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Railroaders' Nostalgia > "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"

Date: 10/21/12 16:33
"Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: aronco

In June, 1968, I was accepted into Santa Fe's management training program, and was told to report to 80 East Jackson Boulevard at Michigan Avenue on August 1, 1968. Well, I had a busy month as I had to pack and move, get married, buy a new car, and resign from my job as a brakeman/conductor with SP in Los Angeles. I threw all our wordly possessions into a U-haul trailer, drove to Las Vegas, got married, and drove across Route 66 to Chicago. I found an apartment in Homewood, Illinois, about 20 miles South of the loop, and then explored how to get to work in downtown Chicago by commuter train. Fortunately, the Illinois Central commute train station was close to my new residence and they had timely electric express commute trains that would get me to work in about 40 minutes riding time.

After work, I had only to walk across Michigan Avenue and down into the Van Buren Station to catch the 5:13 Homewood express.
For a Southern California boy who thought double track was a heavy rail line, the IC was incredible! 6 and even 8 main tracks, 4 commute, two main line passenger, two freight tracks, and sidings and storage tracks everywhere. What an education in real heavy volume railroading!

About the third day of commuting, I noted that IC's Central Station at Rossevelt Road had a passenger train due to depart each afternoon just as my electric commute train accelerated from the stop at Roosevelt Road (Central Station). What a sight! This was IC's Seminole, a secondary train on the Chicago - Birmingham - Jacksonville route via IC - Central of Georgia and Atlantic Coast Line. Most days, this train had one or two baggage cars, five or so heavyweight modernized coaches, and lounge diner, and one or two flexivan flats with mail for downstate points such as Carbondale or Centralia, or possibly Birmingham. Power was always two E units, usually E-9's, some Central of Georgia but in IC paint.

As we departed Central Station, the Seminole would be pulling out on our right, and going up a ramp which crossed the two passenger lines over the four electric commute lines. The quick acceleration of the electrics would leave the Seminole behind, but then, those two trusty E's would, galloping like a race horse, slowly overtake and pass us. The sight and sound of that train passing us with the engines in full throttle was a beautiful sight indeed.

As the two trains raced South, they both had to slow for crossovers at Kensington, where the South Shore electric commute lines diverged to the left toward Indiana, and the 6 IC mains all crossed over to the right. It seemed the crossovers were good for about 40 MPH. As soon as either train was clear of the slower crossovers, they accelerated. On a good day, I would be hanging in the vestibule of the electrics, and I might be right next to the E units. There was the engineer, an older fellow, as were all passenger enginemen, dressed in bib-striped overalls, khaki work shirt, and kromer cap, grey haired, grandfatherly fellow surely, proudly seated in the cab, staring straight ahead, ever vigilant, in charge of a masterful machine. The smoooth hearty roar of those engines still echoes in my mind.

From Kensington to Homewood, about 10 miles, the race was on! The electrics were much quicker out of the gate, but the long legged diesels could run faster. It just took a long time for them to accelerate. Usually, the Seminole would overtake us again before Homewood, and it would be making its station stop as we arrived a moment later. How many times I detrained at Homewood, and stood on the platform for a couple minutes to watch the Seminole groan out of the station! Ah the memories!


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/21/12 16:36 by aronco.

Date: 10/21/12 16:43
Re: "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: john1082

A great memory. Thanks for sharing the way it used to be

John Gezelius
Tustin, CA

Date: 10/22/12 12:16
Re: "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: twropr

I've never heard a story before about a race between diesel train and an MU in the Chicago area. Fascinating.
Of course there were numerous possibilities for races between GG1-hauled trains and Red MU's on the PRR, NYC T and P-motor hauled limiteds and 3-rd rail MU's between GCT and Harmon, and on the New Haven between NY and New Haven. However, a race between an E-unit and an MU was something not normally seen in the East.


Date: 10/22/12 14:31
Re: "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: kdrtrains

Thank you big foot! Keep the stories coming!

Have you guys seen Norm's feet? He can ski with out skies.

Love ya Norm!


Date: 10/22/12 20:52
Re: "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: kevink

A one page story in the June 1968 issue of Trains titled 'Three Lovely Ladies' describes a similar race along the IC only in this tale, the Panama Limited is racing the CSS&SB's Train No. 201.

Date: 10/23/12 18:35
Re: "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: IC_2024

Great story,Norm! I recall riding in from Rockford on a bus substituting for the Hawkeye (due to a fire-ravaged building falling on the St Charles Airline.). Anyway, we were connecting with #53, the City of Miami, which was held for our bus along w/ #1, the City of New Orleans- both standing impatiently waiting to highball south. While we didn't actually race, our trains ended up alongside each other ( at your old Homewood stop IIRC, too.)
Again, thanks for sharing your story!

Posted from iPhone

Date: 10/25/12 23:06
Re: "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: DNRY122

Here's a more contemporary story: The south end of the Sacramento RT Metro Blue Line parallels the former Western Pacific line to Stockton. I was on a southbound light rail train, and there was a UP freight on the ex-WP. We were pulling ahead of the UP, but had to give up the race when we ran out of rail and trolley wire.

Date: 10/31/12 20:44
Re: "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: up833

Knowing a trains limitations is a good thing...
Roger B

Date: 11/11/12 22:33
Re: "Illinois Central - Monday Morning Train......"
Author: filmteknik

Your Espee origins are showing when you say commute instead of commuter (though the IC actually preferred the term suburban trains). I am an Metra/Electric (ex-IC) rider myself. Thanks for posting this.

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