May 18, 2015
This was a day I had marked on my calendar months earlier. The Rochelle Railroad Park in Rochelle Illinois is at the junction where the Union Pacific and BNSF transcontinental railroads cross over one another on their way to Chicago. The town of Rochelle is well west of the Chicago metro area – about 90 miles from the kids house in North Riverside – out in Illinois farming country.
This is a beautiful little park just west of the crossing of two double main lines.
It has a covered area with large picnic tables; it even has a little grill. It is built up a bit so you are afforded great sight lines.
If you like trains, you’ll love this place. It is probably in the top five of train watching spots in the country. The Union Pacific approaches from the southwest and heads slightly northward as it goes east. In contrast the BNSF traverses from the northwest to the south as it rolls toward Aurora and points west. There is even a web cam at the site and you can point the camera yourself (at least you used to be able to). Click the link I provided above for more information.
I’m a BNSF fan but will happily view and photo the Amour Yellow of the UP. In this location the sight lines and lighting is better for UP pictures. The sun is behind you as you shoot the trains passing the park; and there are no telephone poles to mess up your shot. You get a little closer(but still safe) to the BNSF trains, but in addition to the sun issue, there is a line of telephone poles between you and the tracks. Oh well – there are still great shots to be had.
I had barely turned on my camera when an eastbound Union Pacific coal train crossed under the old signal tower.
I knew I was onto something! A little while later a Chicago bound BNSF freight with mixed power rolled through. This had a CSX locomotive in the mix and the third loco sported an old red and sliver warbonnet paint scheme.
There are plenty of spots in the park to take photos. I moved up to the fence on the west end to get a picture of a train pounding the diamonds headed east. I was soon rewarded by a grain train lead by four UP units.
A while later a light Union Pacific container train made a move west. It’s pretty rare to see a train with only one locomotive; but this was obviously a small move; it was a short train. There appears to be a UP yard a bit west of the junction. Perhaps it was headed there.
There are signs in the covered area telling what mileposts you are at on the UP and BNSF and the radio frequencies are listed. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a scanner so I wasn’t clear on what was happening up and down the line. But there must have been track and signal work being done on both railroads, meaning there was a long period of time where there was no action. I took advantage of the lull to go out for a burger. I brought my bag of food back and lunched while enjoying the day. Little did I know that burger would visit me later that night.
Eventually track warrants were cleared and the action picked up in the mid afternoon. The UP eastbound track is the best spot for photos.
You are right at cab height on this side of the park.
The four track signal towers are being replaced. The BNSF signal controlling westbound traffic is built but I don’t think the lights will be turned around until all four towers are complete.
What a great day for train watching. I had a long drive home and I was commissioned to drop by Pie Boss in Aurora to pick up some savory pies for dinner. We had gone out there with the kids last winter. The owner is a South African expatriate as is Henriët. When I stopped by to pick up dinner he remembered us – so that was fun.
It may have been something else, but I suspect it was the burger and fries I had for lunch that attacked me that night. I haven’t been that sick in over 15 years. I know because last time I was that sick with “flu like symptons” (as they politely say) was when we lived in our last house. It really rocked my world. I had a fever that finally broke the next day in the late afternoon, but I was feeling pretty crumby for a whole week. Thankfully, I was better enough on Thursday we could head to Cleveland as planned.