ST. LOUIS IRON MOUNTAIN RAILWAY VISIT

Well hello railfans and friends. Pam and I had an opportunity to visit the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railway in Jackson, Missouri yesterday. We were there to podcast this months hosting installment of the Let’s Talk Trains BlogTalkRadio show. We left our home in Washington, Missouri about 8 A.M. and headed east towards Interstate 55. which took about an hour to reach via the country highways. We headed south on 55, I will say that Missouri Department of Transportation has a long way to go to get the roads back in shape. A few years ago they were allowed to scrape off the top layer of concrete and using the guise of it will make the roads safe by grooving the roads. What it did was make the roads fill with pot-marks and holes faster.

We arrived in Jackson, found a Hardee’s, which by the way, is headquartered in St. Louis, to have brunch. Then it was off across the street to the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railway. The view from the road is just I would imagine. No fancy sign directing you into the parking lot. There was a few pieces of rolling stock visible from the highway. The railway has an old steam engine, but alas, it was in a state of repair. The repair state looks like it has been going on for a longtime.  The EMD diesel that is leading the excursions in the steam engine’s place is an old Pennsy’s. One of the three still in operation today. The engine had a flat wheel at the end of the year last year and had to be replaced. you and see the faint colors of the Pennsy’s, but rust and a new primer coat of paint on the brakemen’s side of the cab, and bright shiny bolts and rivets, stand out. There were two passenger cars that are former commuter cars that have concession stand in  one end and a narrator area in the other. The third passenger car was an old New York Central Stainless Steel A/C coach car. The car was nice, but, had a musty smell. I don’t think that I would have been able to spent much time in the car, if I was travelling. The train had two caboose’s in its consist. The last caboose on the train is painted very well. Nice and shiny. The railway uses it for the back up moves. You see the route takes a westward trip out then backs back down the track, back down the track. the caboose has a regular train horn and headlight, to assist with the moves. The railroad runs out of a corner office in the depot, with a little lunch counter operation inside the main part of the station.

There are two more caboose’s right next to the station, one of which houses that museum. For being a small space, they did load up the caboose with a lot of good things. The visitors that were there to ride the train spent a little bit of time admiring the exhibits. I had a chance to talk to some of the visitors after they had gotten off the train. some were from the St. Louis area, some from around the Boothill, a couple even came from Kansas City to see the train. Overall, they seem to have had a great experience. The railway is run all by volunteers and it does show that they pour out their heart and sweat into it. While we were there, one of the volunteer track gang, broke his wrist in three places while clearing brush. I hope he will be OK!  I was very impressed on the different themes that the operation tries to have each weekend. They try to have at least something that both children and their parents would like. They have dinner trains, murder mysteries, Santa Claus trips, Halloween Haunted Train Car trips.

The trip down Interstate 55 is worth the trip. The St. Louis and Iron Mountain is about two hours and fifteen minutes south of St. Louis. on Business 55 in the heart of Jackson, Missouri. Their website is: http://www.slimrr.com, contact them by phone at: 1-800-455-RAIL and tell them ShuttletrainTED sent you.

Also, on this month’s Let’ Talk Trains, I got to interview the Missouri Department of Transportation Railroad Operations Manager, Kristi Jamison. She was very informative in how she described the current state of Missouri’s freight and passenger railroads. I must admit this is not the MODOT of old. The old MODOT, was more geared towards highways and trucks. The threat of a lawsuit a couple of years ago, and the increased passengers on Missouri’s trains really made a statement. They have forced Union Pacific to start moving passenger trains faster and not keeping them on siding anymore. The cooperation even brought new sidings and  a new bridge over the Osage River, east of Jefferson City, by the way, the State capitol of Missouri.  People in Hannibal are now requesting that the train route that currently ends in Quincy, Illinois be extended to their town, and possibly on into St. Louis. The folks in St. Joseph are waiting for a train connection between Kansas City, Missouri and Omaha. Nebraska. and let us not forget the Nashville of the West, Branson. The MODOT folks are still working on getting passenger rail to the largest little town in Missouri, either from Kansas City or St. Louis. I personally think that Kansas City will get a Branson connection first. because of the track curvature between St. Louis and downstate is to bad. You would get there by driving faster than a car.

Well that is it for this week. Let’s Keep railfanning and be on the lookout for me, you will never where I might show up.

ShuttletrainTED

Choosing Railfan watching locations

As a child, growing up in a house that was next to the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (FRISCO) Cuba subdivision in Webster Groves, Missouri with the Webster station that contained at the time a little train layout that was called the Springfield and Ozark aka the Big Bend Railroad Club. I was always intrigued by the trains. The members were always welcoming to me and my family. I had two uncles that worked for the roads. One worked on the Illinois Central and the other the Missouri Pacific, running the Kirkwood Local. I would often run down to the MoPac tracks after school to meet my uncle and ride his engine back to the Mill Creek yard, where he would then put me on a FRISCO train that was headed back to Webster in time for dinner. Of course, that was pre 9-11. I would ride my bike to the Maplewood Sutton Ave location and then head to the Lindenwood yard. Still other times, I would ride to the Kirkwood station and hang with a great group of people that would sit in the grass in their lawn chairs that the kept in the trunk of their cars. I started visiting Kirkwood station when I was just nine years old. I met a great man there, his name was Jim Chenault. He took me under his wing and showed me what a true railfan is and should be. He passed away this past December.  Because of him, I would visit Kirkwood anytime I could.

I got  job back in 1999 as a shuttle bus driver. It gave me a opportunity to see the country during my vacations. I got married in 2006, after being one of the original downtown St. Louis loft residents, moved to the rural western suburb of Washington. I had been to the town several times before. the first time was when my father and mother bought our new car at a dealer in Washington that has long since closed. I took the first AMTRAK train that started to be a test stop in Washington. I was there the first week they started stopping there permanently. I would take my bike on AMTRAK and get off and ride around Washington on the trail or around Downtown Washington. I remember each and every hill. Afterall, the town is on the banks of the mighty Missouri River.

When I got married and moved to Washington, I went to a public hearing about the planned rebirth of the downtown area. I was the only member of the community to stand up and speak about the TIF. I was for it, after a bank was going to expand and create a great new landmark for Washington. Another developer was going to create group of row-condos that fronted the front door of Washington. The town has a passenger depot and a freight depot. The benches in Railroad Park face in  and have not been turned around so that railfans can watch the trains. The freight depot was recently converted to a retail.manufacturing business. The visitors center staff are Chamber employees. Most do not understand or have time for the railfan. I am trying to change that slowly. I am trying to show them, if you show interest in railfans , they will come and visit the town like all those motorcycle folks that visit town.

A few miles east down the Missouri Pacific line, lies Pacific. This town, was renamed after the railroad carrying its name. The town has hosted railroad days as long as I can remember. The steam trains have paid a visit, Amtrak has paid a special whistle stop. A local group of business owners in the downtown area, got together made a park next to the mainline of the Union Pacific and the BNSF railroads. the lines parallel each other pretty much most of the way from the Mississippi River. The line part from each other, in Pacific. BNSF’s Cuba subdivision heads to Springfield. Missouri via Cuba, Missouri. thus it namesake. UP’s heads west through two tunnels to Jefferson City and on to Kansas City.

A local concrete contractor turned property owner, found a local railfan, that was turned off by the Washington, Missouri folks not being interested in railfans, and the business they could bring to the town. The railfan, Bob, discovered that the property owner had a building right next to the UP tracks and was interesting letting railfans start a viewing center in the building. The property owner, Ron had no idea what a railfan was. All he knew that the city hosted a annual Railroad Days that attracted lots of people. Plans started growing. When I was first introduced to the center and both gentleman. I feel like they have a plan. I know that it is a grassroots plan. They seem to have the city of Pacific officials watching cautiously. I hope to bring them together with folks from Rochelle, IL and Galesburgs, IL. These two communities have shown that if you plan, build it, they will come.  I have visited the center several times. I have even podcast the Let’s Talk Trains show from there. I am pleased that each time I go, I see new visitors and new blood watching the train. The center is in a great spot. next to two different railroads. The city is on the Old Route 66, now known as Interstate 44 which runs from St. Louis to Tulsa. Their website is still in the infant stages but it is up and running: http://www.Route66railfan.com. Keep watching for updates on their progress in upcoming blog post.

That’s it for this posting, we will to it again soon.

Shuttletrain