Hunting Illinois Central Steam in 1952

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

No. 2423, a 4-8-2 Mountain type locomotive, eases a passenger train out of Champaign. Built in late 1924 by Lima Locomotive Works, these engines were assigned to freight and passenger duty alike. Within a year the 2400 class Mountains would be gone from the Illinois Division. (Photograhs by Richard Jacobs)

By Richard Jacobs

I was a sophomore at Purdue University in 1952 and a member of the ROTC Drill Team. We were invited to put on a demonstration at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. After our drill was completed, most of the others went to the campus of the University of Illinois in nearby Champaign-Urbana. I did not.

I went to the Illinois Central railroad station, which sat next to the mainline and the yards. It was my first glimpse of the Main Line of Mid-America and its locomotives. Attached are several photos I took that day. I used a Kodak Brownie reflex camera to capture the images on 127 film square format. My prints were scanned for this article because I no longer have the negatives).

The Central purchased 2-8-4 locomotives from Lima. Unlike those on the Nickel Plate, the IC engines were not successful. They were rebuilt into 4-8-2 s at the company shops in Paducah, Kentucky. The IC stabled three groups of 4-8-2s, numbered in the 2400, 2500 and 2600 series. There were many IC 4-8-2s on the roster before the reduction in steam locomotives in favor of diesels in the 1950s.

J. Parker Lamb’s article in the Spring 2010 issue of Classic Trains brought home memories of that day in Champaign. It was my only opportunity to see and photograph Illinois Central steam.

Early in 1956, I left Purdue to start my NACA/NASA 45-year career as an aerospace engineer. The Illinois Central steam was gone shortly after.

Classic Trains is my favorite railroad magazine. It brings home to me the memories of my early journeys trackside to see and photograph the trains. I have been watching trains since 1941 and photographing them since 1946.

Mountain type No. 2555 moves a southbound freight out of Champaign. This locomotive was built in 1942 at IC's Paducah shops. Its class was built from a combination of new and used components, the latter of which were taken from 2-10-2 that IC retired. This enabled these locomotives to have larger boilers than their 2400 series cousins.

Two Mountain types, Nos. 2511 and 2612 idle at the coal dock. Within a year only two 2500 series locomotives were still in active service, both on the Kentucky Division.

A southbound freight lumbers out of Champaign. Note the water canteen behind the tender. IC added these because some of their steam locomotives had a lesser capacity tender.

No. 2511 has just been serviced and is ready to report for duty. This locomotive was built in Paducah in 1937.

Switcher No. 3503 works the Champaign yards. IC had 70 of these 0-8-0 and they remained largely unchanged during the rebuilding era. The locomotives were acquired between 1921 and 1929.

The coming of the diesel switch locomotives, such as the one shown here in Champaign, would spell the end of the 0-8-0 steam switchers. But 19 of the 0-8-0s would remain on the IC roster through 1960.

IC purchased 65 diesel switch locomotives in 1950 and 1951 to replace steam-powered 0-8-0 switchers. The new diesels were assigned all over the IC.

An ancient wood caboose reposes in the Champaign yard, its future about as murky as the futures of the steam locomotives around it.

A more moden IC caboose poses for Jake's camera. These cabooses continued to serve on the IC well into the 1960s and 1970s.

12 Responses to “Hunting Illinois Central Steam in 1952”

  1. Margy Vanroekel Says:

    Always an incredible article when i visit this website along with blogs you hold. Appreciate the skills.

  2. Cody Burdette Says:

    I own two ICRR steam whistles, one is a 6 chime the other is a long bell 3 chime (steamboat type). Cody

  3. Ralph Stukenberg Says:

    I REMEMBER THE GOOD OLE DAYS OF THE STEAM ENGINES
    IN FORRESTON,IL DURING THE 50S. MY FRIENDS LAUGHED AT ME,BECAUSE IF I HEARD A TRAIN COMING IN TOWN I WOULD JUMP ON MY BIKE AND HEAD FOR THE TRACKS. ONE DAY THE TRAIN TOOK SIDEING AND I SAW WHAT WAS LEFT OF AN ENGINE AND TENDER, IT HAD BLOWN UP, AND KILLED ENGINEER AND THE FIREMEN. IT WAS ALONG TIME BEFORE I WENT NEAR A TRAIN AGAIN. I ALSO HAD SEVERAL HO SCALE TRAIN LAYOUTS OVER THE YEARS! BUT NO MORE, WE TRAVEL NOW WITH A 5TH WHEEL CAMPER. SO WE ARE WORKCAMPERS, AND WE TRY TO STAY NEAR RR TRACKS!! GOD BLESS YOUR TRAVELS !!

  4. RON McKINNEY Says:

    MY DAD WAS A LIFER ON THE I C @ BLUFORD YARDS. I REMEMBER GOING TO WORK WITH HIM AS A BOY IN THE 1950s. IT WAS A GREAT TREAT TO BE AROUND ALL OF THE BIG TRAINS. DAD WAS A CAR INSPECTOR [ CAR KNOCKER ] AS IT WAS CALLED BACK IN THE DAY. ONE OF HIS JOBS WAS TO GUAGE THE WHEELS, IF ONE WAS WOREN TO BAD HE WOULD RECORD THE CAR # & TRACK # & PUT A BAD ORDER TAG ON THE CAR, THEN WHEN HE WAS DONE INSPECTING THE TRAIN HE WOULD REPORT TO THE YARD OFFICE & THEY WOULD DISPATCH AN ENGINE TO FIND THE CAR & TAKE IT TO THE RIP-TRACK FOR REPAIRE. LOTS OF MEMORIES AT THE OLD BLUFORD IL YARDS.

    RD McKINNEY

    • Ron Says:

      Hi there. I was wondering if you knew anyone that might have any photographs of the structures in the bluford yard. I have a couple from John warren off of roots web but there is no real details to them.

  5. J. L. Johnson Says:

    I’m sure glad I.C. sent those Mountains (and kept some other steamers on the Ky. Division) to Kentucky in the late ’50’s, otherwise I may have never seen active steam as a young boy. I used to visit my Grandma quite frequently in Princeton, Kentucky, from about 3-4 yrs old, around 1956-60. I have vivid memories of watching I.C. steam from a vacant lot next to my Grandma’s house. The tracks were about 75-100 yds away across the street from where I watched I.C. trains come in from Paducah heading north towards the station and roundhouse there in Princeton. I was hooked, and I have never forgotten it. I would sit there for hours waiting to watch a train depart or head into the station. I can also remember putting pennies on the track to see what the train would do to them. Wow, were they flattened ! I can still hear the long, low, whistle of those freights going through at night while lying there in my Grandma’s feather bed, and dozing off with that fleeting sound in my head. I’ll never forget those days. A young boy seeing a steam monster huffing & puffing and stomping the ground, what an impression that made on me. I wish young kids of today could see what I saw and hear what I heard at that age, before they become indoctrinated into a virtual world. It will never be like that again…

  6. william case Says:

    I AM GLAD I HAD THE CHANCE TO BE A FIREMAN ON IC ENGINE#764 AT JACKSON MS.IN AUGUST 1953 IT ISNOW IN ST LOUIS WACASE NATCHEZ MS RETIREDENGINEER

  7. Ted Richardson Says:

    Sir

    Thank you for sharing.

    The IC 2-8-4’s were not re-built into 4-8-2’s in any of the Mountain classes. They were re-built/up-graded in kind though re-numbered from their original 7000 numbers to 8000. The IC refered to these engines as “Lima’s” not Berkshires as most railroads did. The 56 2500 class 4-8-2’s were converted from 2901 class 2-10-2’s between 1937 and 1943/4 at Paducah, KY. The 20 2600 class 4-8-2’s were built new from the rail up between 1942-1943. The 60 2400 class 4-8-2’s were purchased new between 1923 and 1926. Seven of the 2400 class Mountains were up-graded/improved late in the steam program, but this was not pursued beyond these engines possibly because Diesels were coming on to the property.

    Regardless IC steam was very big and all business as you were lucky enough to have experienced.

    Regards
    Ted Richardson

  8. John Seay Says:

    Wish I had a camera in 1961 when I past through Paducah over a viaduct that crossed the Paducah Shops and Yard. I was so excited to see what seemed like hundreds of Steam Locomotives on many tracks, some looking like new with coal still in their tenders and cab curtains still clean and white. I turned around and found a road that ran along side the yard so I could get a better look at all these engines. I found and employee I could talk too and ask why the track were so full of steam engines, and pointed to and area in the stops and said, “you see those cutting torches over there, they are cutting them up for scrap”. I said surely they’re not going to cut them all up. Why would they do that? He said, as long as they are on IC property they have to pay taxes on them, so they’re getting rid of them.

    Li couldn’t believe it. I’ve had that vision in my mind all these years, of all those beautiful steam engine waiting for the Torch. Sure wish I had had a camera. Johnny Seay, Glen Rose, Texas

  9. alton case Says:

    I would like to know where the ic #764 is now

  10. Ray Heaton III Says:

    Great article. I was doing research on Illinois Central whistles when I came across your article. I enjoyed reading it very much. I am engineer on the Illinois Central, now CN in southern Illinois. I am in the live steam hobby and am building a IC mikado. It has been running since 2009. Debugging is pretty much finished and I am now starting to detail the locomotive. I am about to attempt my first whistle. The locomotive is 1 1/2 I CH scale , weighs 1000# and is coal fired. Once again I enjoyed your article.

  11. BILL NELMS Says:

    Lovely. I only wish you had photos of the Mattoon area as I was raised there and saw Stam until it was gone. Thanks for your pix

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