Posts Tagged ‘Illinois short line railroads’

No Work in Newman Today

March 8, 2021

The covered hopper on the siding is evidence that the grain facility in Newman, Illinois, is served by the Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad. But train 101 has no work in Newman today and is merely passing through. The image was made on Feb. 27.

SD40-2s on the Prairie

November 17, 2020

I grew up in east central Illinois so I am well aware of how flat the landscape is there.

Yet if you seek to make photographs of railroads in action it can be more of a challenge than you think to create images that scream “this is the prairie.”

Illinois is sometimes called the Prairie State although little native prairie land remains. Today it is a moniker for being farmland.

 You might be surprised and at times frustrated at how many trees there are along the railroads of Illinois. Open views that suggest a vast open landscape can take some doing to find.

In the image above a pair of SD40-2s working for the Decatur & Eastern Illinois are running light eastbound a little east of Tuscola.

I had photographed a D&EI train at this same location last summer when crops were still in these fields.

Now those crops have been harvested and the field in the foreground plowed for the winter.

Plowing after harvest used to be commonplace but is less so today.

Getting Half Lucky With a Short Line

September 8, 2020

Unless you know its operating pattern or have inside information, photographing a short line railroad often requires getting lucky.

Of course 100 percent of that luck involves being track side in the right place at the right time.

I recently decided to try my luck at photographing an Illinois short line I had never seen in person and knew little about.

The Bloomer Shippers Connecting Railroad, better known as The Bloomer Line, is a granger operation based in Gibson City.

It is known for locomotives painted bright red and gray in a design reminiscent of the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.

That seems odd for a carrier using track of former Illinois Central and Wabash heritage and somewhat far from former Q territory in the Prairie State.

The name “Bloomer” has an IC heritage. In 1985, the Bloomer acquired the IC’s Bloomington District, which linked Bloomington, Illinois, on a circuitous route with the IC Chicago-New Orleans mainline at Otto south of Kankakee.

The Bloomington District had long been known as the Bloomer line.

As the Bloomer’s formal name suggests, the primary purpose of the railroad is to connect with larger carriers.

Owned by Alliance Grain Company, it serves that firm’s eight facilities.

A railfan website devoted to the Bloomer noted that grain is the primary commodity hauled with some plastic and lumber mixed in.

I had a fairly small window of opportunity to catch the Bloomer while on a outing whose primary purpose was to photograph Amtrak in action on two routes.

I planned my travel between those routes to pass through Gibson City, a once bustling railroad junction that remarkably still has most of its original rail lines.

At one time, a Nickel Plate Road line to Peoria, the Wabash line between Chicago and St. Louis, and the IC line to Springfield and St. Louis crossed here.

Today, NS still operates the former Wabash and NKP south and west of town respectively. CN owns the ex-IC and the Bloomer has the ex-Wabash north of town. Only the ex-NKP east of Gibson City is no longer in place.

Grain is the major reason why all these rail lines still come here. Gibson City is home to a number of large grain elevators and the Bloomer funnels corn, soybeans and some wheat into town to interchange with NS.

I had studied Gibson City on Google maps and determined from a satellite view where the Bloomer locomotive shop and yard were located.

After checking those out I planned to drive north on Illinois Route 47, which runs parallel to the Bloomer as far as the tiny hamlet of Risk. I hoped to see a train on the line along the way, perhaps working at a grain elevator.

As I drove into downtown Gibson City I saw flashing lights for a railroad crossing.

Maybe luck was with me. But it wasn’t. It turned out to be a malfunction at the CN crossing. There was no train coming.

A brief look around town yielded nothing moving on any of the rail lines.

It took a little doing, but I eventually found my way to Bell Street, which runs parallel to the Bloomer.

In short order I spotted two locomotives sitting outside the engine house, including GP9 No. 7591 painted in that Q-like livery.

It’s nose was coupled to LTEX GP38-2 No. 3801. Both units were running, but no one was around.

I had hoped to see a train being made up in the yard or getting ready to head north, but what had looked on the satellite map like a yard turned out to be just the lead tracks to the engine house.

There were no freight cars parked nearby and no sign of any activity.

I headed out of town on Route 47 and in a couple of miles any hope I had of seeing a Bloomer train on the road was dashed.

A crew was working on the track and had the aura of likely to be there for some time.

If the Bloomer would be running today it wouldn’t be during my window of opportunity.

I had a date with Amtrak Lincoln Service train No. 303 in about a half hour so I didn’t have time to further explore the Bloomer to see if something was happening elsewhere.

I considered myself to have been half lucky to have been able to photograph a Bloomer locomotive.

Perhaps I’ll try again later this fall when the grain season harvest season is underway.