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Rock Island to Iowa City Double-Headed Steam Excursion ~ October 19th, 2008

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Since Iowa Interstate's QJs were based in Iowa City and had been in Rock Island for the Rail Ride for Flood Relief trips the day before (see previous travelogue), the railway decided to sell tickets for a one-way ferry move of the two steam engines and passenger cars. Chris and I would ride this with Bob chasing and then picking us up in Iowa City.

What a sight it was to see QJ 2-10-2 6988 and 7081 on a side track switching to the main track in preparation for today's trip.

The Mississippi River behind as QJ 7081 reverses to the passenger cars.

Iowa Interstate 2-10-2 6988 with the Rock Island Centennial bridge in the background.

The steam engines are coupled to the commuter cars in readiness for the last excursion of the weekend. Chris and I had climbed a hill to get this excellent vantage point overlooking the tracks and he helped me negotiate the steepness. Even though it was just for a few moments, the feel of his hand in mine was like nothing I had ever felt before and it was very special.

The line of former Montreal commuter cars at Rock Island.

My ticket for today's trip. We boarded the train, consisting of QJs 6988 and 7081, Tool Car 9021, coaches 810, 820, 807, 819, 816, 804, 838 and 806, with business car 101 "Abraham Lincoln" and 100 "Hawkeye" bringing up the rear.

It was not long before we were off and crossing the Mississippi River for the last time, where we passed a group of barges in the locks.

Three bridges cross the Mississippi River in this part of the Quad Cities.

A view of the dam from through the commuter coach window. Chris and I enjoyed our trip and there was much hilarity between the two of us as we tried to, with permission, open the windows which only went down halfway, making photography a little difficult.

The west channel of the Mississippi River as viewed from Government Bridge.

My attempt at photographing the train on the curve at Davenport resulted in my camera focussing on Chris'! I would have to wait until Train Festival 2011 to take another picture in the same location, with everything in focus.

Double-headed steam on a cool autumn morning as the train enters street running on Fifth Street in Davenport, as taken by Bob who was chasing.

Although Bob missed the train going through West Liberty, he photographed the former Rock Island station here, at MP 221.3 of the Iowa Interstate Railroad. The platform is the former tracks that crossed the east-west line and was the route of the Twin Star Rocket.

Rock Island caboose 17030 on display at West Liberty. It was built in 1913 as a boxcar, converted to a caboose in 1940 and purchased from a museum in Adair, Iowa.

The steam train coming into Iowa City, MP 236.8.

Trackside view of the Rock Island station built in 1899.

Side view of the station.

The excursion train arriving at Iowa City. Chris and I detrained, met up with Bob and walked down to the front of the train for a picture.

Iowa Interstate 2-10-2 6988 on the point.

The train reversed past the station for the return to Newton, their home base.

The local television station was on hand to cover the event and interviewed a few of the riders, including Chris. The three of us returned to the car and drove to Atalissa, where we had seen a station from the train.

The former Rock Island station in Atalissa, MP 215.9 of the Iowa Interstate Railroad.

Farm buildings and the Atalissa station sign.

An eight-mile drive found us in Wilton, MP 207.6 and the brick Rock Island station.

The National Register of Historic Places plaque on the station at Wilton.

The Railway Express Agency sign on the trackside door.

A former Milwaukee Road caboose painted as Rock Island 17087 at Wilton. From here, we drove to Rochelle, Illinois to visit the Rochelle Railroad Park and Chris' first time here, Bob's and my second.

The Rochelle Railroad Park museum.

Whitcomb Locomotive 3 is on display. The Whitcomb compay was based in Rochelle.

A small steam engine shell that was once a Whitcomb 4 ton switcher which came from the Bucksgahuda & Western Railroad in St Marys, Pennsylvania.

Milwaukee Road caboose 992083 on display here.

The view looking toward the viewing platform.

Original 1854 Air Line Railroad section of track on display. The original Strap Rail railroad was laid down in January 1854 connecting Hickory Grove (Rochelle) and Chicago.

The double track diamond crossing in Rochelle.

A westbound BNSF double stack freight rolls past Rochelle as Chris takes a picture of it.

Chris' version of the BNSF double stack.

The train on its way west.

Next was a westbound Union Pacific train.

An eastbound Union Pacific double-stack followed.

Chris enjoying himself at Rochelle. We drove to O'Hare Airport, returned the rental car and flew back to our respective cities.

Today's double-headed steam excursion was the culmination of a once-in-a-lifetime series of train trips and thank you to the Iowa Interstate Railroad, the City of Rock Island, the Salvation Army and all the volunteers and employees who put these trips together.