
August Francesco Brendan J Dock it's not just for use in warm weather IT'S an all weather with no restrictions needed.
Brendan J Dock August Francesco I know that but they don’t always use them until heat is an issue due to # of machines, operators and track speeds
Some of our lift gangs use the whole season on core track
Not so much on branch lines
I do the training on them so I get the phone call when required.
August Francesco Brendan J Dock not on Amtrak it's used all year long and I was a equipment trainer for 9 years before retirement in 2010.
Brendan J Dock August Francesco passenger track makes sense.
August Francesco It has to done every time you disturb the track for surfacing or you have a speed restriction that was my FIRST HSS piece of equipment.
Brendan J Dock August Francesco branch line Havana take a slow main corridor had too much traffic
We have about 16 tampers on my area 5 stabilizers and three Dynacat switch built in stabs
Passenger tracks and main freight corridors get the stabilizers.
August Francesco Brendan J Dock I worked from Boston to Washington Harrisburg line Albany line we had multiple HSS gangs which had plasser 094s tamper stabilizer BMS 100/200 08 unimat switch tamper all plasser 09 32tool cat tamper and a lot of Jackson 6700 also 6000

Frank Mueseler Had track stablizers on my undercutting gang
JC Walker SCREAMING Detroit 8-92!!!!
Brendan J Dock PTS 62
Brendan J Dock TS 30 is nicer to run but 62 really goes deep when frequency and down pressure are working well.
JC Walker Per machine built in the 1980s,, that was like 35 years ago,,,, and the railroad still runs them. To easy to maintain... they can run forever.

Mario Ayala This machine is a vibrator. It vibrates the rails or track ,behind a production surfacing gang.
Brendan J Dock Mario Ayala sort of, consolidation and stabilization of road bed with cross level correction when properly working reducing tonnage required to remove slow orders after roadbed is disturbed by maintenance activities such as surfacing, tie replacement or undercutting.

Robert Marshall the tamper operators best friend if you know how to run them,1/4 inch over elevated no prob,pound that high rail until you gatta take a leak,lol
Mario Ayala This machine prevent the low speed restriction on the tracks.
Ben Clark Mario Ayala 70degree or above you still have a restriction. Only a 30mph first train.
Larry Gawel Hated that thing They would put it behind me on the regulator.By the time he was down there was no ballast left.Had to pull shoulders again.
Ricky Roubal That's because they break down constantly.

Willie O. Thigpen posted
Mike Carter I ran one past a strip joint one night and set off the motion detectors in most of the cars in the lot. It was great watching the place empty out !

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Icing Platforms

Ice was harvested and used to store perishables in homes and refer cars before refrigeration was invented. [In fact, an egg and butter salesman got into the icebox and refrigerator manufacturing business to help preserve his product, McCray] Large railroad yards had icing platforms to refill the ice bunkers in refers. From what I have observed in photos, even after refrigeration was invented, refrigeration was used to make ice blocks and refers were still used to transport perishables. Putting a refrigeration unit on each car came later and allowed transporting frozen food as well as perishables.

Some more icing platforms:

The railroads put the ice into refers.

Photos of roundhouses, coaling towers and water towers are much more common than of icing platforms. This post motivated me to pull together the information I have on icing platforms.

Raymond Storey posted

Dennis DeBruler commented on Raymond's post
Note about half-way down the line of refers is a chute filling one of the ice bunkers.

I found Ice Plant Road on a satellite image:,-78.../data=!3m1!1e3
I assume they originally harvested ice from the part of the Juniata River that was between Cypress Island and their tracks. They could easily build a dam at the upstream side that would cut off the flow of the river and let the water freeze. The two conveyors at the top would be used to load ice blocks into the ice house.Dennis DeBruler The oldest aerial photo I could find was 1962. I wonder if they used to flood the "brown area" with water to make ice.

Bob Chaparro posted two photos with the comment:
The Railways Ice Company – Waynoka, OK
The Railways Ice Company, which was in operation in the Waynoka rail yards from about 1910 through the 1960s, was reported to be the largest ice plant in America. Santa Fe was an important shipper of produce from Central and Southern California for many years. The reefers typically were iced in California, Belen, New Mexico, and again at Waynoka on their journey to Chicago.
The plant itself was built, owned and operated by Railways Ice Company of Chicago, who had a long-term contract for icing and services with AT&SF Railway at Chicago IL, Kansas City MO, Waynoka, OK, Belen, NM, and Needles, CA.
Bob Chaparro
Railroad Citrus Industry Modeling Group


Two photos from my Swift & Company notes.
Carl Venzke posted
Reefer Icing Facilities Santa Fe Railroad Refrigerator Car
[Update: per a comment by Robert Chaparro, this example is transporting produce instead of meat.]

Mark Mcgowan posted three photos with the comment:
Prior to diesel powered refrigerated box cars, railroads used insulated cars with spaces at each end that were filled with ice to transport perishable produce that originated mostly in California. These ice facilities were dotted along the systems to ensure cool delivery to the east.
The first two photos are of the Santa Fe "Ice Deck" in Bakersfield, Ca. in 1962. The older photo is undated.
Ice facilities were gone by the early 70s.



Normand Jaquemot posted

A nice view of the two loading hatches at each end of each car. Also note the walkways and hand brake wheels.
Brian Wunderlick posted

I can't find photos of it, but I remember that C&NW had an icing platform near the southwest corner of their Proviso Yard.
1939 Aerial Photo from IHLAP

The photos that were here about the IHB icing platform have been moved to some notes about IHB icing.
Bob Chaparro posted
Mobile Icing On The Santa Fe
Santa Fe Railway photo courtesy of Dave Snell.
Notice the car has the 1959 large logo paint scheme and still has the reverse-opening hatch covers.
The worker on the roof is holding a bident, a tool used to break-up and position larger ice chunks.
Bob Chaparro
Railroad Citrus Industry Modeling Group
Van B Campbell: My Dad used to tell me his stories about chucking around 300 lb. hunks of ice while he worked the Santa Fe's Waynoka, OK. Icing Docks! I'd say that those blocks have got to weight at least that!

Bob Chaparro posted
Photo: Workers At PFE Yuma Icing Platform
An undated Don Sims photo. The location was identified as Yuma, although the large Yuma icing platform had a roof.
Good detail of the platform apron, workers with pickeroons, hatch covers and a skid (AKA bridge) used to move ice to the far side bunker opening.
It’s hard to discern but the plug on the underside of the hatch cover may have the car initials and number stenciled on it.
The first two reefers have metal running boards and the next two have wood running boards.
Also notice the bags of salt in the background.
Bob Chaparro
Railroad Citrus Industry Modeling Group

(new window) JohnP provided this link and the following information in a comment:
An interesting 1950's video from the AT&SF about their Refrigerator Cars.

You can skip to 1m:57s if you want to skip the "Happy" part.

• 3:52, inside of refer car.
• 6:50, loading stations.
• 14:00, Bakersfield icing facility.
• 16:58, Needles re-icing.
• 17:30, Selling in-transit.
• 19:10, Argentine KS “Automated Classification” Yard

I've also read that the ice properties had to be customized for what was being shipped in the car. Basically, you could get higher vs lower moisture or temperature by changing the salt level of the ice, and by using varying proportions of blocked vs crushed ice. Each car had "icing instructions" that were part of the train's manifest. This is roughly equivalent to the "moisture control" on the refrigerator at home.

Too bad the railroads lost this traffic. It was quite profitable.