Saturday, May 25, 2013

Track and Time

Sort of like a lull between trains while railfanning my posts have had some sizable gaps in between, and for that I apologize. This short post between longer missives is namely to let my readers know this blog is still "active" as well as this blogger. It's just that work has been… ahem, shall we say – challenging lately. Just in the past month I've been to Wisconsin once, Chicago twice, and the coming weeks will take me everywhere from Portland, Oregon to Queretaro, Mexico and in between. Not much awake time left to model railroad, let along blog.

Still, I have snuck in a few spare minutes here and there to watch the local rail action while on my travels. Back on a recent trip to Chicago I happened to drive this time, and on the way home Friday afternoon swung down a bit south of I-80 to poke around the last few miles of Metra's Southwest service branch to Manhattan, Illinois. Far from its more-cosmopolitan namesake this little farm town in the cornfields seems far-fetched to host heavy rail, CTC and multiple daily passenger trains stopping at the town depot, however it is true – and in 2013 to boot. Readers may recall I posted earlier that this line – along with the UP's former CNW Lake Geneva branch – form the nucleus of the design concept for my 1:87 scale UP-CNW Burlington Sub, now under construction in my basement train room.

Besides taking a large number of detailing photos – to assist with scenery building down the line – I shot this video (my second YouTube video – yay!) of Metra 830 departing inbound towards Chicago in the gray and hazy light. Talk about a neat little town and station location with lots of cool details (signals, crossing gates, derails) and loads of history too – this former junction of the Wabash and CM&G (the Chicago, Milwaukee and Gary – a Milwaukee Road subsidiary). While the Milwaukee is gone as well as the tower you could still see the concrete chairs where the Armstrong rods ran from the tower location. Sure, that is all dust in the wind now but Metra's track, signaling and schedule upgrades certainly make up for the loss – in that you can ride here on one ticket during weekdays from downtown Chicago Union Station and then return after a short 28 minute layover. Hopefully Metra will increase turnback service, and extend into the weekends as well.

I also managed to stop by on a subsequent Chicago visit to see Keith at Timberline Trains in Downers Grove, Illinois. He ordered a UPY road switcher for me – a Kato SD38-2 – for the Burlington Sub's yard and local service. Oh, I already have too many locomotives than what the Burlington Sub could possibly support – but I just love the silky-smooth powertrain in the Katos and can't resist the modern UP lightening stripe scheme. I plan on putting sound decoders in these – more on my jump to DCC in a later post – and use them for drilling cars in the yard. Anyway, I could have gotten this engine for less online but I like to support the LHS when I can – especially a nice browsing and BS'ing shop like Keith's. If you happen to be in the western suburbs – and especially if you're riding Metra's BNSF line – hop down the three blocks south of Downers Grove Main Street station to see this little gem.

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