I grew up in an area that lost its last passenger service in the spring of 1953 and, with the exception of one trip into New York from Hazleton via the Lehigh Valley, my family's vacations didn't provide many opportunities for rail travel, so it wasn't until the summer of 1974 that I'd accumulated both the time and the wherewithall to do some serious exploring by train.
I'd been out of college for two years after an abortive attempt at graduate study. None of the eastern roads were in a financial condition to do any hiring, so I had settled for working for the other side and landed a job as a central dispatcher for the suburban-Philadelphia-based Jones Motor Co.
So one Friday night early in October, I found myself on the side seat of a 1972 cab-over White, headed for Jones' Chicago terminal, a stone's throw from IC's Markham yard. The trip west was uneventful, but our primary route into Chicago used US 6 rather than the Turnpikes, so I got a good exposure to the B&O Chicago main through Nappanee, Walkerton and Bremen, for the first time.
I caught an IC(G) Highliner downtown, passing the site of the grisly Homewood wreck some two years before. Had a few hours to kill before the first leg, so stashed my bags at Union and walked over to LaSalle Street to view the remains of the Rock Island's operation, then down to the Roosevelt Road overpass.
After a couple of hours, I headed back to CUS, found my seat on No 5, and headed for my first view from a dome car as soon as I could be properly punched in. I was only going as far as Galesburg on that first leg and, upon arrival, headed for a motel with a view of the AT&SF main. I was in no shape to make much use of it that night, hovever, having been up for most of the previous 40 hours.
Most of Monday was spent circling and legally crossing the BN's Galesburg yard, and an overhead bridge provided a view of a fair amount of BN-predecessor power yet to be repainted. I got a lucky break at Seminary Street Tower, where the op was willing to admit a visiting railfan. What I remember most about Seminary was its ancient interlocking machine, conforming neither to the USS or GRS plants I was used to. The only time I was ever to encounter something like it again was at the EL/B&O crossing at Sterling, Ohio, which I managed to visit two years later just before the inception of Conrail.
I caught No 5 again that night, headed by one of the ill-fated EMD SDP-45's. The trip itself was uneventful, though I can remember a substantial inventory of passenger equipment and motive power apparently not accepted as part of the Heritage fleet and stored at Denver Union Station.
Tight scheduling han't permitted a Cheyenne layover, so I had to content myself with a distant glimpse of UP's legendary roundhouse. Tuesday is historically UP's slow day in Wyoming, domes weren't carried west of Denver, and the conductor wasn't going to allow me to see much from a dutch door. I had only ten days, so opted to ride straight through to Reno, where I spent only my second overnight prone-and-undressed since leaving Phillly.
Thursday gave me an opportunity to acquaint myself with the (financial-only) legalized diversions of the Silver State before boarding No 6 eastbound. I'd again been too exhausted to appreciate the landscape on the westbound trip, but the constant interplay between the gradients of one, and sometimes two railroad grades, and up to three highways brings out the frustrated civil engineer in me. Early Friday morning, I dropped Amtrak in Ogden and killed an hour or two before catching a shuttle bus to Salt Lake and the Rio Grande.
If Sherman Hill turned out to be a bit of a letdown, Soldier Summit was everything a railfan could ask for --- reverse curves, double track, tunnels still showing plenty of evidence from the days of steam. Then it was on to Grand Junction, Glenwood and Gore Canyon. We went into a siding only once, with a delay of no more than three minutes. The legendary master bedroom on the RGZ's ob had been appropriated by the crew as an office, but like a couple of other fans on the trip, I was invited to look around.
Many of the sidings on the Moffat route were blocked with no-longer-needed stock cars.The weather was unusually cold for the second week in October, even for Colorado, and it was snowing as we passed US 40 near Granby. Dusk came a little early, and it was completely dark when we entered the tunnel.
The rest of the trip was pleasant, but an anticlimax. After another "real" sleep, I reboarded No 6 in Denver and spent a mildly-beery evening in the dome with a couple of other railfans, nodding off somewhere around Holdredge, Nebraska. Woke up crossing the Mississipi at Burlington and dropped 6 in favor of the Lone Star form Galesburg to Chicago; can remember riding bi-level equipment from the former El Capitan.
Every railfan has a first-love road, and mine is, of course, the PRR. The Broadway was one of the first schedules to be fully re-outfitted in Amtrak colors, and I spent the first part of the trip coaxing tips out of an elderly stockbroker and watching Valparaiso, Wanatah, Fort Wane, Delphos and Lima pass, a shadow of their former selves. The trip had apparently been recommended to a number of Federal employees of my own age, so a pleasant time was spent in the lounge between Lima and Pittsburgh. When we finally adjourned, I stayed awake to witness a trip over the Alleghenies at night from the last car.
I got a little shut-eye between Altoona and Paoli, where the conductor roused me to meet a cab for the last lap to Spring City, Penna. Nearly thirty years have passed since that journey. The rail industry doesn't look much like it did back then, but then, neither do the truckers...or the airlines.
What a revoltin' development this is! (William Bendix)