NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/20/22 12:49 p.m.

King's Hawaiian rolls on rails

For Thanksgiving, King's Hawaiian Rolls has rented out three private dining cars, even having one vinyl-wrapped (another appears to be ex-Iowa Pacific Holdings, those cars are freaking everywhere now) and put them in special chartered dinner train services on the North East Corridor for this week. Someone on a local Facebook page said that they rode one and that it was a really nice time, excellent food and great hospitality.

In my opinion, railroad passenger service can't beat airplanes on time, so they need to beat them on experience. People would be more willing to spend a little more time travelling if they got good hot meals and more room.tp stretch out in their seat. I know former Amtrak boss Joe Boardman (he actually lived about half a mile up the road from me) felt the same we ay and he worked up a pretty nice dining car menu in his tenure. Then his replacement almost immediately trash-canned it for airplane-style food. I remember Boardman was pissed and very vocal about the situation 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 12:22 p.m.

Despite the Illinois Central Gulf merger going through 8 days earlier, it's all GM&O in this scene at Joliet on August 18th, 1972. The train is GM&O's beloved Joliet-Chicago commuter run that was affectionately nicknamed "The Plug". The story behind the name is that it supposedly stopped at every water plug along the way during the steam era. The consist was always a single "chicken wire" F3A and three old heavyweight coaches.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 12:23 p.m.

"The Plug" waits for Rock Island's Quad Cities Rocket to clear the diamond before whisking commuters off to Chicago.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 12:33 p.m.

Looking distinctly antiquated among the fleets of lightweight stainless-steel cars, "The Plug" arrives into Chicago with two clerestory-roof passenger cars. The GM&O held onto their roster of F3As all the way up to the ICG merger. Until the arrival of the GP30s, GP35s, GP38s and SD40s in the late '60s, the F3As still head down most of the Geemo's main road freights alongside their RS-1s, RS-2s, and RS-3s. After the ICG merger, a number of the F3As were rebuilt into "FP10s" for MBTA.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 12:40 p.m.

Crossing Bubbly Creek over a rare Page & Schnable trunnion bascule bridge built for GM&O predecessor Chicago & Alton. Only 4 bridges of this design were ever constructed, and this one is the only one still in existence and still carrying traffic. There was an abandoned Page & Schnable trunnion bascule over the Grand Calumet River that had belonged to the Monon but was illegally scrapped three or four years ago (same guy had also done time in prison for dumping thousands of gallons of oil in the same river)

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 12:41 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 12:43 p.m.

"The Plug" is waiting to head to Glenn Yard for midday servicing, while Amtrak's State Capitol passes on the left behind a P30CH, and there's an ICG transfer run on the right with an end-cab switcher in the new ICG white and orange.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 12:48 p.m.

The F3s were numbered in the 800-series and the 880-series. The 880-series F3s were equipped with steam heat generators and intended for passenger usage, while the 800-series lacked steam heat and were intended for freight usage.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 2:58 p.m.

GM&O E7A #103 passes through Dwight, Illinois with a southbound passenger train. While that two-tone red livery with the gold trim was stunning, GM&O equipment always seemed to be in a state of disarray, unwashed and covered in dents and rock chips. A funny anecdote I read from a GM&O employee was that during the '60s, as a cost-saving measure, word came down from on high that as units in the two-tone red required repaints, they were to be painted in a solid medium red. He said that everyone at the roundhouse he was based out of began touching up any of the two-tone locomotives that came in so that they could stave off the necessity of a full repaint as long as possible.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 3:27 p.m.

GM&O E7A #103 leading the Chicago-St. Louis passenger train The Limited out of St. Louis. The Limited had a short-lived tenure in the Amtrak era as the Prairie State but was axed only five years in. Despite their age and their shabby cosmetic appearance, the GM&O E7As were reportedly kept in tip-top mechanical shape, and when Amtrak leased them during the early years, they were found to be in much better shape than the newer Milwaukee Road E9s that Amttrake had purchased. Amtrak chose not to purchase any GM&O passenger locomotives or passenger cars though. GM&O #103A, while scrapped in 1975, was preserved on film, showing up several times in the 1967 film In The Heat Of The Night. Set in the fictional Sparta, Mississippi, it was actually all filmed in Sparta, Illinois, which made things easier for the film crew as they didn't ahve to change the names on any buildings. There is also a brief appearance of some MoPac GP35s in the films as well.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/21/22 10:00 p.m.

GM&O #880B was a depressing tale. After the ICG merger, the F3As slowly began getting put out to pasture. A woman who worked for ICG wanted a GM&O F3A of her own and purchased #880B, which had had it's prime mover, main generator, and traction motors removed, for the sum of $3000. She, and a group of volunteers, relaid a section of rails and put it on display in Farber, Missouri, at the old depot, along with an ex-N&W caboose that the city had acquired. She also outfitted the depot with bunch of stuff that she salvaged from the railroad, like telegraph sets, lanterns, train order hoops, a signal stand. She ended up having to move for her job, and almost immediately after she left town the city scrapped the #880B on her, claiming that it was a safety hazard. She was never even given notice to rectify the supposed safety concerns or told to move it, and was only notified that they were scrapping it once they were partway through the process. They also scrapped the caboose and the rail she had laid for the display track at a later date, and the depot was also allowed to be broken into and all the stuff she saved and donated was disposed of stolen or vandalized. The target signal and the train order pole have all the lenses broken out. In her account, she was pretty heartbroken about the whole situation. The whole thing proves, once again, that municipalities are almost always the worst keepers of railroad artifacts, vacillating between neglectful and capricious.

RichardNZ
RichardNZ Reader
11/22/22 3:40 a.m.

I know former Amtrak boss Joe Boardman (he actually lived about half a mile up the road from me) felt the same we ay and he worked up a pretty nice dining car menu in his tenure. Then his replacement almost immediately trash-canned it for airplane-style food. I remember Boardman was pissed and very vocal about the situation .

Not sure of timing but when we rode the California Zephyr and Lakeside Limited  from SF to Boston in 2013 I was very impressed with the onboard food offerings. I would go so far as to say (from a very small sample) that the Fish I had on the Zephyr was the best I had on the whole 10 week trip ...

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/22/22 8:18 a.m.
RichardNZ said:

Not sure of timing but when we rode the California Zephyr and Lakeside Limited  from SF to Boston in 2013 I was very impressed with the onboard food offerings. I would go so far as to say (from a very small sample) that the Fish I had on the Zephyr was the best I had on the whole 10 week trip ...

Boardman was in charge of Amtrak until 2016, and it saw peak ridership and near-profitability under him. He left, and Wick Moorman, former head of NS and all-around great guy, served as a transitional president until they hired Richard Anderson, former CEO of Delta Airlines. Anderson is tapping his experience at Delta and trying to run Amtrak like an airline but on rails, and I don't think that's quite the way to go about things. Railroads and airlines are two fundamentally different businesses.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/22/22 1:01 p.m.

Speaking of Amtrak, and this is a bit roundabout (welcome to my mind), I got thinking about maybe going out to the Nevada Northern next year and doing their "Be The Engineer" program. Ely, Nevada is kind of middle of nowhere though, so I was trying to find the nearest airport. Elko, NV is technically the nearest, at 169 miles, but also flights from Syracuse to Elko and back are $700+ dollars. Then I checked Salt Lake City, which is 240 miles away but only 50 minutes longer drive, and discovered that flights into Salt Lake City are less than half the price, at about $330ish. So it would make sense to fly into SLC, rent some sort of neat vehicle from Turo, and drive out to Ely.

But then I got thinking "Well, I'm pretty sure Amtrak serves Salt Lake City." And they do, with the California Zephyr. So, in theory, I could catch the Lake Shore Limited at Utica, take it all the way to it's end at Chicago, and then hop the CZ at Chicago and ride it to Salt Lake City, or even Elko, since it serves that as well. Then from there, it would be the same plan of rent a car and make the drive to Ely.

Now, the downside would be that that Amtrak trip costs $198 one way, and that is just basic coach seating. Not a sleeper berth and not a roomette. And that's a bit rough, because it's a 52 hour trip to SLC or a 57 hour trip to Elko nominally, and from what I've heard, the CZ's on-time performance can be pretty bad. A lot of people say 3-4 hours, but there are instances of 7-10. Really depends on how nice BNSF and UP are feeling. If I were to do that, it might be better to one way, so that I wouldn't miss my appointment with Nevada Northern, and then take the train back on a more relaxed schedule.

02Pilot
02Pilot UberDork
11/22/22 3:24 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

I think your plan of fly out/train back makes a lot of sense. FWIW, driving longer distances out west is easy, much easier than in the east. When we went to NM a few years ago, we flew into Denver and drove ~8 hours to Santa Fe, and it was a low stress, beautiful drive over state roads (we basically didn't use the interstates). If it were me, I'd fly to SLC and drive out - probably much easier to get a car there as well, and you can take different routes out and back to see more of the area if you're so inclined.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/22/22 4:43 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

I looked at Turo for SLC, just out of curiosity, and there's a lot of Teslas, which seem less than ideal, since it's a 240 mile drive to Ely alone, and Ely seems pretty remote, not sure how good the charging network is. There's also a ton of Jeep Gladiators and Wranglers, which just seem like the right vehicle to rent to drive out into no man's land.

Taking the return trip by train definitely seems the smart move. Especially in the event that something happens where the Lake Shore Limited gets delayed and misses the California Zephyr connection at Chicago. Also, by going home on the train, you leave in the morning and will be rolling through Colorado on the daylight, instead of arriving into Salt Lake City at night. The Zephyr does run Superliner II double-decker cars, and the upper level seating is the same price, so I'm sure the view is nice.

If I was really feeling adventurous, I could take a day or two layover at Chicago, then grab a car and make the drive to Union, IL to see the Illinois Railway Museum.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/22/22 8:43 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

You could stop by to visit Nocones & check out the LMP360, as he's not too far from Monticello. If you have time on your way between Chicago & Monticello stop by Rossville to visit the railroad museum there. They have an amazing collection of C&EI memorabilia in the old depot. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/23/22 9:09 a.m.

Part of me thinks it would be dumb to travel in winter, but, man, the Nevada Northern is picturesque in the winter, in a barren, desolate, foreboding sort of way.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/23/22 9:11 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/23/22 9:35 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/23/22 11:42 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/23/22 11:44 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/23/22 2:55 p.m.

What makes the Nevada Northern so special from a preservation standpoint is that, similar to East Broad Top, almost everything that is on the property is original to the railroad. It's not a collection of random equipment and buildings, like a lot of your heritage railroads, it's an entirely-preserved microcosm of a railroad. The steam locomotives, almost all the diesel locomotives (there's an ex-SP SD9, but that's not that out of the question since the Nevada Northern had an interchange with SP), the freight cars and passenger cars, the wreck derrick that's still steam-powered, the engine house and buildings, they're all original to Nevada Northern or Kennecott Copper, who also operated the line. While much of it is out of service, Nevada Northern owns all 127 miles of the original mainline, from Ely north all the way to Cobre and retains the option to restore it to operation (in fact, the current plan is to restore more of the line from East Ely to McGill). And they're even working at bringing back some of the pieces, like the sole surviving RSD-4 that belonged to Kennecott Copper and the Nevada Northern's only SD7.

Having three operating steam locomotives, the only operating Alco RS-2, the only operating Alco RSD-4, an SD7, and RS-3, and a Baldwin VO-1000 all on the same property is a helluva claim but it's even more impressive when they are all operating out of the engine house and over the rails that they originally operated on. And it's still more a living, breathing railroad, a railroader's railroad, and not an overly preserved, overly polished tourist trap. It's grungy and grimy and just how railroads were in the steam era.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/23/22 4:20 p.m.

So, I did notice that for Nevada Northern's "Be The Engineer" program, the participant is allowed to bring one guest of age 12 or older along to ride in the cab for free. So, if I actually end up going and doing this, and it's definitely tentative at this point of time, anyone want to go for a free ride in the cab of a steam locomotive on a 28-mile round trip? 

RichardNZ
RichardNZ Reader
11/23/22 5:07 p.m.
NickD said:

In reply to 02Pilot :

Taking the return trip by train definitely seems the smart move. Especially in the event that something happens where the Lake Shore Limited gets delayed and misses the California Zephyr connection at Chicago. Also, by going home on the train, you leave in the morning and will be rolling through Colorado on the daylight, instead of arriving into Salt Lake City at night. The Zephyr does run Superliner II double-decker cars, and the upper level seating is the same price, so I'm sure the view is nice.

The view from the Superliners is superb. According to the timetable both directions of the CZ traverse the upper Colorado in daylight so probably no biggie which way you travel. That, and the Tunnel District from the Moffat Tunnel down to Denver were the absolute highlights of the trip for us. We unfortunately missed the Sierra Nevadas and northern CA as there was track work being done and the train part started at Reno. There was a plus side in that the bus driving lady told us she had four hours for a two and a half hour trip and did we want to visit all the towns off the beaten track ... 

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