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Thread: My First Fan-trip

  1. Default My First Fan-trip

    My First Fan-trip

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    Not one but two big steamers

    Story and all photographs Glen Brewer

    The flyer I received in the mail was simply too much to ignore. Sunday, September 6, 1959, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy would operate a steam excursion using not one, but two big steam locomotives, and one of them was to be a 2-10-4, Texas type. By late 1959, these wonderful machines were becoming increasingly hard to find. I simply couldn't resist.

    In fact, I had grown up watching a steady parade of 2-10-4s. From the paired dining room windows of my parent's home, I could see across four vacant lots and a street to the right-of-way of the Chicago Great Western Railroad. All during the war years and for several years after, I watched innumerable, heavy freight trains traveling in and out of Chicago behind these engines. I especially recall seeing trains loaded with army goods: tanks, half-tracks, jeeps and even big guns. There were solid trains of black tank cars and others of refrigerator cars: yellow ones marked Armor and red ones marked Swift. But to my everlasting horror, the CGW sent all of these impressive locomotives off to scrap about ten years earlier.

    The Burlington, however, was one of a very few railroads (the only one in my area) that sought, at least for awhile, to preserve an operating sample of their steam heritage. The program continued as long as Harry C. Murphy was president (until 1965). Several engines participated, most frequently 4-8-4 5632 and 2-8-2 4960. Riding behind Texas type, Colorado type on the Burlington, 6315 would be a unique opportunity.

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    CB&Q M-4 2-10-4 6315 still under steam, but never to run again. On the Q, these engines were called the Colorado types even though they worked haling coal in southern Illinois.

    When I received the flyer, I was a brand new college freshman with very little money, but somehow I scraped up enough to buy a ticket. I also convinced my parents to let me use the family car and camera. The morning of the big trip, I drove over to Downers Grove, the nearest CB&Q suburban stop to my home, to board my very first fan trip ever. Soon in the east, I saw a moving column of smoke, and shortly after, our train came into view. Texas type 6315 was in the lead with Northern 5632 right behind. They were pulling a heavily loaded, seventeen car train of heavyweight equipment headed for Galesburg, Illinois, a major division point on the Burlington's western route, 162 miles west of Chicago.

    Our train blasted out of Downers Grove with two whistles screaming. Parked next to a city street crossing was a van filled with audio gear. Crossing bells were sounding; big reels of audio tape were rotating. A few months later, I bought the commercial vinyl record recorded that day.

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    6315 gets probably her last Alemite treatement.

    Even though diesels had nearly replaced steam, steam facilities were still intact along the Burlington. Our train stopped at Aurora for passengers and then again at the huge coaling facility straddling the main line, at Mendota, 83 miles west of Chicago. Number 6315 took on coal but not the 5632, which burned oil. Many photos were exposed - mostly on the sunny side. I joined the crowd of photographers but soon noted that fans were being allowed to climb into the engine cabs. Over on the shady side, I quickly found my place in line. It was my first time in the cab of a live engine, and to add to my thrill, I was still there when we moved forward for our turn at the standpipe for water. It was my very first cab ride - short, packed shoulder to shoulder, but thrilling nonetheless.

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    Fans climbed all over the coaling facility looking for a good shot.

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    Lots of onlookers.

    Naturally, this taste was not enough. On my next fan trip, behind CB&Q's Mikado 4960, I observed that fans were being allowed to ride the cab during movie runs. At the very next opportunity, I was the first to arrive at the cab steps with plenty of people at my heels. I politely asked the engineer, on his lofty perch high above my head, "May we come up?" He looked down at me for a few agonizing seconds, and then slowly nodded his head. I was up in a flash, and quickly spotted the best place to stand before the hordes following me crammed in. I stood directly behind the great man and had a good view out the front window. I savored the skill of the engineer's actions on the controls, the sights the sounds and even the smell of a real coal burning steam locomotive at speed. I was already a fan, but this permanently sealed my fate as a lifelong lover of steam power.

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    My first try to photograph a movie run was at Zearing, Illinois.

    The double header stopped for another movie run, and most of the passengers got off and lined up quickly along the right-of-way. This was my first time in a crowd of fans, and I had no idea of the etiquette, vociferously enforced as I soon observed, for staying out of way of other fan's pictures. I soon learned both from my own missteps and from those of others: nobody but crew could step in the way of a photographer without abuse.

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    I was a novice fantripper and photographer, and knew nothing about photo lines or panning and not enough about shutter speed.

    Also that day I first heard the epithet, "daisy picker" used. The term seemed to apply to anyone not a serious fan or photographer: fathers attempting to show their young sons the intricacies of steam machinery, for example. I am sure that the "daisy pickers" had their own ideas of the boorishness displayed by some of the avowed "railfans", and I wondered how many potential railfans were lost that day because of it.

    Until somewhere west of Mendota, our trip was running like a fine railway watch. Then the train stopped along featureless, Illinois farmland. We waited and wondered. Eventually the train moved laboriously up the line at a mere walking speed. A very fast passenger train passed us on the other track, and we stopped again still among cornfields. The news was not good: 6315 had thrown the eccentric rod on the right side. The flailing rod had done some additional damage. The 2-10-4 was hopelessly disabled. Passengers were allowed to get off, and I took the opportunity to take a picture of our lead engine while rods were being removed on the other side. After that, 5632 was able to take the heavy train on into Galesburg unassisted and without difficulty.

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    Stalled on the main after the rod failure.

    The Burlington was a good and accommodating host. We were given free reign of their facilities in Galesburg. I visited the cab of the disabled engine, which still had a hot fire in the firebox. Fans took turns blowing the whistle until a local old folks home called the railroad and complained. While visiting the crowded cab, I took a step backward and accidentally stepped on the fire door treadle. The whoosh of air and the brilliant glare of the fire startled me; the fireman grinned. A little later, I watched as the hostler dumped the fire on the 6315, no doubt for the last time.

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    5632 takes a spin on the Galesburg turntable.

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    Fans visit the cab, but note the missing valve gear parts. This engine was one of 18 2-10-4s built by Baldwin in 1927 and 1929.

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    A sad sight and the future for 6315.

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    Hudson 3007 spotted for photographers.

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    Ten wheeler 637 also spotted for photography. Both the 3007 and the 637 are now at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.

    The big roundhouse was wide open, and we were free to roam about as we pleased. I remember seeing several small stationary steam engines inside. Two steam locomotives, 4-6-0 Number 637 and 4-6-4 Number 3007, were carefully spotted in the open for photography. The Burlington people had even provided burning oily rags to make a little smoke show at their stacks, although due to our lateness, they had about burned out. Off in the distance was a long, depressing, dead line of engines never to run again. This was sad, but Galesburg was still a fascinating place. Our stay had to be cut short, since by then, we were way behind schedule.

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    The Galesburg roundhouse was wide open for all to view.

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    Readying 5632 for her solo return.

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    The sun is already low as 5632 awaites her high speed return.

    The big Texas type remained behind, and undoubtedly never turned a wheel under her own power again. Engine 5632 returned our train to Chicago alone, quite late, and with a very impressive show of speed - most of it long after dark. It was undoubtedly the fastest I ever rode on a fan trip. Most of the way I stood in the baggage car, with its doors wide open, savoring the sounds of the engine's roar and its continual wailing for rural grade crossings.

    To minimize delay arriving back in Chicago, my stop in Downers Grove was eliminated. The conductor gave me a note for the next conductor, and several of us were put off in Aurora to take a late night commuter train back to Downers Grove.

    It was a long day, but an exciting one. I arrived home very tired and very hungry. It was nearly midnight and I had not eaten or even been off my feet for almost the entire day. I was both invigorated and saddened by the events, but I was determined that it would not be my last steam fan trip. It was not. On the Burlington, I went on to ride behind 5632 and 4960 on several additional trips, and I have continued to find steam and ride behind it wherever I can.

    Read other stories by Glen Brewer at
    Railroad Glory Days

    Last edited by Bob; 06-21-2013 at 01:25 AM.
    Glen Brewer

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    Wow!! What a trip! Nicely done Glen. The story kept me engaged and the photos are very good. You may have been a novice - but a talented one. I too had an encounter with a 2-10-4. Texas and Pacific 610 when in fan trip service with the Southern. Nothing like big steam.
    Get Out There and Shoot!

  3. #3


    What an amazing group of photos! Just look at all the places folks were able to climb around. Is just me just me, or was the world a funner place to live before we handed our lives over to lawyers?

    Outstanding work, Glen. Thumbs up!

    Martin Burwash

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    Thanks for the quick approvals Jon and Martin. I wonder if I'll get at least one more to make it three. I never did last time -- just doesn't seem right.

    Jon, I remember when 610 was being overhauled, out in the open, in Fort Worth. I was there the first day it was steamed up although they did not move it while I was there.

    Glen Brewer

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    Duplicate image for index page...

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    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

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    Many pics look familiar. I worked there many years ago as a fireman. It's all gone now but the memories remain. Thanks for the post.

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    Thanks for you comments. Where you there while steam was still in operation? Galesburg must have been an exciting place back then.

    Glen Brewer

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    Steam was gone by the time I hired on, but my dad was a steam engineer and a roadforeman working out of GT. I remember walking through the roundhouse with him in the early '50. Stalls filled with these engines, live. I remember the sound of the steam generators and the massive headlights. I also remember a few years later when the engines were stored in GT waiting to be taken to Sterling, we would go down and climb around on them. Good memories.

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    Was the Burlington always so open to access by the public? They certainly were wide open the day I rode the train in the story.

    Those dead lines and Sterling itself were sad places for me, although I had the experience of climbing all over GTW engines in Durand as you did the CB&Q ones in Galesburg.
    Last edited by gbrewer; 03-06-2010 at 04:20 PM.
    Glen Brewer

  10. #10


    The CB&Q was "open" only when a railroad dick wasn't around unless a PR event was happening. Some company officiers were also protective of the company. The situation today is totally different. We are continually under a Security Alert and attend manditory Security Training. I believe all employees are very protective of the company today and should be considering the risks involved.

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