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Milwaukee Road 261 Grand Excursion 2004

by Chris Guenzler

Milwaukee Road 261 Chicago to Rock Island 6/25/2004

I went to Gate B and was greeted by Joe Harper, the guy in the white car on the Wallowa Valley Trip who sent me an excellent video of the trip. Just after 10:30 AM the Milwaukee Road 261 backed into Track 29 and I was at the door for the press event to start the Grand Excursion of 2004. I was interviewed by the press about my being here to ride the train. Once that was over, I boarded the SP Golden Sands for the trip to Rock Island.

The Milwaukee Road 261 departed Chicago Union Station at 11:03 AM to officially start the Grand Excursion of 2004 and we made a smoky exit as we turned west onto the BNSF climbing the short grade. We rolled down the triple track mainline Aurora Speedway. The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed the Des Plaines River before we made a passenger pick up at La Grange and Stone Avenue then later at Route 59 where several more rare mileage passengers I know boarded.

The Milwaukee Road 261 sped through Aurora by the ex CB&Q Roundhouse and Metra Station before curving through town to cross the Fox River. I rode in the vestibule off and on wearing my safety glasses as the Milwaukee Road 261 is a living breathing coal burning cinder throwing machine. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed across the Illinois countryside as it crossed Big Creek and flew through Plano at track sped. Little Rock Creek was next followed by passing through the town of Sandwich. Somonauk Creek was crossed right before the town of the same name and US 34 joined our route so watching the chasers was fun. Little Indian Creek was crossed before Leland and later Indian Creek before we reached Earlville with the former CNW {UP} crossing. The Milwaukee Road 261 sped across Sutphenes Run before running through Meridan and ducking under Interstate 35.

The Milwaukee Road 261 curved into Mendota and stopped to service the engine. Most of the town came out to see the Milwaukee Road 261 pull in and out of their town. We departed Mendota and continued across the rolling farmlands of Illinois. We ran through Clarion and Arlington before we came to Zearing and zipped through the place. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed across Bureau Creek before rolling through Malden and Princeton then crossed Epperson Run. Bureau Creek was crossed again followed by Maple Grove Creek and passed through Wynnet. The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed Hennipen Creek then went over the ex Rock Island line now Iowa Interstate that route of Milwaukee Road 261 trip on Sunday. The landscape became more rolling as we approached Buda with the station still standing there and crossed the former CNW {UP} line on a high fill. We crossed Coal Creek, flew through Neponset, crossed Tomahawk Creek and rolled by the Amtrak Station at Kewanee. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed through Galva, crossed Mud Creek and continued through Altona passing the Southwest Chief. The train sped through Oneida before we slowed at Galesburg Junction where the track that the Milwaukee Road 261 will be taking take off in the opposite direction that we are traveling. We serviced the Milwaukee Road 261 and passed the Galesburg Amtrak Station where there were thousands of people. Signs welcomed the Milwaukee Road 261 to Galesburg Railroad Days that was starting tomorrow. We ran to the junction of the Peoria Line and ran down it beyond a switch where we backed around a wye onto the Quincy Line. A little new trackage there. We pulled forward to the junction with the BNSF mainline where the Milwaukee Road 261 left rods were greased.

The Milwaukee Road 261 stopped at the Amtrak Station for ice before we headed out of Galesburg. We returned to the junction now pointing in the right direction and started up the BNSF Barstow Subdivision also known as the Peavine Line. We also started my new mainline mileage for this trip. This line is single track with sidings. The line first passed the short siding of Bouhan before it crossed Henderson Creek for the first of two crossings. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed through Henderson then crossed the creek of the same name before the 261 reached Rio. Our train continued steaming through Alpha and then Ophiem before the Milwaukee Road 261 crossed Mud Creek. The lines up and down profile continued to Lynn Center before we crossed the Camp River.

The MilwaukeeRoad 261 continued to curve with the contours of the land to Orion where we followed Mosquito Creek crossing it three times before Warren. When we reached the Rock River Floodplain we ducked under Interstate 74 before we run through Briar Bluff. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed into Colona where there used to be a crossing of the Rock Island. An Iowa Interstate Railroad train derailed and took out the crossing. It was replaced by a switch to the east and the Interstate trains use the BNSF from Moline to reach their tracks east towards Bureau.

The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed across the Rock River at flood stage before rolling into Barstow. The Milwaukee Road 261 was walked slowly around the west leg of the wye so we could head west towards Rock Island. The Milwaukee Road 261 slowly made its way west running to the north of the former Rock Island Silvas Shops. The Mississippi River came into view to the north as we steamed into East Moline. We ran under the Interstate 74 bridge into Moline. The Milwaukee Road 261 slowly made the last few miles into Rock Island as there were people everywhere waving and taking pictures of the Milwaukee Road 261 and train. We passed the former Rock Island Depot and Jumpers Casino as we made our grand entrance into Rock Island where the next day's newspaper said that over 5,000 people had come down to welcome the Milwaukee Road 261 to Rock Island. The Milwaukee Road 261 was cut off from the train and the Amtrak then pulled the train to the unloading area. Our trip ended and what a welcome the people of Rock Island gave the Milwaukee Road 261!

Davenport 6/25/2004

After I detrained I found a taxi cab and for $17 got me to the Best Western Steeplegate Inn where I relaxed for the night.

Milwaukee Road 261 Davenport to Savanna 6/26/2004

Up early I walked over to a closed cinema which was a shuttle stop location. Unfortunately no shuttle ever showed up during my nearly hour stay. There were no signs or anything else. As I sat there, John and Sharon now living in Davenport were looking for the shuttle too. After waiting together and no shuttle to take them to their river cruise today, they drove me down to Davenport Union Station where I waited for the Milwaukee Road 261 to pull in. Here I met Ken Hanson and we shared a great conversation. Ken later backed his truck up so I could get elevation over the throngs of people here when the Milwaukee Road 261 pulled in at 8:45 AM. I boarded the Golden Sands once more this time in the middle of the car for my trip to Savanna.

The Milwaukee Road 261 departed at 9:10 AM starting out on new trackage today and looking back I could see Lock and Dam 16 with the railroad bridge to Rock Island behind as I look at the Mississippi River still at flood level. At the village of East Davenport in Lindsey Park there was a Civil War Reenactment. We passed the Island of Rock Island with the Arsenal and a Confederate Cemetery holding over 8,000 souls. We went under the Memorial Bridge carrying Interstate 74 over the river. Kathy Hall was my seat mate and an excellent guide who was traveling with three other very interesting and fantastic lady friends. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed through Bettendrof an industrial area of Davenport. We rolled by the huge Alcoa Aluminum Plant then entered Riverdale with the town located on the hill. The Bettendrof/Riverdale area used to be the Onion Capitol of the World. We next rolled through Pleasant Valley which lived up to the name before we ran under Big Hill. Lock and Dam 15 was passed next with the Le Claire Canal with Smith Island off to the south. The Milwaukee Road 261 ran through Le Claire, a suburb of Davenport, home of Buffalo Bill before we rolled under Interstate 80 and the river turned north. At MP 178 we rolled by the Buffalo Bill Museum as we steamed by the river's edge. Le Claire Quarry was passed as we crossed Silver Creek and minutes later we pulled through Princeton then by the Princeton State Wildlife Management Area to the east and cornfields to the west. We crossed the Wapsipinican River named for a Indian Boy and Girl friend who drowned in the river. Along here reminds me of bayous. The Milwaukee Road 261 ran by another gravel pit and by the Rock Creek County Park. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed through Saffton and then the town of Comanche with a UP coal train in the siding. We pulled into Clinton with the ex CNW {UP} mainline with yard to the north and the large ADM plant to the south with 4 plant engines.

The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed the UP mainline right before they cross the Mississippi River into Illinois. A few minutes later across the river is the town of Fulton. We passed Lock and Dam 13 then Deer Creek Siding and ran under Eagle Point then through Burgress Hollow. The Mississippi River is at its largest width along here. The Milwaukee Road 261 trestled over Silver Creek and ran into Pommede Terra Prairie then crossed the Elk River and under Blad Point. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed by Cooks, Mound, Dixie and Hubbel Islands all out in the Mississippi River and under Waneta Point.

The Milwaukee Road 261 ran to Sabulu Jct. At Sabula we found Camp Drink A Lot, a camp we know I would never attend. Here we wyed the train by pulling forward, backing, forward and finally backing the rest of the way to Savanna.

The Milwaukee Road 261 backed over the Mississippi River Bridge into Illinois then crossed a causeway with Edick Lake to the east. As we backed into Savanna we crossed the former CB&Q {BNSF} line before we came to a stop to service the Milwaukee Road 261.

An Iowa, Chicago and Eastern freight train was waiting to depart. I borrowed Debbie Crimmin's cell phone to call Lets Talk Trains, the Internet Radio Show. The ICE freight train headed into Iowa before we departed Savanna at 12:48 PM.

We followed the freight train out to the bridge slowly and the Lilly Belle paddle boat passed our train out on the river.

I spent most of my time in the lounge car on the way back socializing.

At Clinton I photographed the ADM engine as we passed by them. We arrived back in Davenport at 3:24 PM ending another excellent Milwaukee Road 261 adventure.

Davenport 6/26/2004

Kathy and her lady friends offered me a ride back to the Steeplegate Inn so that took care of getting me back. Everything works out if you let it. I went to an early dinner. While I was looking at my Grand Excursion Route Guide, James and Elaine of Oswego, Oregon introduced themselves to me and later offered a ride down to the train in the morning solving yet another problem. I went to the Shell Station for some supplies before watching Cal State Fullerton Titans and the Texas Longhorns in game one of the College World Series. The Titans won game one of the best of three. Bob Riskie arrived into Davenport and arrived in the room at 9:15 PM with plenty of stories to tell. We called it a night and got a good night of sleep.

Milwaukee Road 261 Rock Island to Bureau and return 6/27/2004

Following another free excellent hot breakfast by the hotel, James and Elaine drove Bob and I over to Rock Island to wait to board the train. This gave me a chance to finally get the train consist Chicago to St Paul. Milwaukee Road S-3 261 4-8-4, Auxiliary tender 250002. Amtrak P42DCs 125 and 135, NSR 1615 MR Grand Canyon, NSR 31 MR Minnesota River, ALAX 800861 Arizona, UP Echo Canyon, SP Golden Sands, Santa Fe Tolani, CZ CB&Q Silver Larch, Amtrak Horizon 54153 and 54578, Penn Henry Hudson, Santa Fe Mohave, NSR 3103 MR Wisconsin Valley, PECX 800797 Lancaster & Chester Springmaid Line, Katy 1202R Springmaid Line J Pickney Henderson, 800197 Montana, 800702 Lambert Point, 800275 Sierra Hotel and 800040 Cedar Rapids. At 8:35 AM Bob and I boarded the Santa Fe Tolani for our trip today.

The Milwaukee Road 261 departed Rock Island and as we exited town we rolled by the former Rock Island Depot now a banquet hall called Abbey Station. Today is the first cloudy day of the Milwaukee Road 261 trips with a chance of rain as we slowly rolled through Moline. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed through East Moline and to the south later the former Rock Island Shops at Silvas. We will not be on the former Rock Island until we reach Colona this morning. The train continued east to Barstow where we slowly went around the southwest wye. The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed the Rock River still flowing high at flood stage.

Minutes later we slowly rolled onto the former Rock Island now Iowa Interstate at Colona. The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed the Green River as it entered a dense forest and passed a series of lakes. Most of the town of Green River came out to see the Milwaukee Road 261 steam through their town before we continued east across the farmlands and forests.

We pulled into Geneseo where the entire town came out to see the Milwaukee Road 261. This was a passenger stop on this trip. Speeches were made and after a twenty five minute stop and we left town at 11:20 AM. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed east across the Illinois Farmlands through Atkinson.

I enjoyed watching the pacers on US 56 as the Milwaukee Road 261 steamed under Interstate 80 on the way to Annawan. The highway Hi-jenks continued as we rolled through Mineral. The Milwaukee Road 261 rolled through Sheffield with the Rock Station still standing in a white paint scheme with no bankrupt blue. We next ran under the former CNW {UP} Nelson to Peoria line. At Wynnett we ran under the ex CB&Q {BNSF} line that I had always ridden over on Amtrak as well as the Milwaukee Road 261 two days ago. The Hennipen Canal came in on the north side with the Lock and Dam 3. The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed Bureau Creek several times, passed Lake Arispie and then the Hennipen Canal before we arrived in Bureau.

The Milwaukee Road 261 Passed an Iowa Interstate unit on a local before we ran down the siding with a tight curve to the Peoria Line which we pulled down.

The Milwaukee Road 261 backed up the mainline passed the former Rock Island Depot in the middle of a huge wye with a sea of people all waiting to see the Milwaukee Road 261. Once the switch was thrown, the Milwaukee Road 261 pulled up to the depot on the Rock Island mainline to be serviced and watered.

The Milwaukee Road 261 and train departed at 1:20 PM for the trip back to Rock Island. I spent the trip back socializing with various people that I know from other trips. We ran back to Geneseo where the Milwaukee Road 261 was serviced. We left Geneseo at 4:42 PM and headed west to Barstow where we had to stop to line a switch. We slowly made our way into Rock Island ending another exciting Milwaukee Road 261 adventure when we arrived at 6:30 PM.

Davenport 6/27/2004

Keith Johnson, a railfan from Cedar Rapids gave Bob and I a ride back to the hotel so we got lucky again not having to pay for a cab, Bob and I went out to dinner at the Thunder Bay Grill with Erika our wonderful server who brought me a delicious steak. We stopped by the Shell Station for more Coca-Cola for the trip tomorrow. When I returned to the hotel I checked my E-mail and then found out that Cal State Fullerton had defeated the Texas Longhorns 3-2 to became the 2004 College World Series Champions. We called it the end of another great day and got a great nights sleep.

Milwaukee Road 261 Davenport to Dubuque 6/28/2004

Following another great free hot breakfast, we waited in the lobby for a taxi cab down to the train. A different cab company sped us downtown and I walked over to look at jail before taking a picture of the ex Milwaukee Road Freight House and Davenport Union Station. While we waited jokes about taxi cabs in Davenport among other local related events were made. The Milwaukee Road 261 finally steamed by us to the loading locations before all the passengers boarded. I was second on the Golden State taking the Mississippi River side for the trip to Dubuque.

We departed Davenport at 10:19 AM and it would be a repeat of the trip to Savanna as far as Sabulu Jct so I just sat back and relaxed.

The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed the Union Pacific at Clinton. At Sabulu today, there were no Camp Drink A Lot boaters present today. The Milwaukee Road 261 was serviced at the north end of the Sabulu Wye.

The Milwaukee Road261 departed Sabulu Jct at 12:40 PM and I would be on new trackage until River Jct across the river from La Crosse tomorrow. We ran by the small yard at Samoa before crossing under the highway that runs from Sabulu to Savanna. Bards Lake could be seen through the trees followed by Joe Day Lake. The old Milwaukee Road mainline used to be double tracked to Green Island as this part of our route used to be part of the mainline to Omaha used by the UP City Trains on the Milwaukee Road. We ran by Emay Slough which is part of Cavanaugh Bottom. Beaver Creek was crossed on a former double track bridge. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed by Little Kelly Lake with Rip Rap Island in it. More bottom lands as we ran along prior to Upper Brown Lakes. The Milwaukee Road 261 rolled across Smith Creek then at Green Island there was a Chicago, Illinois and Eastern train in the siding. The grade of the former Milwaukee Road Line could be seen to the west. The Milwaukee Road 261 then crossed the Maqueket River and then ran along the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge with Browns Lake in its boundaries. The fields along here are still partially flooded while the highway is full of pacers. We returned to some river running before we reached Bellevue where Lock and Dam 12 is located. We passed Potters Mill now a B&B before we turned and ran down 2nd Street. The whole town came out to see the Milwaukee Road 261 as the train rolled through their town with the Milwaukee Road 261 using both of the whistles and air horn. As we passed through Bellevue the Delta Queen steamed by on the Mississippi River at the same time.

North of Bellevue the floodplain widens and farming takes over. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed along Bellevue Slough with boats chasing the train as we made our way to Gordons Ferry. We passed the Julies Belle Swain, a paddle wheeler out on the river. The train ran by Hole Island before crossing Tete Des Morts Creek. We ran through Massy before running under Horseshoe Bluff and across Catfish Creek. The 261 had to wait at Woods for a westbound CN freight on the former Illinois Central that we will run on into Dubuque. A flotilla of small boats had to wait for us to move before they could pace us into Dubuque with the Anson Northrup from Minnesota involved in welcoming the Milwaukee Road 261 to Dubuque. We pulled into the CN Adair Yard and ran under the Jullen Dubuque Bridge with arriving in front of the old CB&Q Station at 3:08 PM.

Dubuque 6/28/04

Once in Dubuque the transportation mess started all over again. No taxis! We were told to walk to the Grand Excursion Headquarters and transportation would be provided for free by buses. A women tripped over my luggage but was ok. All she then wanted to do was talk about tripping telling everyone who was waiting for the bus what had happened. I got tired of hearing her go on and on and on. I asked Bob if he wanted to go find a cab in town but he wanted to wait for the bus. The competition was on. Who would get to the hotel first? I found a cab on the road into town and she called a cab to meet me at the Dubuque County Building. I got there and called making sure one was called. I walked out in front and within two minutes the cab showed up taking me to the Best Western Dubuque Inn for $9.25. I arrived at 3:48 PM, checked in and ordered the Shuttle for 8:30 AM to take us back to the train. Bob showed up at 5:00 PM and later we went to Perkins for dinner. Later I went to see Jackie Chan "Around the World in 80 Days" and it was a great movie but had no outtakes at the end. Bob had taken the Shuttle Bus back into town and he walked across the Mississippi River to East Dubuque. He beat me back from the movie and following a few phone calls we called it a night.

Milwaukee Road 261 Dubuque to La Crosse 6/29/2004

Following another free excellent hot breakfast this one with great waffles that you make. I went to the store for more supplies. We took the Hotel Shuttle {Thank you Dubuque Inn} down to the ex CB&Q Depot which I visited. The Milwaukee Road 261 backed the train into the depot on a beautiful cool late June summer morning. I boarded the Golden Sands at 9:07 AM back in my usual seat.

The Milwaukee Road 261 departed Dubuque at 10:00 AM and at CN Junction was a train with an IC and Cedar Rapids Units. We headed out through an industrial area before we curved through the yard. The Milwaukee Road 261 picked up speed and steamed through Eagle Pond then by Lock and Dam 11. The train ran through Edmore and by the large industry to the west of the tracks then crossed Maquoketa Rive before we rolled through Rose. We slowed to cross Leisure Creek and the Juliet Belle Swain was seen again as we headed north with a BNSF freight across the Mississippi River. Spechts Ferry was passed next along with Rosebrook Island followed by Cameroom which was next along our route. Out on the river there was the Harriett Belle and Anson Northrup before we spotted two more but they went behind Hurricane Island and we went through some forest. The Lilly Belle was docked at North Buena Vista with Sweeny Island out on the river. Out in the Mississippi River the Picayunne Chute takes the main channel away and the Milwaukee Road 261 ran by Wood Duck Slough then Dean and Spring Lakes. We crossed the Turkey River prior to reaching Guttenburg where Lock and Dam 10 is located. We passed through the town where everyone came out to see the Milwaukee Road 261. Highlight for me was the guy drinking out of a paper bag sitting against a building in the shade being woken up by the Milwaukee Road 261 steaming by and all the kids in the city pool who stopped swimming to wave at the train.

North of Guttenburg the Milwaukee Road 261 ran along French Town Lake then past Fresh and Hovie Islands before the train steamed through Clayton. Staying under the bluff the Milwaukee Road 261 whistled by the cement plant before we ran below Aram Point. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed by the Effigy Mounds State Reserve and on to McGregor. I went back to get a Milwaukee Road 261 Hot Dog and found none other than Mr 261 Steve Sandberg serving Hot Dogs as we passed the Delta Queen on the river. It was interesting to watch the pacers on the highway as we passed more of the Effigy Mounds State Reserve South Unit. The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed the Yellow River where we lost the pacers then ran under Eagle and Hangman Rocks. I talked to Alex from La Grange about some of my trips I had been on as the Milwaukee Road 261 passed through Harpers Ferry. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed north across the fields with the palisades to the west. We crossed Oil Spring Creek and later Wexford Creek as we returned to the river running.

The Milwaukee Road 261 left Lansing at 2:14 PM and immediately crossed under the highway bridge across the Mississippi River and by the Lansing Marina.

I got to enjoy more highway hi-jenks that kept my interests as we had cut away from the river along the National Wildlife Refuge to the siding at Kains. We crossed the Upper Iowa River before we arrived into New Albains. We entered Minnesota then crossed Winnebego Creek. The Milwaukee Road 261 steamed along Ice Haul Slough and went Under Twin Bluffs. Later we ran through Reno, under Fairy Rock and then by Wildcat Bluff. The traffic on the highway had to slow for Brownsville before the Milwaukee Road 261 steamed along some real nice wetlands. We crossed the Root Route River before we arrived into La Crescent. After the junction switch was aligned we ran on the east leg of the large wye to the mainline where we sat for river traffic for thirty minutes.

The Milwaukee Road 261 crossed the Mississippi River in Wisconsin followed by crossing the Black River into La Crosse arriving at the Amtrak Station at 4:35 PM. This ended my Milwaukee Road 261 riding until this Friday when I do the Circle Trip St Paul to La Crosse.

La Crosse 6/29/2004

Bob checked the luggage with the Amtrak agent in the beautiful La Crosse Amtrak Depot.

I shot a picture of the Milwaukee Road 261 before walking over to the yard to catch two Soo line Units. For dinner we walked over a mile into downtown La Crosse to a Burger King.

We returned to the bridge that overlooks the station catching first a train with an ex Conrail, CSX and CP Rail units switching his train.

The second westbound had a green FURX and CSX units passing through La Crosse. We went and reclaimed our luggage before relaxing on the "La Crosse Leisure Lounge Chairs" at the east end of the station. Our train to the Twin Cities was running an hour and five minutes late at last report at Columbus, WI. A nice couple of German descent joined Bob and I for some unique conversation.

Next a westbound CP train with another ex Conrail, CP Rail {new}, CP Rail {old} and two Soo Line {white} units. Next a single unit CP Rail train with 9640 AC 4400 with 28 cars and once he cleared the fun began.

Click here for Part 5 of the story.