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Illinois photo locations?

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Illinois photo locations?
Posted by Lithonia Operator on Monday, March 1, 2021 4:52 PM

This is a little redundant of part of a different thread. But I'm asking this more directly in its own thread, in hopes of perhaps catching more attention.

We will be vaccinated, and so masks and all, we are going to take the trip referenced in another thread or two. It will be mid June.

As part of it, we plan to follow the BNSF Chillicothe sub from Joliet to Galesburg. The next day we will go up to Clinton IA, then follow the UP thru Rochelle and over to DeKalb. From there we will make our way down to Aurora, then to Midway Airport.

I am interested in any suggestions for photo locations. What I look for most are interesting trackside buildings, structures, etc. I seek not just directly RR-related things, also any Americana of note; or, really, anything unique. I tend to lean towards things that are vestiges of the past, but am not tied to them only. And any gems just off of those above routes that are worth a detour. I've been known to wander off course a time or two.

And of course any obscure roads, bridges, etc. you know about that provide good access; and also warnings regarding what I should avoid.

If you've left comments regarding this circuit on other threads, thanks much; and please don't feel a need to repeat them here.

Any more ideas out there?

 

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Posted by Convicted One on Monday, March 1, 2021 6:37 PM

Lithonia Operator
. I seek not just directly RR-related things, also any Americana of note; or, really, anything unique. I tend to lean towards things that are vestiges of the past, but am not tied to them only. And any gems just off of those above routes that are worth a detour. I've been known to wander off course a time or two.

 

You could go down to Hannibal Mo and get the Mississippi river crossing of Norfolk Southern, featuring a major bridge, a diamond, and what once was the only tunnel on the former Wabash all within arms reach of one another, and if you then venture west to Moberly,  they have a Wabash Railroad History Museum and park there.

If you like rustic Americana, US24 from Peoria to Carrolton will give you an overdose. It's been a while since I visited Carrolton, but the last time I was there between BNSf an NS blowing for crossings, they kept me awake most of the night. Of course  the historic WB junction is just west of Carrolton.  

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Posted by Backshop on Monday, March 1, 2021 6:48 PM

It's been years since I've been to either location but I liked Gilman, IL and Joliet Union Station.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, March 1, 2021 9:43 PM

Since you are interested in Americana, historic US Route 66 south of Joliet has a lot, and you may be able to include the ex-Alton/UP/Amtrak St Louis route in your photos.

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Posted by Convicted One on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 9:35 AM

Here's a suggestion:  Why don't you go down and do a photo documentation of the underutilized/abandoned bypasses around Chicago, so the next time someone proposes that it should be up to the taxpayers to subsidize  the stockholders of the class ones, so they can operate  more profitably through the Chicago bottleneck, we can remind them that there is a "cause and effect" aspect they are overlooking?

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Posted by MP173 on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 9:37 AM

Back in my earlier days of sales career (when we actually made sales calls on customers and prospects), I travelled all over the state...and always had my camera.

On the former ATSF, Chillicothe and Edlestein Hill to the west are of interest.  Further west is the Mississippi River crossing at Ft. Madison, Iowa which is an interesting rail/auto bridge which also controls the lift for barge crossings.   Worth the toll to cross.  Ft. Madison is an active location for BNSF.  Galesburg is a busy spot.

Following the Mississippi River north, the old Rock Island yard is in Silvis.  On the Iowa side the CP line hugs the river.  Clinton is (was) a busy spot...assume it still is.  I would continue north to Sabula, where the CP line splits - line east to Chicago and line north to Minneapolis.  The line north is quite scenic with the river.  

Cross back to Illinois at Dubuque and check out the CN river bridge crossing, then the unique bridge/tunnel as the former IC line bores into a river bluff and curves to the south.  The line then joins the BNSF Twin City - Chicago mainline and heads south along the river before the CN line heads to Galena.  Very intersting views of Galena from the US 20 bridge.  Unfortunately very few trains on the CN line.  If you can time the train thru Galena, this will be worth the wait.

Following the CN line to a small town called Council Hill...that area is very scenic.  

At that point I would head south to the UP mainline at Sterling/Rock Falls and check out the old steel mill (still in operation I believe) and the UP line adjacent.  Dixon is about 20 miles to the east and be sure to stop in at Fern's CAfe in downtown Dixon.  Years ago, I would eat breakfast there....excellent diner.

Rochelle is another half hour to the east and is a major railroad center with BNSF and UP crossing plus a big intermodal yard to the west of town and a big logistics park on the east side.  There is a local railroad which does the final mile work in the logistics park.  

I believe there is an old coaling tower in Dekalb...there was a decade ago.

West Chicago Illinois features considerable UP activity plus the crossing of the former EJE line, now CN.  A tower still stands (or at least I think it does) at the crossing...if you are into railroad towers.

Other interesting spots are Tolono (crossing of CN and NS south of Champaign) and Tuscola (CN, UP, and new regional carrier).  Decatur is a big yard for NS and considerable local activity to service the ADM and Staley ag processing plants.

If you want to venture further south, go to Centralia where the CN has big yard and facilities with NS and BNSF activity.

I miss the old days of travel, but it sure is great to sleep in my own bed every night!

Ed

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 12:31 PM

Thank you, Backshop and Midland Mike!

And THANK YOU, MP173!!!

Great info, guys. Yes

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 3:04 PM

Convicted One

 

 
Lithonia Operator
. I seek not just directly RR-related things, also any Americana of note; or, really, anything unique. I tend to lean towards things that are vestiges of the past, but am not tied to them only. And any gems just off of those above routes that are worth a detour. I've been known to wander off course a time or two.

 

 

You could go down to Hannibal Mo and get the Mississippi river crossing of Norfolk Southern, featuring a major bridge, a diamond, and what once was the only tunnel on the former Wabash all within arms reach of one another, and if you then venture west to Moberly,  they have a Wabash Railroad History Museum and park there.

If you like rustic Americana, US24 from Peoria to Carrolton will give you an overdose. It's been a while since I visited Carrolton, but the last time I was there between BNSf an NS blowing for crossings, they kept me awake most of the night. Of course  the historic WB junction is just west of Carrolton.  

 

Thanks much. Alas, we won't have time for Hannibal and Carrollton. But Peoria is (as a friend of mine likes to say) a definite maybe; and perhaps we could venture a little bit down US 24.

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 1:40 PM

Lithouina shoot me a PM when you get into the Streator Area.  I can not show you around the area due to my work schedule but my hubby should be able to.  He works PT and knows more fun areas to railfan around here than most on the old Santa Fe.  Places where you can see them running 60 MPH or better.  

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Posted by CShaveRR on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 3:47 PM

I'll jump on Valpo Ed's (MP 173) post, and chip in a bit.  I'm honestly not sure about the steel and wire mill in Sterling these days.  When I retired ten years ago, we were not sending any scrap gons there any more.

Between Sterling and Dixon is Nelson, site of a junction on the UP (tower long gone), but still home to a concrete coal dock that straddles four tracks.

From Dixon east, use Illinois 38 (basially the old Lincoln Highway) to get to Chicagoland.  Rochelle, besides the Railroad Park, what's left of the intermodal terminal, its own railroad and the industries adjacent thereunto, has a lot of neat buildings in the downtown, including an old corner Standard Station.  East of Rochelle on 38, the towns of Creston and Malta, with elevators and old downtowns by the tracks, might appeal to you.  Then you get to DeKalb, which is probably worth spending some time in.  Yes, the coal dock is still there.  A trip to the museum to see what is no longer there would be eye-opening.

I don't know from experience about the diner in Dixon that Ed suggested, but there's another diner in Cortland (east of DeKalb), on the main drag just north of the tracks, that we've often visited.  I hope they've survived the pandemic, but I suspect that the locals would have helped them out in some way.

If you jump on I-88 between Cortland and DeKalb, you can use that to get to Aurora if you wish.  Check out the old roundhouse there (good restaurant, a few shops), and you'll probably be interested in photographing the Paramount Theatre in town.

From Aurora, head to Joliet.  It, and the towns northeast of there (Lockport and Lemont) have lots of limestone buildings made from stuff quarried nearby.  Their history dates back to the Illinois and Michigan Canal, about ten years older than any railroad in the area.  

(If you're interested more in the Canal than railroads, stick with Interstate 80 to go east, planning on stopping at the cities along the way, where vestiges of locks and aqueducts can still be found.  The old Rock Island [now CSX, with Iowa Interstate running its trains as well] may provide a little action.  The Illinois River is navigable by barge tows, and there are locks that can be observed in various places.)

For natural beauty, try Starved Rock State Park, south and west of Ottawa.

Summing up, plan on sticking around for a while!

Carl

Railroader Emeritus (practiced railroading for 46 years--and in 2010 I finally got it right!)

CAACSCOCOM--I don't want to behave improperly, so I just won't behave at all. (SM)

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 3:58 PM

Shadow the Cats owner

Lithouina shoot me a PM when you get into the Streator Area.  I can not show you around the area due to my work schedule but my hubby should be able to.  He works PT and knows more fun areas to railfan around here than most on the old Santa Fe.  Places where you can see them running 60 MPH or better.  

 

Thanks for the kind offer. We might just take you up on that. We'll have to see how our travels go.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 4:02 PM

CShaveRR

I'll jump on Valpo Ed's (MP 173) post, and chip in a bit.  I'm honestly not sure about the steel and wire mill in Sterling these days.  When I retired ten years ago, we were not sending any scrap gons there any more.

Between Sterling and Dixon is Nelson, site of a junction on the UP (tower long gone), but still home to a concrete coal dock that straddles four tracks.

From Dixon east, use Illinois 38 (basially the old Lincoln Highway) to get to Chicagoland.  Rochelle, besides the Railroad Park, what's left of the intermodal terminal, its own railroad and the industries adjacent thereunto, has a lot of neat buildings in the downtown, including an old corner Standard Station.  East of Rochelle on 38, the towns of Creston and Malta, with elevators and old downtowns by the tracks, might appeal to you.  Then you get to DeKalb, which is probably worth spending some time in.  Yes, the coal dock is still there.  A trip to the museum to see what is no longer there would be eye-opening.

I don't know from experience about the diner in Dixon that Ed suggested, but there's another diner in Cortland (east of DeKalb), on the main drag just north of the tracks, that we've often visited.  I hope they've survived the pandemic, but I suspect that the locals would have helped them out in some way.

If you jump on I-88 between Cortland and DeKalb, you can use that to get to Aurora if you wish.  Check out the old roundhouse there (good restaurant, a few shops), and you'll probably be interested in photographing the Paramount Theatre in town.

From Aurora, head to Joliet.  It, and the towns northeast of there (Lockport and Lemont) have lots of limestone buildings made from stuff quarried nearby.  Their history dates back to the Illinois and Michigan Canal, about ten years older than any railroad in the area.  

(If you're interested more in the Canal than railroads, stick with Interstate 80 to go east, planning on stopping at the cities along the way, where vestiges of locks and aqueducts can still be found.  The old Rock Island [now CSX, with Iowa Interstate running its trains as well] may provide a little action.  The Illinois River is navigable by barge tows, and there are locks that can be observed in various places.)

For natural beauty, try Starved Rock State Park, south and west of Ottawa.

Summing up, plan on sticking around for a while!

 

Thanks so much, Carl! I will print your suggestions and put them in our trip folder. A lot of great tips there!

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Posted by darthnoxin on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 8:12 AM

If you follow the Lincoln Highway west out of Rochelle toward Dixon, you will pass through the town of Franklin Grove.  It has the HQ of the Lincoln Highway historical society.  The HQ is on Elm St, and just a few yards from the UP double track main.  There is plenty of Americana to photograph in that spot.  The lady who runs the little museum/shop there has a lot of information and you should definitiely step in if they are open.

Disregard public opinion when it interferes with your duty.
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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 8:57 AM

Thanks, Darth. I appreciate the tip, and will print that out to take with us. Yes

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Posted by RKFarms on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 5:43 PM
To add just a little-the locks at the dam at Starved Rock (can't remember number) have an observation area and and interesting display of why not to get too close to the outflow of the dam. Utica is a nice little town with a few nice places to eat. West of there in LaSalle is a park with locks and part of the old I&M canal. Lots of rail/mining/canal history in that area.
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Posted by CRIP 4376 on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 10:00 PM

Galesburg has a bridge that goes over the yard.  It is so wide that you can park there and get good shots that include roof detail.  West of Galesburg is Cameron and that is where the Santa Fe crossed over the Burlington.  Anything going west of Galesburg is on one or the other track.  You can also check out Galesburg on Virtual Railfan.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 11:05 PM

Thanks, guys.

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Posted by HBRY 5008 on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 12:54 PM

Lithonia Operator

 

 
CShaveRR

I'll jump on Valpo Ed's (MP 173) post, and chip in a bit.  I'm honestly not sure about the steel and wire mill in Sterling these days.  When I retired ten years ago, we were not sending any scrap gons there any more.

...

If you jump on I-88 between Cortland and DeKalb, you can use that to get to Aurora if you wish.  Check out the old roundhouse there (good restaurant, a few shops), and you'll probably be interested in photographing the Paramount Theatre in town.

From Aurora, head to Joliet.  It, and the towns northeast of there (Lockport and Lemont) have lots of limestone buildings made from stuff quarried nearby.  Their history dates back to the Illinois and Michigan Canal, about ten years older than any railroad in the area.  

 

The steel mill in Sterling is still operating. Formerly Northwestern Steel & Wire, it was famous for receiving a group of 0-6-0 switchers from the Grand Trunk for scrapping, and decided to put them to work as plant switchers instead. Mr. Dillon, the owner of the works, wanted them kept around, and they would blow the whistles every noon so he could hear them. After he died in the early 70s, the switchers were retired, but they still make a half-million tons of steel there every year, running the largest electric-arc furnace in the Western Hemisphere (so big they only run heats on the weekends). Some of the switchers are still around: One at the Illinois Railway Museum, one behind the Dillon Mansion (now a museum), one in Amboy, not far from Sterling, and one sitting in the woods west of Sterling.

As for the Santa Fe, I'd suggest a trip to Lemont, just up the line from Joliet. The Santa Fe crosses the Sanitary and Ship Canal on a bobtail swing bridge (no longer swinging) that dates back to 1898, and makes a great location for watching and photos.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 4:53 PM

Thanks, HBRY.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 10:13 AM

Speaking of Lemont, the traffic on the former Alton line is relatively light but the line parallels Main Street/New Avenue (right next to each other) through the middle of the business district and can make for some interesting shots.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 12:50 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

Speaking of Lemont, the traffic on the former Alton line is relatively light but the line parallels Main Street/New Avenue (right next to each other) through the middle of the business district and can make for some interesting shots.

 

Thanks, man. So I just now looked at the Google Maps street view, and it does indeed look like a great location, I must say. Right up my alley.

Why is the traffic there light? (And what do you consider light?) It looks like it would be right on the way from Chicago to Galesburg. Does the bulk of BNSF traffic get to Joliet some other way?

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Posted by Backshop on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 1:07 PM

The old Alton became the IC and is now the CN (I think).  The BNSF is a little off.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 3:20 PM

Yes, on closer inspection, on one of the Mike Walker maps (I love them!), it appears that BNSF and NS are both there, but the interesting part is on the NS line. ??

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Posted by Backshop on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 3:49 PM

You must have a newer edition than I.  Mine is the 1996 and it shows it to be IC, which is why I surmised that it was CN now.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 7:25 PM

In Lemont, the BNSF (former SF) is on the North (West)  side of the DesPlaines River and Illinois Ship & Sanitary Canal crossing to their South (East) side just East of the big highway (Lemont Rd) bridge. The CN line (former IC, former GM&O) runs along a litte further South (East) of the River & Canal along New Ave. 

On the Joliet side of Lemont, there are a former steel mill, and an Exxon Oil refinery between the two railroads

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Lemont,+IL/@41.67757,-88.0021288,716m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x880e5b14e1b0e167:0x70ab595cf503f30!8m2!3d41.673642!4d-88.0017261

Currently, Amtrak operates two Lincoln Service Trains and the Texas Eagle on the IC route and Metra operates two round trips between Joliet and Chicago (inbound AM, outbound PM) weekdays only. Don't know freight traffic on CN. BNSF sends significant traffic on both the Chicago routes (Burlington, Santa Fe)

East of Lemont, there is a Big UPS center on former SF route in Willow Springs were BNSF has their Willow Springs Intermodal facility. Don't know of any good viewing sites.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 9:47 PM

Thanks Backshop and Electroliner.

I went back and looked at the map again. Yes, it says IC. I have no idea how I got from that to NS.

I any event, I've decided that's where we'll begin following the BNSF towards Galesburg. Maybe I'll get lucky and catch a train in the downtown.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, March 25, 2021 10:03 AM

I believe that CN provides some local service on their line and UP runs some trains on trackage rights obtained by SP when they purchased the line to St Louis in the Chicago, Missouri & Western bankruptcy proceedings.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by IC_fan on Thursday, March 25, 2021 12:09 PM

 

There are a few things to do around Sterling / Rock Falls and Dixon, some of which were mentioned prior.

 

 

If / while you’re in Sterling, stop and park at the Dillon Home Museum adjunct to the C&NW (UP) mainline, then follow the short walking path from the museum parking lot under the mainline and along the riverfront.    Continue walking (south) across the dam and enjoy the view over your shoulder of the C&NW main as it traverses the river’s edge behind you.   My wife and I watched Big Boy from this location in 2019.
Leave Sterling through Rock Falls and (use your Garmin) follow Dixon Road out of Rock Falls east, toward Nelson and Dixon.
Stop near Nelson (as mentioned by others here) and note the concrete coaling tower which still stands.
Near Dixon, if you have the time you can investigate the now-abandoned C&NW Dixon bypass, reportedly a twin-tracked segment that departed from the C&NW mainline 1.5mi east of Nelson, travelled E-SE (around Dixon, south of town) for about 5mi, then turned N-NE and in about 1.5mi crossing the IC (at a point about half-way between Dixon and Eldena), crossing US52 at the intersection of Burkett Rd., then continuing toward Nachusa where it rejoined the mainline.   If you study Google Earth images for a while you can make out the old right-of-way quite readily.   Much of the RoW has been returned to farmland, but there are occasional spots (near Nelson is one, where it diverges from the main; adjacent Pump Factory Road, about 1/2mi south of I-88 is, another).

 

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Thursday, March 25, 2021 7:04 PM

Thanks so much, CCSHEG and IC fan. Very good data.

I'm very pleased with the amount of input I'm getting here!

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Saturday, March 27, 2021 1:07 PM

We have now decided not to spend any nights in Chicago (we will go there in the afternoon to catch the Cardinal, and that's all), so we can spend more time roaming the Illinois countryside. Smile

My wife has decided she really wants to go to Galena, so we will do so. It looks like there is a good photo location there at the old depot.

How much traffic can I expect on that line? And whose line is it now? From what I've found so far, it would seem to be CN. But then I saw a reference to a BNSF wreck on that line. ??

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