Old 08-05-2007, 12:55 AM   #1
Slopes09
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Default A View from the Other Side

Over the course of my life as a railfan, I remember many a time going to great lengths to see specials run over lines, never giving a second thought to the passengers abourd one of these specials…well, at least until yesterday…

Over the past two days, I have had several very unique opportunities. For those of you who don’t know, I am the youngest research assistant at the University of Illinois’s Railroad Engineering program, recruited before I even started my first year of college. I just had what we’ll call my first “fringe benefit” of being in the program. I joined several of my colleagues and professor to a meeting of the Transportation Research Board’s AR040 Committee on local and regional freight.

It started on July 2nd, and began with a lecture on the history of railroading in Chicago by noted railroad historian and former Santa Fe lawyer, and attorney at law, Mike Blaszak. During this and the opening remarks, it quickly became apparent that most of the people in the committee were also railfans, as a large discussion over what Rio Grande and CNW engines still remained. We also had a discussion of the CREATE project and the replacement of the Brighton Park Diamonds and semaphores. Finally this night ended with me sitting in while the committee discussed their agenda.

Next day was to be the highlight of most of our trip: a ride on the Wisconsin & Southern’s business train and theater car hosted by WSOR President Bill Gardner.

We started with a talk by WSOR President Bill Gardner.


We then proceeded out of Union Station at about 7:05 following an outbound “scoot.” It was very cool to be able to see all of Chicago’s intricate and complicated trackage to Union Station, from the theater car.

Image © Mike W.
PhotoID: 196154
Photograph © Mike W.

We then had several talks, and had plenty of chances to mingle and talk with the fellow passengers. At one point, someone remarked on the various railfans along the route, and someone mentioned that our special’s schedule had already appeared on the internet. All I could do was dart my eyes back and forth, and try and act innocent. We picked up several people at Fox Lake and heard about various projects and the narrow-mindedness of government in dealing with some problems.

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Old 08-05-2007, 12:56 AM   #2
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At one point, when we had been on the train a while, I saw my professor get up and go to the back. He then returned with a smirk on his face, and got all the rail engineering students together and brought us to the back of the car, where he had discovered the dutch doors of the passenger cars, and for the first time, I discovered vestibule viewing for the first time:

Image © Mike W.
PhotoID: 196164
Photograph © Mike W.
In the meantime, a presentation was given about the ongoing track rehabilitation on the WSOR, which we could tell was needed after riding the 90-pound jointed rail for much of the trip.

We then arrived in Janesville where we disembarked.

We then received some history of and a tour of the Janesville Roundhouse. Finally we received lunch and had some presentations by the WSOR on various topics pertaining to their regional railroad. Finally, we departed on a bus to Fox Lake to catch a Metra back down.

It was quite the eye-opening day, to see a special from the other side. Finally, I leave you with a final picture. It is tradition on an executive train that the highest ranking officer on the train get the front-left seat when facing toward the rear of the car. While Mr. Gardner was up for a while, I sneaked up and sat in the seat for a while:

How about WSOR President Mike Wnek???? I think it has a nice ring to it…

Thanks to Mr. Gardner and the WSOR for graciously offering this excursion to all of us, and for being such affable hosts. Also, thanks to the TRB’s AR040 committee for inviting U. of I.’s Railroad Engineering Department to participate in this event.
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Last edited by Slopes09; 08-05-2007 at 11:06 PM.
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Old 08-05-2007, 01:42 AM   #3
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That sounded like a fun trip Mike. Sounds like the perfect day. Why WSOR President..why not BNSF, NS or UP...you need to aim high
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Old 08-05-2007, 09:52 PM   #4
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Looks like you had a lot of fun Mike. Are you studying Civil Engineering at Illinois' rail engineering curriculum? I wish I'd known about that going into college, but luckily I still got a great rail job with my CE degree at a private company. If my company sends me to grad school, I'm going to see if I can get them to send me to UI rather than Wisconsin. Best of luck with college, I wish I had your fringe benefits.
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Old 08-07-2007, 09:39 PM   #5
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Thanks you guys! And Ken45, I am going to be studying civil engineering at Illinois' rail engineering curriculum. Not too many people seem to know about it, though it is considered the best out there, if not one of the only ones, same with the civil engineering curriculum. I can personally vouch that almost all of the major railroads heavily recruit out of here, especially CN, NS, and BNSF. One of my co-workers is currently getting his entire grad school payed for by BNSF.

I actually found out about the program through a random Google search, not even looking for that. I saw that and said, "Well, that looks like something right up my alley." It's amazing how Google can change your life.
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Old 08-25-2007, 12:23 AM   #6
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It sounds like agreat trip Mike.Im really need atrip like that one.I also studied the railway engineering in the second term of that year as iam studying civil engineering too. and it was really agreat courses and interesting but it need to keep alot of equations in mind.I got excellent in that course as i wished.
Thanks alot for shraring that great report and im always like reading your reports.
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