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  • Prototype Portfolio: Rickety Rockets

    If for no other reason, decline-era Rock Island passenger trains made for good train watching... and modeling!

    BY MIKE SCHAFER

    Prototype Modeler -June July 1985 -Page 34 Prototype Modeler -June July 1985 -Page 35

    Rock Island was a pioneer in the streamliner era. The granger carrier introduced its Rocket fleet in 1937 and quickly became noted for a distinguished legion of long-, medium-and short-haul passenger trains. Well-remembered will be Rock's classic Art Deco paint schemes; the early passenger diesel versions incorporated various hues of red and maroon in harmony with silver/stainless steel and black/white trim striping and lettering.

    In its zenith the Rock Island passenger network fielded stainless-steel streamliners from Chicago to the likes of Peoria, Ill., and Des Moines, Iowa, Denver and Los Angeles. Other city pair routes included Twin Cities Ft. Worth-Houston-the path of the Twin Star Rocket, Kansas City-Denver (Denver Rocket) and Memphis, Tenn.Amarillo, Texas (Choctaw Rocket). Other lines as well enjoyed Rocket service.

    Unfortunately, CRI&P was no less immune to the post World War II decline in U.S. passenger service than any other rail carrier. If anything, Rock was especially hard hit because of competition with parallel-and often financially stronger-railroads. For example, given the choice of the Rocky Mountain Rocket or Burlington's Vista-Domed Denver Zephyr between Chicago and Denver, travelers (if they chose rail mode a t all) usually gave the latter the nod. The same held true with CRI&P/SP's Golden State versus the Milwaukee Road/UP City of Los Angeles. Only in some smaller markets such as Chicago-Peoria and Minneapolis-Kansas City did Rock Island have any kind of stronghold -- and even those examples were tenuous by the 1960's.

    For all its sad connotations, decline era Rock Island (the railroad was liquidated in 1980) featured some pretty remarkable passenger trains from the standpoint of just plain mongrel variety -- which made them ripe for some good train watching... not to mention modeling.

    By the 1960's, locomotive variety was Rock's greatest hallmark for rail fans and modelers. A side from the usual array ofEMD E and F units, motive power consists on passenger runs could include slope-lined EMD BL2's or mean-looking chisel-snouted No. 621 -- an ancient re-engined Alco DL109-as well as other types. Seemingly never satisfied with one paint scheme, the road's locomotive fleet displayed an eclectic collection of designs and colors.

    Also by the 1960's, passenger rolling stock had been thrown together in one large pool of equipment. Long gone were the days of specific train sets dedicated to specific runs so the public could enjoy matched, streamlined trains. In addition, Rock added freight (usually piggyback) to many passenger trains as a means of off-setting rising passenger deficits. Toward the end of their existence, the Chicago-Omaha Cornhusker (as ad vestige of the once-grand Rocky Mountain Rocket) and the Minneapolis-Kansas City Plainsman (the remains of the Twin Star Rocket) even carried cabooses behind blocks of freight cars attached to the ends of the trains!

    We could probably fill volumes on all the interesting passenger trains of the Rock Island. For this installment of Prototype Portfolio, we'll select across section of trains that lend themselves particularly well to modeling. And although there may not be a model equivalent to certain individual prototype locomotives or cars featured herein, remember that with 1960's Rock Island it was mix or match -- so feel free to substitute with other equipment. What was good enough for the real Rock Island will be just fine for a scaled-down version.

    Trains 7 and 8
    Rocky Mountain Rocket
    Chicago-Denver

    In one era the Rocky Mountain Rocket departed Chicago with three E units towing a bevy of sleepers and coaches, as well as a club diner, full diner and-capping it off -- a parlor observation-lounge. But this July 5, 1965, scene at 16th Street. Chicago, reveals a star turned workhorse -- a train whose primary function now was transport of mail and express, A coach and snack coach were all that were necessary for the few hardy souls braving the long overnight ride from Denver.

    Leading the pack is what was perhaps Rock's most celebrated passenger locomotive, Alco DL109 No. 621. Nicknamed "Christine," this locomotive was re-engined by EMD in 1953 (with two EMD 12-567B engines replacing the single Alco engine innards, which made the 621 little more than an E8 in disguise), hence its survival so much later than its sisters. Trailing appears to be one of the three steam-generator-equipped F7A's discussed in the section about Kansas City-Ft. Worth trains 27 and 28.

    The varied head-end consist includes a troop sleeper-turned-mail storage car, two Rock Island express box cars, another storage car, heavyweight and lightweight baggage cars.

    Later in 1965, 7 and 8 were cut back to a Chicago-Omaha operation and renamed Cornhusker. Eventually, that run was cut again, to a Chicago-Rock Island (III.) schedule which lasted, as the Quad City Rocket, to the end of Rock Island intercity passenger service in 1979.

    Trains 27 and 28
    Kansas City-EI Reno-Ft. Worth

    For a four-car transport, this was a train of amazing variety. Train 27 and counterpart 28 served as the connection for the Twin Cities -- Kansas City Kansas City Rocket south of K.C. In this summer 1961 scene at Wichita, Kan., F7A 676 leads a mail-storage car (rebuilt from a troop sleeper), streamlined baggage car, Budd RDC (Rail Diesel Car) and the world's only (so far as we know) coach-baggage-observation car.

    Not to be confused with an FP7, the 676 is a steam-generator-equipped F7A, one of three purchased-as part of three A-B locomotive sets -- by CRI&P in 1949. The initial assignment of these six units, Nos. 675/675B-677-677B, was the Twin CitiesHouston Twin Star Rocket, so when this photo was taken, the 676 was still in "home" territory some 12 years after delivery. It wears the simplified maroon/white scheme here. The RDC was simply hauled as a coach from Kansas City to EI Reno, Okla., where it was separated from the train to continue by itself to Ft. Worth. The coach-obs-baggage car began life as c hair-observation car 455, Missouri, built by Budd in 1937 for the Twin Cities -- K.C. Kansas City Rocket. In August 1956 it was rebuilt with a baggage room at the observation end of the car.

    Page 36: Even railroads did their own kit bashing: Buffet-lounge Golden Divan was built by Pullman-Standard in 1948" as a round-end buffet-lounge-barber shop-observation car for the Golden State -- the name of which remained on the letter boards to the car's retirement in the early 1970's, In 1956 the railroad rebuilt it to mid-train configuration by squaring off the round end and adding a conventional end door. The car served on various Rock passenger runs in the 1960's where light food service was required.

    Page 37: Coach 330 was built by Pullman-Standard in 1947. As delivered, it had full fluting and a name, Des Moines. As was the case with many P-S-built fluted-side cars, railroads eventually discovered the fluting panels trapped water and caused corrosion to the Cor-Ten steel side panels beneath. As a result, many roads removed the fluting from their P-S cars as with RI coach 330. Vestibules at both ends of a car is a rarity among postwar streamlined cars.

    St. Louis Car Company built Rock baggage car 4378 and 24 sister cars in 1961 for use on various passenger assignments; the cars were painted silver to match the stainless-steel members of the passenger car roster. For a time, 4378 was used to haul grain!

    Car 347, a 48-seat coach, has individual seat windows, somewhat unusual for streamline coaches. As delivered by Pullman-Standard in 1947, this car carried the name Valle Verde and had full fluting.
    Prototype Modeler -June July 1985 -Page 36 Prototype Modeler -June July 1985 -Page 37

    Trains 3 and 4
    Golden State
    Chicago-Tucumcari (N. M.)-Los Angeles

    In what may be the last run of a once-esteemed flagship, westbound train 3 rolls into Joliet, Ill. in January 1968, With most travelers having been diverted to the likes of Santa Fe's Chief and Milwaukee Road/Union Pacific's City of Los Angeles by the time of this photo, three passenger-carrying cars are more than adequate for patrons: a Southern Pacific 10-roomette, 6-bedroom sleeper (SP handled the train between Tucumcari and LA), Rock Island coach and club diner.

    Head-end cars are probably providing the bulk of revenue these days: Two New York Central express cars (rebuilt from troop sleepers) and an REA (Railway Express Agency) car precede a Rock storage-mail car and baggage car, the latter for passengers' checked baggage.

    A single E8 is ample power for a train that once boasted perhaps 18-20 cars in its heyday, Occasionally in the final months of this train's operation, SP E7B's worked through to Chicago.

    EQUIPMENT LIST
    Rickety Rockets

    Models given are HO scale Locomotives: Model Power No, 909 (undec,) E7 or No. 919 (undec.) E9, AHM E8/9 (NOTE: Cary Locomotive Works also makes cast-metal E6/ E3 and E7 carbodies that can be used with the popular motor-drives chassis), Athearn No, 3223 (undec,) F7A, Atlas FP7.

    Baggage cars: Athearn No, 1880 (undec,) 70-foot heavy weight baggage (NOTE: This is a clerestory-roof car, and though none is shown in these photos, it would be an acceptable substitute for arch-roof heavyweight baggage cars shown, Though out of production, Walthers arch-roof baggage cars might still be available through some hobby outlets), AHM streamlined baggage car (under.).

    Mail-storage cars (converted troop sleepers): Roller Bearing Models No. 501 50-foot baggage car (for Rock and SP cars); also Roller Bearing Models No. 502 50-foot baggage car (for NYC car on Golden State); Athearn No, 160940-foot Railway Express box car, MOC No, 1261 Railway Express Agency 50foot plug-door box car.

    Express box cars: Athearn No. 120040-foot single-door box car fitted with Athearn No. 90399 Roller-bearing trucks.

    Coaches: Con-Cor No, 701 85-foot fluted-side streamlined coach (approximates a Pullman-Standard prototype; add ConCor No. 70 Budd roof to approximate Budd prototype); use AHM streamlined day coach to represent a P-S car that has had its fluting removed.

    Club-diner: Con-Cor No. 721 85-foot fluted-side streamlined diner.

    Sleeper (for Golden State): Con-Cor No. 791 10-roomette 6-bedroom sleepers with No. 70 Budd roof.

    Coach-observation-baggage (trains 27/28): Mantua No. 206 Budd observation (undec.).

    Budd ROC (trains 27/28): Athearn RPO baggage-coach Rail Diesel Car, dummy or de-motorized (NOTE : Availability of this car may be limited; check your local hobby store).

    Piggyback equipment: Athearn No. 2015 (undec.) 85-foot TOFC trailer flat; Athearn No. 5168 (Rock Island) 40-foot trailer vans (2/pkg.).

    Caboose: Athearn No. 1285 (undec.) 37-foot bay-window caboose.

    Decals: For locomotives -- Walthers No. 44-93 or Microscale No. 8720. For passenger cars -- Walthers No. 44-82, 46-64 and 44-80. For piggyback flats -- Walthers 44-01 A. For caboose-Microscale No. 8719. For Rock Express box cars -- Walthers 44-11.

    Paint: For locomotives -- Floquil No. 160 Rock Island Maroon, Accu-paint No. 35 Passenger Maroon, Scalecoat No. 42 Erie Lackawanna Maroon. For locomotives and passenger equipment-Floquil No. 144 Amtrak Platinum Mist, Accupaint No. 57 Imitation Aluminum, Scalecoat No. 47 Aluminum. For yellow-nose cab-unit scheme -- Floquil No. 166 UP Armour Yellow, Accu-paint No. 67 UP-MILW Armour Yellow, Scalecoat No. 22 Armour Yellow. For cabooses-Floquil No. 20 Caboose Red, Scalecoat No. 14 Caboose Red. For piggyback flats and express box cars -- Floquil No. 74 Box Car Red, Accu-paint No. 12 Oxide Brown, Scalecoat No. 13 Box Car Red. For baggage cars, storage-mail cars -- Floquil No. 45 Pullman Green, Scalecoat No. 17 Pullman Green.

    Page 38 Coach 364, the Duncan, was built by Budd Co. in 1948 for the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad; Rock purchased the car and five sister cars from M&StL in 1956. The cars were somewhat unusual in that they were built with a self-contained heating system (M&StL had no conventional passenger locomotives with steam generators for train heat) and a small "emergency door" at the end opposite the vestibule.

    Budd coach 319 was delivered in 1941 for general Rocket service, with seating for 54 (later rebuilt to a 40-seat coach in 1953). It is shown in Chicago in 1977 just before being sold to the Boone County (Iowa) Historical Society.

    Diner-lounge (Rock called them club-diners) 411 was built in 1947 by Pullman-Standard and as delivered carried the name Golden Bowl. When photographed in Chicago in 1975, the lower fluting panels had long since been removed.

    Page 39: A relatively rare practice among most railroads, Rock for a period in the late 1960's used cabooses on passenger runs that hauled freight. In this scene at Trenton, Mo., on Kansas City-Minneapolis train 18, the Plainsman, a rider caboose brings up the rear-not for today's train, but for the next day's No. 17 which will come south with piggybacks of mail. Bay-window caboose 17092 was typical of those used on passenger runs.
    Prototype Modeler -June July 1985 -Page 38 Prototype Modeler -June July 1985 -Page 39

    Train 10
    Council Bluffs/Omaha-Chicago

    Tooling through Tinley Park, III., on its last run, May 31, 1970, Chicago-bound train 10 is a considerably different animal than its Corn Belt Rocket ancestor. By the time this scene was recorded, the run h ad been cut back from Omaha to Council Bluffs and simply served as a day local-hauling freight as well as passengers across central Iowa and northern Illinois.

    Twin E8's sport the maroon/yellow nose/white lettering scheme of the late 1960's. Trailing are a baggage car, three coaches, food-service car, about four piggyback trailers, bay-window caboose and a deadhead coach.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Mike Schafer
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date June-July 1985

    Article Album (6 photos)

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