Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Last Decade of the CB&Q on the Racetrack in My Hometown

I lived along the CB&Q racetrack during the 1960s in suburban Westmont, Illinois -- high school, college, and marriage.  I had a decent camera which took good 35 mm slides.  I was a railfan.  I started taking color slides for documentation for model railroading.  I soon took pictures for their own sake.

Westmont is about midway down the Q's three-track race track between Chicago and Aurora.  That section of the Q was called the East End and was dispatched by the East End Dispatcher.  Commuter trains were dominant especially on weekday mornings and evenings.  But there was lots of freight, including locals, and, of course, there were the Zephyrs.

The "Q", along with other roads, was merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad on March 2, 1970.  The pictures I am going to present in this blog were all taken between the early 1960s and the merger date.

So how to present them.  Well I sorted my slides in a big metal slide box by locomotive number, so that's the way I'm going to present them which put the F-units first and the E-units last.  Freight first and a big windup with Zephyrs and Dinkies.  Actually I end with a few odds and ends.

The Freight Trains

CB&Q F3A 122D headed for Clyde Yard, just outside Chicago with a typical freight of that era of mostly box cars through Westmont on June 25, 1965.  In all my track-side time during the '60s I can't remember a unit train.

That's the eastbound commuter platform a city block or so short of the Cass Avenue grade crossing.  Cass was the town's main north/south street and the only street in town that crossed the tracks.

CB&Q bought its FTs and F3s in four unit sets, i.e., ABBA where "A" designates a cab unit and "B" a booster unit.  The second unit in the picture would have been 122C.  The full four units were 122A, 122B, 122C, and 122D.  Soon the "Q" realized four units were more than sufficient for an essentially flat railroad and broke the four unit sets in half and added an F7A.  So the third unit in the picture is an F7A.  122A and 122B were mated with another F7A.

122D was built by EMD (Electro Motors Division of GM) in 1948 and traded in in 1967.  You will have to look really hard to fine a non-EMD unit in these pictures.

This picture of 128D is the same combination of an F3A, F3B, and an F7A at the same spot but taken in January 1966.

This was the east bound East End Way Freight (other roads would call it a local) on July 15, 1966. The way freight seemed to run weekdays in both directions between Eola Yard near Aurora and Clyde Yard near Chicago.  It had to dodge dinkies (commuter trains) all day.  The "Way of the Zephers" GP7 218 is a EMD product of 1951.  After the merger it became BN 1574 and was retired in1983.

CB&Q began applying the Chinese Red scheme to the Geeps in the 60's.  Here GP7 259, about to cross Cass Ave., works the west bound way freight.  She became BN 1615 and was retired Dec. 1981.  On the rear is not a caboose.  It was a way car.

SD24 #502 heads a freight with lots of power through the Westmont station area. She was built in 1959, became BN 6242, and was retired in 1982.  Unfortunately I never caught a Q SD7 or SD9 leading a train in Westmont.

For me, the GP20s brought in the second generation of diesels.  CB&Q's first low nose geep.  She was built in the sixties (1961), I caught her in Westmont in 1962, she became BN number 2058, and was retired  in 1997.  She was really red!

GP30s were unique because of the curves in their cab roof.   Built the year after the GP20s, we see 942 coming through town with a sister GP30 and a relatively short freight in 1965.

 CB&Q GP30 943, SD9 333, and another GP30 wast east bound with a long freight in 1966.  The GP30s lasted well into the BN era and some survived to be part of the BNSF.

GP30 #955 crosses Cass Ave.  Note the first car has a piggyback!  I surely remember that National Food Store.

Often the East End Way Freight was handled by switch engines instead of geeps.  This and the next picture show EMD model NW2 and both are westbound in approximately the same place just east of Cass.  Both were built just after WWII and retired in 1983 as BN units.  The above was captured in 1964 and below in 1962.

Two models used on the east end I did not capture on film at Westmont were General Electric U-boats and Baldwin VO1000s switch engines.  The VO1000s were used in the coach yards of Chicago Union Station.  Mentioned above I didn't catch SD7s and 9s leading trains.  My camera caught them however in other locations.


The Passenger Trains 

With minor exception passenger engines were numbered in the 9900 series beginning with the Pioneer Zephyr now on display in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.  By 1960 all the early units up to the E5s were retired.  While there were active E5s in the 1960s, and they came through Westmont, none did when my camera was around so we will ponder the E7s, E8s, and E9s that pulled the dinkies and the zephyrs.

Here is an express dinky skipping Westmont and other intermediate stops pulled by E7A 9918B on a cold January 4, 1965.  She was built in November of 1947.  Note the power car at the far end of the train because 9918A has no head-end electric power, only a steam generator for heat.  The Budd gallery cars (we called them double deckers) were steam heated and had Waukesha self-contained A/C units. The cars also had a 32 volt lighting system and received current from the  power cars.  The older suburban cars needed steam and had a small generator which ran off an axle of the car for lighting. The headlight for the next local can be seen at the next station west, Fairview Av.

All CB&Q E-units were members of the "Zephyr Pit" next to the Q Coach Yard south of Union Station.  All were rotated in and out of Zephyr Service and Suburban Service.  During the '60s all had steam generators for heating the intercity trains, the older commuter coaches, and initially the gallery cars.  The transition to all-electric gallery cars and locomotives with head-end power was slow and was eventually completed by the BN.

Oops, a B&W snuck in.  But that's OK because it is the eastbound Empire Builder lead by CB&Q E8A 9938A and two sisters on June 15, 1962.   We lived on Park Street in Westmont which was perpendicular to the tracks and would have crossed the tracks right about here if there had been a grade crossing.  With spare time I'd often walk, camera in hand, down to the tracks, cross all three to get to the south side and the sun and wait for what would come.  And something always did.  More often two or three somethings in a half hour.

Westmont is on a subcontinental divide.  West of approximately Park Street water runs into the Illinois then Mississippi Rivers.  East into Lake Michigan and out the St. Lawrence Seaway.   Thus the Chicago River flowed into Lake Michigan and because of all the industry along it and poor sewage treatment it was severely polluting the lake and the fresh water.  Thus a series of canals and locks were dug about 10 miles south of Westmont to reverse the flow of the Chicago River into the Mississippi watershed in 1900.

E8A 9945B and a sister running elephant style take the Empire Builder west on the Zephyr Track on a cold December 23, 1967 afternoon.

Here was a strange dinky because it ran with a baggage car to distribute baggage from intercity trains that arrived in the morning to patrons who took earlier suburban trains to the suburbs.  It didn't last many years.  Note the home-made power car (converted coach) next to the one gallery car.  The date is 1/26/66.  The power is 9946B, and E8A.  Built in 1950, she had an interesting life after her CB&Q service as BN 9946 and then Amtrak 340.

 9947B is heating all the train except the last two cars as she makes her station stop at Westmont.  She also made it to become an Amtrak locomotive.

The California Zephyr, 5 domes, zips through Westmont to make its afternoon arrival in Chicago on June 15, 1963.  BN rebuilt several CB&Q E8s and E9s with head end power for its continuation of the Burlington's commuter service and finished the conversion of the gallery cars to all-electric.

Today, most or all diesel-powered commuter rail operations do not change the length (number of cars) of trains during off-hours thus accumulating many extra miles on empty cars and using many gallons of extra diesel fuel.  It seems to be a trade-off between today's labor costs vs. fuel and equipment costs.  Here E8A 9973 leading a commuter run on Sunday July 5, 1964, and the Q obviously didn't expect many riders and cut the train to one push-pull gallery car. Also some E-units by this time were converted to be able to generate enough power for two or three gallery cars' hotel load.

You are looking at the front and rear of the Nebraska Zephyr taken at about Park St. That's either observation car Juno or Jupiter. This train set, which originally was one of the second pair of Twin Cities Zephyrs.  One of the sets, with fewer cars, is now at the Illinois Railway Museum and has recently run down this very track.  Unfortunately we have no way of knowing if it is this set. Look at all the head end (cars between the locomotives and the passenger cars).  They are carrying mostly mail and Railway Express.  Captured May 20, 1962.

CB&Q E9A 9993 is in charge of the April 29, 1962 Morning Zephyr from the Twin Cities (afternoon when it passed Westmont).  Budd Domes, Silver E-units, that was the Burlington image in the 1960s.  9993 was among the last passenger locomotives built for the Q in 1954.

Westmont is a commuter stop.  Oh, the way freight stopped there to pickup and set out freight cars.  But only commuter trains stopped, and not all of them either.  The census of 2010 put Westmont's population at 24,685 but the station serves a much larger area north and south of town.

About 17 miles from the Union Station bumper post, this midday train's cab car faces east.  With all gallery cars, the locomotive was on the outer end for easier servicing in Chicago,  The conductor checks his watch before giving the highball on January 26, 1966.

Because of track work, or maybe the way freight got in the way, the station stop was made from the middle track.  Detraining and boarding took extra time and delayed the train this fine Westmont June day in 1965.

Let's look at one more big inbound commuter train.  The gold circle to the left of the Burlington Route emblem on the noise of the diesel was for the centennial of the railroad running between Aurora and Chicago.  The first four older coaches had ice air conditioning and were steam heated by the steam generator in the locomotive.  As mentioned they had a generator on an axle and batteries for internal lighting.  The next car, the gallery car was steam heated but needed electricity for lighting provided by the last car, the power car.  Inbound not too dinky May 20, 1964.

Here is one of the power cars.  Originally a "combine", part baggage and part coach, the diesel generator was placed in the far front of the car.  The roof vent is obvious however the door cut in the side to slide the diesel in and out is not except upon close inspection.  The two big hinges help.  Generator cars were unique to Q commuter trains because the diesel locomotives were all in the pool and would be also assigned to intercity trains.   Other railroads used diesel locomotives dedicates to commuter service thus the steam generator could be swapped out for an electric generator called head-end power (HEP).  Amtrak's first order of cars were the first all electric intercity cars and its diesel locomotives had HEP.  As noted, BN wasted no time upgrading the Q's locomotives including HEP conversion.  Amtrak locomotives handled the intercity trains.

Some Odds and Ends

Periodically run-through power from western roads would roll through Westmont to Chicago.  If you like GP30s, here are four Rio Grandes returning home on January 26, 1966.

I'm sure I was elated in April of 1962 when I caught this brace of Great Northern F-units heading back to the Pacific NW.  Must have been a Sunday since the commuter parking lot is nearly empty except for the family station wagon.

More GP30s, the middle two cabless, are returning with tonnage to Union Pacific tracks on August 30, 1968

UP Geeps Chicago bound with a Q unit tucked in third, roll through the commuter stop in August of 1969.

And there were passenger extras.  Here's one on June 25, 1965 with a GN Super Dome and GN and NP business cars.

And finally steam.  During the 1960s two CB&Q steam locomotives, 5632 and 4960, pulled fan trips, most of which were based out of Chicago and went through Westmont.  Here is one headed by 4960 returning to Chicago on July 5, 1964.  Luck us who rode a few.  4960 still operates periodically on the Grand Canyon Railroad, unfortunately altered to look more like a passenger engine.  I don't understand that blotch on 4960's front.  I'm sure it is not dirt on the slide.

Now you have seen how the last decade of "my" CB&Q looked in Westmont.  I hope you have enjoyed the ride.


When I posted the existence of this blog to the Train Orders Nostalgia & History Forum I received many comments, several with corrections which I have made.  But I want to especially thank CJV in Aurora for several clarifications on the heating and lighting systems of the gallery cars.



  1. I just discovered your blog. There's some fantastic stuff here!

    1. Thanks for the complement. Glad you enjoyed.

  2. Found this while looking at Google Images of NW2 locomotives. Thanks for posting these photos. Confirmed some details I had from my own memories of CB&Q running through the Quincy, Illinois area.

  3. Congratulations on an excellent site. Your narrative is so well written and what a treasure of photos! I was most interested in your photo #17, showing the eastbound California Zephyr in June of 1963. In that month I was nine years old and our parents put my older sister and me on the CZ for a trip from Denver to Red Oak, Iowa. I suppose the locomotive shown in your photo, or one much like her, could have been our ride. We made a repeat trip in '64.

    I've been curious to know how the three roads that owned the CZ shared the pulling duties. Did the E8 shown in your photo make the entire trip from San Francisco to Chicago, or was there a hand-off in Denver from a Rio Grande locomotive and crew?

    1. Each railroad used their own diesel locomotives on their portion of the run.

  4. Marty - thank you so much for posting these photos! I lived near the CB&Q racetrack as well, just one suburb east of Westmont in Clarendon Hills. Although I was not a photographer, I was an avid railfan during the era of your photos.

    I would ride my bike down to the station and watch the evening Dinky parade, along with the various freight and Zephyr trains with great joy. It was a perfect place to see plenty of railway action.

    I also remember going down to the station at West Hinsdale because there used to be stairs going up to bridge of Route 83. This was a cool place to watch trains from above.

    Thanks for rekindling those memories - love your blog!

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  7. I enjoyed this gallery! Thank you!

  8. Very well done Marty. I enjoyed your Q gallery. Man it brings back great memories and I thank you.

  9. Thank you for the excellent photos and the very fine narrative that accompanied them. Please continue this fine work. Much appreciated !!

  10. I was born in 1972 and lived my first four years in Westmont. My father took the BN to college at Univ. of Ilinois-Chicago. Mom would pick him up at the Westmont station every weekday, and I would obviously come along. I have been a railfan since before I can remember, with a strong interest in signals, and the Westmont station is where it all started, waiting for my Dad.

    Seeing these photos means a lot to me. I feel like I can remember that signal bridge. The signals fascinated me, and still do.

  11. Thanks you very much. Mr. Marty Bernard for the wonderfull photos. From Spain.

  12. Wow, so much has changed on the Racetrack. The old signals are gone, the 'dinkies' (some call them 'scoots' now) are headed by F40PHs, and now the way freight is led by a GP40. On the positive side, run-through power is still common. FYI, I ride from Naperville to Chicago.