April 2014 In the Corner with Rick Bivins

img006Tuscola Illinois circa 1986

I took delivery of a brand new Honda VF-500F Interceptor motorcycle in February of 1986. That machine and I were inseparable on weekends and days off for four years. One of my earliest trips on that bike was to Tuscola Illinois. Tuscola is located on the Illinois Central mainline 158 miles due south of Chicago Illinois. Also located at Tuscola was the Baltimore & Ohio line from Indianapolis to St Louis MO as well as the C&EI from south Chicago to Christian Illinois. Therefor Tuscola hosted three railroads of which the Illinois Central was double track. These three railroads crossed at grade requiring a tower. The ICRR ran north/south, the B&O ran east/west while the C&EI ran diagonally from north east to south west. Tuscola sported three railroads and five diamonds all controlled by TY Tower which was manned by the ICRR! Interestingly, the C&EI crossed the B&O on the east side of the ICRR then crossed the ICRR just south of the B&O’s crossing. Four of the diamonds were on the ICRR!img002

When I visited in 1986, there was evidence of a new track plant going in. A new bridge on the west side of the IC would carry the combined B&O/C&EI line across the ICRR where the two railroads (B&O & C&EI) would then split. The ICRR line would be reduced to a single track. Very quickly five diamonds were reduced to one! And that was a cue to de-commission TY Tower.

img003While trains were the focal point and the tower being a bonus, Tuscola was not as well known for its rail activity among rail fans as it was known for the tower operators. Tuscola had one of the meanest; most un-friendly (first shift) railroad employee’s imaginable. This guy was even documented in Trains Magazine! Also at TY Tower was Bob, the second shift operator. Bob was a great guy and let many railfans into the tower. As for the first shift operator…..well…..more than one visitor had a run in with him…. including yours truly!

On my first visit I approached the tower and the operator with respect and caution. I gave the operator a shout as to when a train would be coming by when he yelled quite bluntly…”I ain’t no (expletive) rail-fan”. His tone was so harsh and angered I simply turned and walked back to my motorcycle and watched from a distance. I was at a dis-advantage and felt no need to be confrontational.img008

Bob, the second shift operator was much more polite. I never made it into the tower which I regret. I learned later that Bob was much more hospitable and by the time I returned the show was over. Two things that are well known about the tower among fans, TY Tower was home to some very brave mice (rats) and never lean on the north window sill. One look (at that time) at the peeling paint and stains would cause one to question. Bob would say (…no bathroom up here so…..)!

img007I do not know when TY Tower closed. In May of 1994 the mechanical plant was dismantled and some of the machinery made to a local museum. The Illinois Central Railroad offered the tower to the city of Tuscola for one dollar! But the tower had to be moved. The city did not take the tower and it was demolished some time in 1994.

Tuscola is one of many places my motorcycle and I had rail encounters. While not the best train spot or busiest place or even what one would call a scenic place, Tuscola is a place of engrained rail-fan memories. TY Tower is certainly a “keeper” memory.

April 2014 Matt’s Musings: A Recap

by Matt Gentry

NS ES44AC #8047 is serving as DPU for an empty coal drag headed out of the Yankeetown Docks in Newburgh, IN on April 5, 2014 while a second NS train waits fro her crew to do the same -Matt Gentry

NS ES44AC #8047 is serving as DPU for an empty coal drag headed out of the Yankeetown Docks in Newburgh, IN on April 5, 2014 while a second NS train waits fro her crew to do the same
-Matt Gentry

As I find myself creating The PennyRail for the fourth month, I have taken a look back at that time. Why am I doing this already? Well, I’m looking back on it already with a sense of pride. For starters, I was wondering if it were something that I could set a monthly deadline for myself to meet, and so far I have. Score one little victory to me! Although I probably should not count those chickens before they hatch yet…looking at the month of May I don’t have any weekends free at all.

I think that the next bit is the fact that I have been able to become more active in the chapter and in the meetings. Sure, I have gotten around to regularly attending meetings, but I wanted more involvement. As it turns out, this has filled that role for me.

CEFX #3129 crosses main street in Walton KY headed south for Louisville on March 23, 2014 -Matt Gentry

CEFX #3129 crosses main street in Walton KY headed south for Louisville on March 23, 2014
-Matt Gentry

The largest part of my enjoyment of all of this has got to be getting to know more of the chapter members. Sure, I knew the regular chapter members, but outside of meeting night I would rarely see them until the next meeting! Ever since Rick Bivins and I have begun communicating via text message I have been up to date regularly on the happenings of his building and layout, we have gone on spontaneous outings to Gorham, IL, Princeton, IN, Bowling Green, KY and Hopkinsville, KY. On the few trips that I have taken that have been family trips, I have managed to get down to the tracks and watch a few trains and share images with Rick, thus adding to places to rail fan in the near future and thus adding possibilities in my search to photograph the Heritage and special interest locomotives on the nations rail network.

On these few rail fan outings, a few other members have been able to join us. The stories and locations that Donny Knight has told me about in his travels for rail fanning just make me want to get out that much more! I have been working with some of his video recordings and even though it is the P&L loading out coal, I would have never seen any of this footage without having been present and having conversation and hearing the stories.

Former SP #9347 waits to follow up NS #8047 to head out of the Yankeetown Docks for more coal on April 5, 2014 - Matt Gentry

Former SP #9347 waits to follow up NS #8047 to head out of the Yankeetown Docks for more coal on April 5, 2014 – Matt Gentry

Thomas Bryan has been along on some of the trips too. And let me just say that I wish I had half of the railroad knowledge that Thomas has read and retained. Even if I were to pick up and read every article that Thomas has, I still would not retain what I read. (I’ll be the first to admit I learn by doing. Learning by reading is difficult for me.)

UP 1996 SD70ACe, made by Athearn, pulls an intermodal train on Keith Kittenger’s layout on April 10, 2014 -Matt Gentry

UP 1996 SD70ACe, made by Athearn, pulls an intermodal train on Keith Kittenger’s layout on April 10, 2014
-Matt Gentry

One of the harder decisions I had to make in my “career” of model railroading was making the switch from O gauge to HO. There were many determining factors that I considered, and to be honest I almost made the switch to N gauge! But in the end, I landed in HO and thankfully Keith Kittenger has opened up his layout about once a month and has allowed me track time with my locomotives and various pieces of rolling stock that I have brought. Just last Thursday I half-hazardly learned how to program locomotive numbers with his Digitrax DCC system. For only having used the system three times for only a few hours each time, I’m pretty happy with myself.

Yankeetown Dock Corp SD38-2 #20, made by Kato and custom detailed, pulls a string of coal cars under the coal loading facility at Keith Kittengers layout on April 10, 2014 with Jim Kemp listening intently to the conversation out of frame. -Matt Gentry

Yankeetown Dock Corp SD38-2 #20, made by Kato and custom detailed, pulls a string of coal cars under the coal loading facility at Keith Kittengers layout on April 10, 2014 with Jim Kemp listening intently to the conversation out of frame. -Matt Gentry

The best part about all of this is that it is just (hopefully) going to continue to get better! Sure there will be slower times with everyone’s work schedule not lining up, the weather won’t always be conducive, or the trains may not be running on a particular day, but what is a chapter or a club all about anyway? I most certainly think the answer is about the camaraderie, learning and self growth and improvement. And what I have found in those categories over the last few months, I wouldn’t trade anything for.

So in the end, here is to the continuation of being trackside at various points around the country, even if it is more local than anything, and to more bull sessions at various home and garage layouts!

April 2014 The Prez Sez

by Tom Johnson, Chapter President

Greetings to all chapter members and friends!

Our March meeting was another good one. We had fifteen people in attendance and we all enjoyed ourselves.
One of my goals for this year was accomplished at the March meeting, namely the purchase of a back-up overhead projector that we can use for slide presentations and for times when the old unit in the Depot doesn’t want to work. We voted to buy Chuck Hinrichs’ projector for $250. The motion was passed with a unanimous vote.

We have some details to work out as far as where the unit will be kept. We may have the means to lock it up safely at the Depot between meetings.

The subject for discussion at the March meeting was “Why did the IC RR continue to use steam locomotives on their coal trains in western Kentucky so long after other railroads had gone to diesel-electrics exclusively?”

Someone said that they believed that the continuing use of steam was just a manifestation of the IC’s tendency to use equipment until it was “used up.” Someone even said the IC believed equipment should be used until it is worn out and then re-built and used again. Another reason put forth was that the IC had that excellent roundhouse and shop in Paducah where steam locomotives could be totally rebuilt. Investments in the steam locomotive fleet had been made as late as the 1940s and even the early 1950s, so the fleet was in good shape in the mid 1950s.

Whatever their reasons, your Old Prez is grateful to the IC that they kept those steam locomotives running as long as they did because that allowed me to see them in action “up close and personal” when I spent summers with my grandmother in 1958, 1959, and 1960. Her house was only 100 feet from the tracks on the “Old Line” that ran from Dawson Springs to Central City. Those locomotives were something I will never forget.

I ask you chapter members again to please submit your ideas for the discussion part of our meetings. You submit those ideas by emailing Matt Gentry at the Chapter Email address, info@westkentuckynrhs.org. Ideas are used on a first come first served basis.
Hey, a few chapter members have been getting together over the last few weeks and going train spotting. It has not worked out so that I could go but I have been asked several times and I appreciate it. Maybe one of these days I will be able to go. If you would like to be included when some of the members are going train spotting, just let it be known that you would like to be asked; I’m sure you would be welcome.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing all of you at the next meeting on April 21, 2014.

2014 Summerail at C.U.T.

Submitted by Chuck Hinrich

Summerail Hotel Information

For those coming to Summerail this year you might be interested in the Summerail group rate at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel at 500 West 3rd St., Covington, KY 41011. This is the hotel made famous by the balconies overlooking the C&O bridge approach on the south side of the Ohio River.

1 King bed $129         2 Queen beds $139

I know the rate is not that cheap, but I was lucky to get them just $5 higher then last year. The Reds are in town this weekend so rooms will go fast.

There are cheaper hotels around the Florence, KY, area, but for sure they don t have a view like the Marriott Courtyard and not as close to CUT.

Anyway, if you are interested telephone reservations can be made by calling the Marriott reservations at 800-321-2211 or directly with the Marriott Courtyard at 859-491-4000. You should of course mention the Courtyard Cincinnati Covington and the Summer Rail Group to get the group rates.

The group rates are only available until Friday 7/18/2014, so please be sure to make your arrangements early. Unreserved rooms will be released, and our block will be closed.

April 2014 Railflicks: CSX Henderson Sub

Railflicks

This DVD should be in every Chapter member’s collection; it is our “home sub.” I purchased my copy from someone on eBay, but Green Frog (www.greenfrog.com) offers it for $11.98 plus shipping. Two Chapter members, the late Dennis Carnal and Chuck Hinrichs, assisted in the production of this video.

The Henderson Sub runs from Nashville to Howell Yard in Evansville. It passes right through good old Madisonville and runs right outside the door of our meeting place at the depot.

We are shown some very familiar scenes as we travel north from Nashville along the Henderson Sub. We see the Hopkinsville Depot where we meet every May and the nearby freight house. We see Gumlick Trestle, Crofton, and scenes from Madisonville.

If you don’t already have it, you should add this video to your collection.

Mystery Location for April 2014

mystery

This is the old station sat on trackage running from Gracey, KY to Clarksville, TN. The station was finally torn down early this year.
The initial railroad was the Indiana, Alabama and Texas Railroad and later the L&N. The line was built in the 1850’s and abandoned in 1934.

Submitted by Chuck Hinrich
Photo by Chuck Hinrich

Remember that starting this month, guesses will be taken at meeting time and thrown into a hat. The first name drawn with the correct answer will get first pick of the items that are up for raffle.

March 2014 Area Railfanning

Ice at Madisonville. -Rick Bivins

Ice at Madisonville. -Rick Bivins

by Matt Gentry

If there is anyone who absolutely despises cold weather, it is this guy right here. Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love summer and the heat it brings, cold weather provides a nice break. But, once Christmas and New Years is

Ice at Madisonville. -Rick Bivins

Ice at Madisonville. -Rick Bivins

over, I want the heat to return. This year has been exceptionally depressing on the temperature front with the “Polar Vortex” and the frozen precipitation we have had. And it goes without saying that no one in the area has been left out! Snow and ice down in Atlanta and the Carolina’s? OK, great Mother Nature, let’s get a little warmth back.

Two northbound UP trains meet at Gorham, IL on February 18, 2014 -Thomas Bryan

Two northbound UP trains meet at Gorham, IL on February 18, 2014 -Thomas Bryan

As it goes for many of us who share the same enjoyment of trains and railroading, it has not been a winter to get out to do much, if any, rail fanning. That is until mid February. I had been keeping an eye on the temperatures for about a week and saw that Tuesday, February 18th was potentially going to be a nice enough day to go chase trains. I made mention of it to Rick Bivins and we both threw out the idea of making a trip to one of our favorite spots, Gorham, Illinois. Albeit

Northbound out of Yankeetown, Indiana Southern and two former SP locomotives go to get another load of coal on February 22, 2014 -Matt Gentry

Northbound out of Yankeetown, Indiana Southern and two former SP locomotives go to get another load of coal on February 22, 2014 -Matt Gentry

last minute, to Gorham we went with Donny Knight and Thomas Bryan joining along for the day.

Upon arriving just about 45 minutes after Rick & Donny, we were immediately greeted with a northbound Union Pacific stack train with 2 brand new SD70Ace’s (possibly SD70AH) headed up the Mt. Vernon subdivision. My reaction? “It’s going to be a great day.”

What made this trip even more of an adventure for me was twofold; 1) the purchase of a new high definition digital video camera not two days before our journey (did I plan it that way? …maybe), and 2) for being my fourth trip to Gorham, all previous trips had actually been fairly lackluster for me! Gorham and lackluster in the same sentence you ask? Yes. Two of the previous three occasions had track maintenance being performed to the south and traffic on the Chester Subdivision was virtually at a standstill for the better part of eight hours. Thankfully, this day did not disappoint!

A very dirty YDC #21 heads to the north end of the yard to push a cut of cars up to the unloading docks at Yankeetown IN. on February 22, 2014 -Matt Gentry

A very dirty YDC #21 heads to the north end of the yard to push a cut of cars up to the unloading docks at Yankeetown IN. on February 22, 2014 -Matt Gentry

It wasn’t a few days later and the weather still continued to cooperate and I managed to catch some rail activity not a few miles from my house! As some of you know, I live not very far from the Alcoa aluminum plant and Vectren power plant to the east of Evansville along Highway 66 (Lloyd Expwy). This day, I witnessed Indiana Southern (now Genesee & Wyoming) pulling an empty coal drag north towards Boonville. Interestingly enough, there were two former Southern Pacific locomotives in the consist! I am fairly certain that these units were slugs only. They had no prime mover in the locomotive.

After this sighting, I figured what the heck, I’ll head up towards the power plant and see if I can see anything working in the yard. As luck would have it, I was able to catch one of the Yankeetown Dock Corp locomotives, #21, shoving loaded coal cars up to the docks to be unloaded! I couldn’t believe it! It still exists! With this kind of luck, I decided I should head up to Princeton Indiana to see what traffic I could see in the area. Princeton is a great train spotting location because the CSX and Norfolk Southern cross at grade on the south side of town.

After mentioning this to Rick, we decided to plan a day in Princeton. Once again, rather last minute, but we went to Princeton on Monday February 24th. We took a risk going on a Monday, but I wanted to arrive early enough to check and see what kind of NS trains would be going through. Surprisingly we were not disappointed in the slightest. We saw at least six NS trains and one (maybe two) CSX trains for the day.

After all of this, my plans for the year are to make as many outings as possible to do some rail fanning in the area and possibly make some longer distance trips to new locations. After all, I do have a new video camera to use!

And speaking of the camera and my videos, below there are videos to of our day in Gorham Illinois and a video containing the Indiana Southern and Yankeetown locomotives.

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