Rock Island


The Rock Island Line was the method our family used to go from Chicago to Peoria on the Rocket to visit my aunt. At that time the trains ran fast and were on time.  A failed merger with the Union Pacific helped bring the cash starved railroad to bankruptcy and its sad demise.  This page covers that last decade

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Big Ben was a private dome observation that ran for a while on the Quad Cities - backwards eastbound, at the rear westbound.  It was a former C&O "Chessie" car that later got sold to the Rio Grande.

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E unit 654 waits at Chicago's La Salle Street Station with the Rocky  Mountain Rocket.  Next to it is a New York Central switcher  - steam in this Spring, 1956 picture.

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654 in 1977 with older commuter cars.  Notice the paint has faded and the emblem has long been taken off.  RTA's new cars and locomotives are soon to arrive..
The  Rock had to keep what it had as it couldn't afford anything better.  As a result it became a rolling museum as the last E-6 pulls four ex-CNW intercity gallery cars re-painted by Amtrak who bought them.  In this 1977 picture the E6's days were numbered.

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Even after most railroads had scrapped their E7's. the Rock still had an active "B" unit seen here paired with an E7-A freshly painted in this 1972 picture

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The outbound Peoria Rocket passes an inbound commuter with push-pull cars and two units.  It's Spring, 1972 and the trains still look great.


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Ex-Rocky Mountain Rocket "A-B" unit pulls a westbound Budd equipped push-pull commuter train at Blue Island, Illinois in January, 1973.  Yes, the 'Vette belongs to the photographer!

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In April, 1971, an "F"unit leads 2 GE "U" boats through Joliet by the station.   This was a time when the "Rock" looked fairly good with freshly painted units.

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For a while the "Rock" was short of commuter cars and borrowed a set from the CNW.  Later on ex-CNW inter-city bi-level cars would be used (see background).
The "Jet Rocket's" locomotive profile reeked of styling clichés from the 1950's and also poor design.  Thankfully it was replaced with conventional equipment after a brief stint.  Peoria, 1956.

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An "F" unit pushes an eastbound commuter train past the Roosevelt Road bridge.  

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A closer view of 750 at Blue Island, Illinois.  Not very attractive but quite functional for the job.  Another unique Rock Island locomotive!

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EX UP unit 661 rocks and rolls on the poor track as it comes into Joliet in this May, 1976 picture.

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Side view of the cab of E-8 649 at Joliet.

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Both 750 and 751 were powered "B" units for the Rocky Mountain Rocket.  In their latter years they had HEP installed and worked the commuter trains.  750 is approaching the Joliet station in this April, 1971 picture.
U-Boat 252 is heading eastbound in this July, 1976 picture at Joliet. 

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The Eastbound Peoria train arrives in Joliet on this June, 1976 day.  Down to two cars its crew often outnumbered the revenue passengers.


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It's May, 1979.  Passenger service died a few months earlier.  This GE U boat is crawling along the track near Chillicothe, Illinois swaying sideways about as fast as it was going forward.  The end would be soon. 

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Last updated Tuesday 3 July, 2012 15:59

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