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  • Northern Illinois Winter

    Text and Photography by Howard Ande

    LEFT: The rays of the afternoon sun give no warmth on this frigid January day. Shining icicles hang from the tips of the boards on this crossbuck on the Soo Line Davenport Sub at Monroe Center. ABOVE: Hot intermodal train C&NW 6917 east hustles through the blowing snow at Cortland. The snow-encrusted pilot testifies that this unit has been battling snows farther west that once again missed northern Illinois.
    RailNews - March 1997 - Page 64 RailNews - March 1997 - Page 65

    During the past couple of years, winter here in northern Illinois has been almost uneventful. It has been characterized by seemingly endless strings of sullen slate-gray days, the kind that produce cabin fever. There has been a dearth of significant snowfall that at least would have brightened the land dulled by monochromatic skies. Snow has continually missed the northern section of the state, falling instead in Wisconsin and central Illinois.

    The season has had its moments though-there have been weeks of solid cold with -40 to -50 F wind chills. Arctic high pressure systems have roared down from Canada bringing days filled with dazzling light that draws you outdoors, even with the numbing cold. There have been stretches where the mercury has not climbed above zero.

    Chicago is worth exploring in any season. However, the subtle beauty of an Illinois winter lies beyond the city's limits and its sprawling suburbs. Its essence is found in the rural farming country of the Prairie State-where winter winds howl, whirling snow and loose topsoil, clarifying the description "mean season." There is a finespun beauty in the bare tan-colored fields of corn and soybean stubble, a reassuring quiet not found in other seasons. Winter in northern Illinois may not be as spectacular as in other areas of the country, but it is worthy of a look nonetheless.

    BELOW: Snowless winter cold spells make things a little easier for track workers who don't have to contend with wading through drifts and chiseling hardened snow out of switch points. However, cold weather pull-aparts are still something to deal with. On Feb. 16, 1996, BNSF workers fix the frog of a siding switch at Hinckley, on the C&l line of the former BN. This time honored method of expanding the rail with heat and replacing the sheared bolt gets the job done and keeps this busy line fluid. ABOVE: This eastbound American President Lines stack train is entering the suburban reaches of Chicagoland as it negotiates the big curve through West Chicago on Dec. 13, 1995. The front of DASH 9-44CW 8691 is high lighted by snow and frost on this gloomy day; the signals on the background bridge add points of color. LEFT: A red exclamation point against the winter landscape, CP No. 4807 leads the Davis Turn from Bensenville westward at Monroe Center on Jan. 24, 1998. This train performs switching duties along the line and interchanges with the BN at Davis Junction. A haze of powdery snow is kicked up in the train's wake.
    RailNews - March 1997 - Page 66 RailNews - March 1997 - Page 67

    Article Details

    • Original Author Howard Ande
    • Source RailNews
    • Publication Date March 1997

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