Any sections of Rock Island still operable?

Discussion relating to The Chicago & North Western, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road), including mergers, acquisitions, and abandonments.

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Postby railfanofewu » Wed Aug 25, 2004 5:01 pm

dcm74 wrote:The actual connection to the Sunset Limited would have to be made in El Paso, TX. The Sunset Limited only passes through the very southern portion of New Mexico. The Choctaw Rocket used to travel east to Memphis, TN, but much of that route is now gone.

Sad that has happened. I was thinking that if the Rock Island had been in good shape in 1971, they could have provided competition in the midwest for Amtrak. Then I decided, that they would have probably joined Amtrak, as their Rocky Mountain Route did not touch too many major cities, and the same was for most of their other routes.
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Postby wess » Wed Sep 01, 2004 8:34 pm

I think the Dodge City, Ford and Bucklin still has a segment off the Golden State near Dodge City, Ks

Postby Rockingham Racer » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:19 pm

Re: joining Amtrak in 1971, you may recall that the RI was, in fact, one of three railroads that did not join. They continued to run their own Rockets.
(THe other two RR's are the Southern, and D&RGW.)
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Postby route_rock » Thu Sep 23, 2004 12:45 pm

Well the new signals only go to where CSX stops ownership is my guess.Most of the signals in the Chicago area were intact but these out in the country were stripped clean. Dodge City still has its line I do believe it is a tourist one isnt it?Havent been there in a long time.

Postby incompetrent » Sat Oct 16, 2004 12:16 am

CP169 wrote:I went to St.Gregory's College in Shawnee, Okla. back in '66. I think I remember the RI going through there. Just wondering if that route still exists.

The line that went through Shawnee was part of the Memphis TN - Tucamcari NM line. Parts of the line are still being operated by local carriers. The AOK operates the line from Howe Oklahoma through McAlester and Shawnee to Oklahoma City. From just east of Shawnee to McAlester the line is there but it is not being used due to a washed out river bridge over the North Canadian River. The line from Shawnee to McAlester is actually in good shape but the state or the respective counties have paved over most of the road crossings. I stopped at the old Santa Fe depot in Shawnee and the gentleman working there said they were considering rebuilding the bridge. Does anyone know anything about this?

Postby jhdeasy » Fri Oct 19, 2007 10:41 am

Rockingham Racer wrote:Re: joining Amtrak in 1971, you may recall that the RI was, in fact, one of three railroads that did not join. They continued to run their own Rockets.
(THe other two RR's are the Southern, and D&RGW.)

Don't forget the Georgia RR ... the fourth carrier that chose to continue their own service rather than to join Amtrak ... they operated mixed train service on the Atlanta - Augusta mainline and 3 or 4 branchlines in Georgia. I rode the Athens branch mixed train and the mainline "super mixed" train in the summer of 1977.
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Postby wess » Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm

Didnt the Southern Ry continue for a short while after Amtrak started up?

Postby jhdeasy » Sun Dec 16, 2007 7:08 am

wess wrote:Didnt the Southern Ry continue for a short while after Amtrak started up?

Southern Railway operated their own passenger service from May 1. 1971 to February 1, 1979, at which time they joined Amtrak. "The Southern Crescent" became "The Crescent".
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Re: Any sections still operable, and what condition?

Postby GulfRail » Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:41 pm

Sure. Around 3/4th's of the Rock Island's total mileage is in operation currently. In an Ironic Twist, UP owns the Spine Line, The Golden State Route, The Chilsolm Trail (OKT), and portions of the Choctaw route. This makes them the largest operator of Ex. Rock Island trackage. In an odd sort of way, UP DID merge with the Rock Island in the end. (all except for the prized Omaha-Chicago route)
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Re: Any sections still operable, and what condition?

Postby NellieBly » Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:52 am

As a former Rock Island employee (1976), I followed the liquidation of the Rock with considerable interest. SP bought St. Louis -- Kansas City -- Tucumcari before the Rock shut down. SP never operated the Rock St. Louis to KC line west of Labadie, MO, but used it as bargaining leverage to obtain trackage rights on Santa Fe KC to Chicago. UP has inherited those rights.

The Rock's Armourdale Yard in KC, Kansas is still there, and the Tucumcari Line from Lawrence, KS is intact (UP rights Armourdale to Lawrence). UP has put considerable money into it.

C&NW bought the "Spine Line" from MSP to Kansas City, and again UP has put substantial money into this line for new signals and trackwork. From Allerton, MO to KC, this route uses the remaining segment of the "Golden State" route that ran from the Quad Cities to Kansas City. Most of the rest between Allerton and the Quad Cities is abandoned.

The line to Denver is mostly in the hands of Kyle Railways, as noted. The "Sunbelt Line" from Memphis to Tucumcari was split between MoPac, Santa Fe, and SP and has been largely abandoned, which is unfortunate since there is a lack of east/west rail capacity in that area. As noted earlier, most of the "Little Rock" in Arkansas is gone.

Some of the grain branch lines in the "Bow & Arrow District" remain, notably Iowa Northern between Cedar Rapids and Manly. And of course the Chicago -- Omaha line remains, owned by CSX as far west as Peru, IL and by IAIS west of that point. IAIS has rights into the former Rock Blue Island Yard in Chicago.

So much of the Rock remains. The only former mainlines gone are the Sunbelt Line and the former Golden State Route between the Quad Cities and KC. IC&E uses mostly the former MILW line in this area, which is ironic because one of John Ingram's initiatives was to combine MILW and Rock traffic on the former Golden State Route as a way of justifying Federal loans for track upgrades. Instead, the MILW line ended up as the survivor. Who would have guessed?
Randy Resor, aka "NellieBly" passed away on November 1, 2013. We honor his memory and his devotion to railroading at
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Re: Any sections still operable, and what condition?

Postby erie2521 » Sun Jun 28, 2009 8:26 pm

Is the section from Brinkley Ark. to Memphis still in? The Cotton Belt had trackage rights over this and I rode a CB troop train over it during WWII. Ted
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Postby Will_S » Sat Jul 18, 2009 4:52 pm

railfanofewu wrote:Is it in any condition to provide fast service, at about 80 MPH, for both freight and passenger.

Absolutely not. There has been talk for ages of passenger service on the CSX New Rock sub from Peru to Joliet, for connection with Metra on into the city. This would simply mirror the route the old interurban followed long before I-80 had been constructed. The fact that the state of Illinois handles money about as well as coked up impulse buyer will prevent any significant state funding, and to be honest there isn't all that much interest in the line to begin with.

But who wouldn't love fast freight service? To provide information that acutally answers the question asked, the trackage itself is rather old, and many grade crossings, particularly in municipal areas are deplorable. This restricts trains passing through Marseilles and Seneca, and possibly Ottawa as well, to a maximum speed of 30 mph. There has been an empahsis on repairing these crossings in recent years, but a lot of work would have to be done to increase the average speed of trains appreciably, and that's a lot of money to spend on two IAIS and two-four CSX trains daily.
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Re: Any sections still operable, and what condition?

Postby brianpwestgate » Sat Sep 12, 2009 9:50 pm

Why did CSX want their portion of the ROCK, and why do they still keep it. Seems like it would be natural for them to hand the whole thing over to IAIS.

Re: Any sections still operable, and what condition?

Postby Will_S » Tue Sep 15, 2009 12:16 am

brianpwestgate wrote:Why did CSX want their portion of the ROCK, and why do they still keep it. Seems like it would be natural for them to hand the whole thing over to IAIS.

After the Rock went down, the EJ&E operated the subdivision until the Chessie System purchased it. It naturally passed to CSX during its formation. So your question would more likely be, "why did Chessie want the subdivision," or "why doesn't CSX spin it off to IAIS?" The subdivision is profitable. There are multiple industries on-line in Morris, Seneca and Marseilles. The larger industries move sizable amounts of industrial chemicals, phosphates, finsished steel members, and plastic pellets. And in Ottawa and Utica, there's sand. Fecking rivers of it. All of the sand from Utica heads east with CSX, while in Ottawa U.S. Silica splits its production with CSX and Illinois Railnet, who send it down to Streator for NS or up to Aurora for BNSF. This traffic is why Chessie wanted the subdivision, and it alone is sufficient to require a pair of small yards in Ottawa and two trains daily.

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for CSX to give the New Rock to IAIS. In fact, in 2005, the portion of the New Rock that ran west from Utica through LaSalle, Peru, De Pue, and on to Bureau Junction and southwards was given to the IAIS. Customer demand on this portion of the sub was waning, and it is now a part of the IAIS First Sub. Having shed the less profitable portions of the line, CSX has been active in investing in the remainder. A lot of work has been done on signals, track, and grade crossings to increase train speed. An ethanol plant has been built in Seneca, and CSX is in between development and construction for a new intermodal park between Seneca and Morris.

The New Rock has old customers that generate moderate traffic, was viewed by developers as ideal for ethanol production and an intermodal facility which will generate new traffic, and it doesn't stretch all that far from the major yard in Blue Island. Why fix something that's broken, or sell something that's making money?
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Re: Any sections still operable, and what condition?

Postby fauxcelt » Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:51 am

The seventy-nine miles of track from Little Rock, Arkansas to Danville, Arkansas are still being used by a short line called the Little Rock & Western which connects with UP and BNSF at Little Rock. LR&W is owned by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc.
We live in North Little Rock and we had to drive to west Arkansas yesterday. Since my wife knows that I am a railfan and is nice enough to be tolerant of my hobby, she didn't object when I asked if we could take an indirect route to our destination so I could look at and observe the condition of the tracks of the LR&W.
For most of the way from Little Rock to Danville, the tracks look as if they could use some maintenance and upgrading as in new ties and ballast. Also, instead of being shiny, the rails look red and rusty. There does seem to be new ballast at various places but it looks as if they are putting it only where it is urgently needed. Most of the line is single track with occasional siding inside towns or at the LR&W's headquarters in Perry. Wherever a major highway or paved road crosses the tracks, there are crossing signals with lights but no gates. Yes, we did get to drive right past the LR&W's headquarters in Perry, Arkansas on state highway 10.
We saw only three engines on the LR&W--two at the railroad's maintenance shop in Perry and one in use. Yes, it is possible there are more but we may have missed seeing them. No I don't know enough about railroad locomotives to say what make and model they were or who manufactured them. Arkansas state highway 10 runs east-west parallel to the tracks from Perry to Danville. Somewhere between Danville and Ola, we passed an eastbound train of approximately ten covered hopper cars being pulled by one engine. No, I was unable to determine how fast this train was traveling.
In Belleville, Arkansas (three miles west of Danville), we saw a surprising sight on the right-hand or north side of highway 10. Although the tracks have been torn up and removed west of Danville and there is no sign at all of any railroad tracks on this side of the highway, the crossing gates and signals are still there in Belleville where state highway 307 used to cross the tracks. Although the crossing gates and signals are still standing, they are probably inoperable now. One of the crossing gates seemed to be stuck in the down position. Otherwise, west of Danville, the tracks have been torn up and there isn't much left of the Rock Island except for occasional bridges and/or bridge abutments. There are a few places where you can tell that there used to be a railroad track just to the north of the highway.
In 1983 or 1984, the state legislature appropriated some money to help buy the tracks and start up service on this section of track from Little Rock to Danville.
For more information, I recommend that you go to the Little Rock & Western's web site.

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