The Burlington Northern Santa Fe's Barstow Subdivision runs between Galesburg, IL and Savanna, IL, a total distance of about 96 miles. Due to its curvey nature, the Barstow Sub
is commonly refered to as the "Peavine". I'll be covering the Peavine from Orion, MP 30, to Hillsdale, MP 55.
The Peavine is all CTC with intermediate block signals, so the only way you'll hear traffic coming is by hearing defect detectors or hearing the C&I Dispatcher inform the trains
of an upcoming meet. Traffic is considered to move in an east and west direction. Eastbounds are bound for Galesburg while westbounds are bound for Savanna. I'll be using the railroad directions
when refering to locations.
Orion is located off of US Route 150 (about 10 miles south of Moline) and hosts several nice photo spots. Three old wooden overpasses cross over the Peavine in Orion. Two in close proximity to each other on the
east end of town. Below one of these bridges is a talking defect detector at MP 29.6. It gives location, defect status, and axle count. The third wooden overpass is located
"downtown". The overpass features a nice sidewalk and grassy hill along the geographical west side of the tracks, providing numerous photo opportunities for afternoon eastbounds.
A gravel road can take you west out of town and it crosses the tracks at MP 31. This is where the old Rock Island branch to the LaFayette coal mines joined the old CB&Q mainline for
the trip into Colona. From this crossing you'll also be able to spot the westbound approach signal to Warner siding.
Warner is located off the main road and can be accessed several ways. Grab your Illinois DeLorme and follow the tracks "north" out of Orion and you'll run across Warner. Looking at
the map, you'll notice a crossing west ("north") of MP 31. This is the location of another wooden bridge, although a chain-link fence has been installed along the sides. This spot is great for
early morning westbounds and mid-to-late morning eastbounds. The next crossing west is the start of Warner siding. Warner is over a mile long and is often used to "stage" trains that Galesburg yard cannot handle. This crossing
is perfect for afternoon eastbounds and can be used to get good broadsides of afternoon westbounds. A little further west are two consecutive crossings and the west end of Warner siding at MP 34.5.
The west end can be difficult to shoot, but is best for eastbounds any time of the day.
Continuing up the Peavine is a country crossing that is a decent shot, again for eastbounds, at MP 36. Briar Bluff Road can be used, although in typical country road shape, and a nice morning
eastbound shot can be had in the morning looking down at the railroad in a valley. Further west is Briar Bluff siding, where US Route 6 and I-280 cross on overpasses. Briar Bluff siding is only a
few thousand feet long and is mostly used for Maintenance-of-Way, but is sometimes used for car storage. The Rte 6 overpass makes a nice perch for afternoon eastbounds. Briar Bluff also hosts
the westbound approach signal to Colona, but is approach lit. Whenever it is lit, you know there is a train in either the block ahead or block behind as it stays lit through each block. A little
further west of the approach signal is the west switch and BN style station sign.
Colona hosts the crossing of the Iowa Interstate and a defect detector at MP 40.1. A BNSF derailment on November 22, 2003 destroyed the diamond that used to be in place. A switch was installed near the old diamond to allow the IAIS
access to their mainline east to Chicago. Since only one switch was initially installed, IAIS trains had to detour from 7th St; East Moline through Barstow and on to Colona. This left the portion of IAIS track west of Colona to Silvis unused until July 7, 2004 when
the second switch was installed. The first trains to use the new connection ran on July 9, 2004 with the first daylight train running on July 10, 2004. The IAIS no longer runs through Barstow. The primarily north/south Peavine turns east/west for a short time and
makes for great morning eastbounds and provides the only place to properly shoot afternoon westbounds. Further west, the Peavine crosses the Rock River on a massive outside braced girder bridge. Backwaters are crossed with open deck girders and can be photographed
best on the Barstow side of the river.
Barstow, the Subdivisions namesake town, hosts a full wye, passing siding, and yard. This is also where the QC Industrial splits off.
The mainline makes a sharp 90 degree turn to the east and makes shooting morning westbounds possible. Eastbounds can be shot all day, provided you move around a little bit. Two locals originate at Barstow, but
I'll go into more details on those below. Barstow hosts a large M-of-W base and can become very busy, very quickly. I-80 crosses over the Peavine at the West Siding Switch for Barstow.
Following the tracks railroad west (actually east!) out of Barstow, the next town you hit is Osborn. Osborn is nothing more than a wide-spot in the road. Further down the line is Joslin. Tyson Foods is located at Joslin and gets switched by the
825 local just about every day. Another talking defect detector is located at MP 52.0, just west of the BN style Joslin station sign. Hillsdale is next. A siding is located here along with a grain elevator (not served) near the town's only crossing. At this same
crossing is the west siding switch.