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Nostalgia & History > the LAST Rock Island train


Date: 09/22/22 07:42
the LAST Rock Island train
Author: santafe199

The Rock Island went belly-up in the spring of 1980. In my 9-year train service employment with the Santa Fe, 1980 was by far my busiest working year. It was also my most productive year looking through a viewfinder. I shot an estimated equivalent of around 360 rolls of 36-exposure of -mostly- Kodachrome 64.

But when the Rock folded I made only a couple of token attempts at recording the end days. According to my 1980 SFe timebook I went off duty from a 463 train @ 7:15 PM on March 30. And I didn’t go back to work again until 4:10 AM on April 2 on a 199 train. So I could have easily been somewhere on the Rock Island, recording some last day activity. To this day I don’t know why I so badly failed to take advantage of such a golden opportunity. Sigh...

My friend Jim Watson had better sense. Even though it was a normal workday Monday for him, he found a way to be “on the property” and do some shooting. He was in Herington to record the last Rock Island train he would ever see in person. Jim took a long series of “flying roster” shots, mainly because the Rock had rounded up about a dozen stray cabeese for this train. They were being sent on their final trip east interspersed with a couple of hoppers. It was his last image that makes me almost break down. In the same town I shot my first-ever 35mm slides in ‘76, my friend Jim shot the very last Rock Island train to leave town...

1. CRI&P caboose 17186 brings up the final rear end of the last eastbound Rock Island train out of Herington, KS on Monday March 31, 1980. Jim took this photo off of the US hwy 77 overpass at the NE edge of town.

Thanks for looking back!
Lance Garrels (santafe199)
Remembering the late Jim Watson, aka ‘UP6900’



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/22/22 07:44 by santafe199.




Date: 09/22/22 08:31
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: Atomicpunk

Lance,

   That photo says it all.  Several years ago when Trains Magazine did the "That 70's Issue" Paul D. Schnieder did an follow-up article about his time travelling the Rock in early 1980 getting interviews from the employees across the system for the March 1983 Trains all Rock Island issue.  I still remember his comment when looking back at the 70's.  I'm going to paraphrase, it went something like this, "The 1970s ended when the Rock Island died."  I have to agree with his statement. 
Mike



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/22/22 08:45 by Atomicpunk.



Date: 09/22/22 08:51
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: WAF

Just like the MILW on the west end, lots of deadhead equipment



Date: 09/22/22 09:08
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: santafe199

Atomicpunk Wrote: > ... I'm going to paraphrase ... "The 1970s ended when the Rock Island died."  ...

I remember that!  And no truer words were ever spoken. The fact that the Mighty Fine Road is still a sentimental favorite for so many fans confirms to that statement perfectly...

Lance 



Date: 09/22/22 09:17
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: railstiesballast

The westbound track looks quite good for a bankrupt RR.



Date: 09/22/22 09:18
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: Ritzville

Sad times!!

Larry



Date: 09/22/22 09:19
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: dan

trustee specials would commence for awhile



Date: 09/22/22 09:30
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: IC1038west

Thank you for posting this image. Thank you UP6900 for being there.

Like A Rock.



Date: 09/22/22 09:51
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: mococomike

Did this right of way surive and if so what is it now?



Date: 09/22/22 10:11
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: junctiontower

In my era of active railfanning, the only thing that comes close for me was Conrail's last day, and over twenty years later I still can't fathom why I didn't spend that last day out along the Water Level Route or at least over at Piqua Yard in Fort Wayne. I took LOTS of photos right after the split, but was terribly lax at getting pre-split photos, and I have no explanation or excuse.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 09/22/22 10:15
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: santafe199

mococomike Wrote: > ... Did this right of way surive ...

The answer is a resounding yes! This is the former Golden State Route (GSR) that ran from Topeka, KS down to the famous connection with passenger partner SP at Tucumcari, NM. The track in Jim's shot was still DT ABS all the way up to Topeka. In 1980 SP subsidiary SSW took over operation of the GSR and put a massive track rehabilitation program into effect. The DT ABS between Topeka & the crew change terminal at Herington was replaced with single track CTC w/ long sidings at Maple Hill, McFarland & White City. The 14 mile stretch between Volland & Dwight, was converted to DT CTC with full crossovers eventually installed at the (roughly) midway point at Alta Vista. Two main tracks now run east out of Herington to just beyond the horizon in Jim's shot here. Also a full set of CTC crossovers is now complete, in the area of the 2 ABS signals seen here. The WB grade between Volland & Dwight is quite considerable for the billiard table some wags like to call Kansas. Volland was a helper crew base up into the early 20th century. Today, Uncle Pete aka the merger octopus has possession of the line all the way into California...

Lance/199



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/22/22 10:32 by santafe199.



Date: 09/22/22 10:26
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: Roadjob

You can write a book on an image like this, just because it is the end of what was once a great entity.I wish I could have dedicated more time to the Rock. Love the symbolism of the shot!

Bill Rettberg
Bel Air, MD



Date: 09/22/22 10:38
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: refarkas

A truly heartfelt photo - Goodbye old friend!
Bob



Date: 09/22/22 11:23
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: monaddave

WAF Wrote:
<<Just like the MILW on the west end, lots of deadhead equipment >>

Agreed. A number of my Montana frineds followed the last MILW train across Montana (took a few days), also in March of 1980.
Dave in Polson, MT



Date: 09/22/22 12:52
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: rrcaboose

I remember a RI story in Trains magazine (I think) that told a story about a yardmaster somewhere in midWest RI territory who refused to leave after his midnight shift was over believing that the RI would continue. Finally his wife came to get him to come home. Also stated that any RI locomotives were just left to run until the diesel fuel ran out.

A truly sad day.

rrcaboose



Date: 09/22/22 12:53
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: mococomike

Thanks for the update on the right of way.



Date: 09/22/22 14:10
Re: the LAST Rock Island train
Author: billmeeker

railstiesballast Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The westbound track looks quite good for a
> bankrupt RR.

I was thinking the same thing.  That looks like fresh ballast, so some work must have continued right up to the bankruptcy date.



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