Photo courtesy IAGenWeb project
The West Liberty to Cedar Rapids Line in 1946 – 1947
West Liberty was an important junction for the Rock Island. Here their route from Burlington to the Twin Cities, Cedar Rapids, and Sioux Falls crossed the east west Chicago to Omaha main line. Most of the traffic moving on the Cedar Rapids line was traffic to and from Chicago and Silvis, so the track south of West Liberty was a branch line, but still the route of the Zephyr Rocket.
This train register shows all of the trains using the Cedar Rapids line at West Liberty. All the movements for the week between November 3 – 9, 1946 were examined. Follow along for a typical day from 0700 Wednesday November 6 to 0700 Thursday November 7th. Keep in mind this only covers Cedar Rapids line movements; the depot would’ve been a much busier place with the main line trains added in. Our story is set at a farm house just north of town.
Wednesday, November 6, 1946
0700: A beautiful late fall sunrise greets the dawn of a new day at the farm house on the northern outskirts of West Liberty; gathering clouds in the western sky makes a pretty canvas for the eastern sun peeking through gaps in the clouds. The sounds of a steam engine switching at the depot floats in the air, but all is quiet on the ol’ Burlington Cedar Rapids and Northern railroad.
0755: As you work on your second cup of coffee, a westbound Extra Freight #3024 behind a 2-10-2 Santa Fe type arrives on the scene, accelerating north (timetable west) out of West Liberty with 13 loads and 47 empties. It is fairly common for a westbound extra during the morning, and #3024 is a regular visitor; it passed the farm house twice yesterday and will be back eastbound later. (pic of #3011 of the class)
0834: Forty minutes later, passenger train number 63 behind 4-6-2 #833 follows west with the usual three cars. The Pacific on the point is a bit of a surprise; doodlebug #9010 had been holding down trains 63 & 64 as recently as yesterday. Train 63 runs from Burlington to Manly, IA where it connects with the Twin Star Rocket.
0845: Right on the heels of 63 is freight 933 with 18 loads and 1 empty behind Consolidation #2006. Train 933 merely gets a note in the timetable and appears to be a glorified local from either Eldon Yard or Columbus Jct. to Cedar Rapids. The timetable is from 1953 so the times are not necessarily accurate for 1946. Both 932 and 933 work at West Liberty, with 932 usually arriving first between 0500 and 0700, and 933 between 0700 and 0800, sometimes meeting at West Liberty. There is a video clip of #2006 in C Vision’s Corn Belt Railroads in the 1950’s preview at the 1:09 mark.
Small print 1953 timetable note about 932 and 933.
1115: After the typical morning westbounds, all is quiet until another freight extra behind Santa Fe type #3022 with 31 loads and 37 empties. On most days, early morning train 904 often has a second section later in the morning, with an eastbound extra on the days that it runs in one section. This may be the equivalent of a 2nd section of 904 from the Twin Cities to Silvis.
1140: Following close behind is the eastbound local. While not scheduled in the timetable, both the eastbound and westbound locals show up at West Liberty around midday often with the same two locomotives in rotation. Today’s Extra 2004 East has 28 loads and 7 empties and will spend an hour and a half at West Liberty, departing there with 10 loads and 4 empties.
1705: It has become a dreary November afternoon, the rails quiet under a weary gray sky. The westbound local has failed to appear as expected, and after over 5 hours of silence, finally the sounds of another 2-10-2 pulling around the connection at West Liberty announces the arrival of freight 99, a red ball freight from Chicago to the Twin Cities. This train often passes in the middle of the afternoon. Today’s train has 40 loads and 7 empties behind a Santa Fe type engine, a fairly typical consist.
1725: Following 99 is the westbound local at last, Extra 1984 behind another Consolidation. The local arrived at West Liberty at 1550 with 12 loads and 1 empty, and has spent about an hour and a half picking up, now toting 22 loads and 6 empties.
1925: Another two hours have passed, the skies have darkened, and a light rain has begun to fall. A nearly full moon would’ve painted a pretty Iowa nightscape, but instead it is dark and quiet, the rain serving to dampen the sounds of the main line trains in town. A regular evening visitor, the fast freight #94 Northwest Special from the Twin Cities glides by behind Santa Fe #3024, the same locomotive seen this morning on the westbound extra. Today’s 94 has 48 loads and 1 empty and today is running in only one section, though it often operates in two.
2337: Hours of light rain peacefully dripping from the house has quieted, the rain diminishing to a drizzle. More importantly, the sounds of a diesel in the distance heralds the beginning of the midnight West Liberty show. Train 62, the Zephyr Rocket from the Twin Cities with CB&Q E5 #9913 leading 7 cars is en route to Burlington to get onto the CB&Q to finish its run to St. Louis. The Burlington and the Rock Island both furnish one unit to the train in a dedicated pool, so tomorrow night’s 61 will see #9913 return north, and we can expect to see the Rock Island’s unit on 61 tonight. A 1946 consist of this train is provided by Streamliner Memories. Though the consist shows 8 cars, this week the trains have been operating with 7 cars.
Thursday, November 7, 1946
0008: Meeting the Zephyr Rocket at West Liberty is train 19, a Chicago to Sioux Falls train, pulled by doodlebug #9007 with 3 cars. The motor took over the train at West Liberty and will handle it the rest of the way to Sioux Falls. This train will soon be cut back to originate in Cedar Rapids.
0035 (West Liberty register time): Train 64, the southbound Manly to Burlington passenger train chugs eastbound into West Liberty shortly after meeting train 19 north of here. The motor is still absent from the train, as Consolidation #2052 is heading up the 3 cars, clearly fill in power for a passenger train. Train 64 is a few hours late today, as it often is at this time, putting it’s arrival into the middle of the midnight passenger train action.
0031 (West Liberty register time): Impatiently waiting for 64 at West Liberty, the northbound Zephyr Rocket Train 61 with Rock Island E6 #627 accelerates from the meet, ready to chase train 19 across the Iowa countryside. The southbound and northbound Zephyr Rockets usually meet just south of West Liberty.
0050: Right behind the Zephyr Rocket, Santa Fe type #3029’s wailing whistle announces that it intends to join the chase of westbounds. Freight number 903 runs from Silvis (I think) to the Twin Cities and tonight has 35 loads and 4 empties.
0142: The arrival of the last train of the midnight passenger train fleet suggests number 903 did not make it far west. Train 20, the eastbound counterpart to train 19 runs from Sioux Falls but only as far as Rock Island (train 19 originates at Chicago). Like train 19, it is usually handled by a doodlebug between Sioux Falls and West Liberty, but tonight has Pacific #931 pulling three cars. This train will also be soon cut back to Cedar Rapids, but for now, the five passenger trains in the middle of the night brings dramatic action for anyone awake to witness it. The Illinois Railway Musuem has an example of this Pacific class in its collection.
0215: After the six trains in the past two hours, a break is to be expected, but a westbound freight Extra 3023 with another Santa Fe type, 40 loads, and 5 empties keeps the night lively.
0350: Finally, there is a brief lull, quiet returning to the still drizzly night, until regular predawn visitor freight 904 behind 2-10-2 #3019 (seen yesterday on train 99) arrives with 24 loads and 2 empties. Train 904 is the eastbound Twin Cities to Silvis (I believe) counterpart to train 903. A 1941 timetable shows the train combining with train 96 from Kansas City at Silvis. While today has seen a steady parade of steam, FT’s and brand new F2’s have been regulars on trains 903 & 904 passing the farmhouse lately, and it is unusual that steam has led all of the freight trains.
0540: The rain has stopped and a few breaks have appeared in the clouds, but all remains dark as the moon has already set, when nearly two hours later train 932 with Consolidation #2006 (from yesterday’s 933) arrives with 17 loads to begin their West Liberty work. They will spend 45 minutes there and depart with 19 loads and 1 empty to head south towards Columbus Jct.
It will soon be daylight, and with that it is time for bed. Train 933 will arrive in West Liberty from the south at 0820 and be overtaken by passenger train 63 while they work, and another day on the West Liberty to Cedar Rapids line will unfold.
Summary of Regular Trains:
19: Chicago to Sioux Falls
20: Sioux Falls to Rock Island
61: Zephyr Rocket, St. Louis (Burlington) – Twin Cities
62: Zephyr Rocket, Twin Cities – St. Louis (Burlington)
63: Burlington – Manly
64: Manly – Burlington
94: Northwest Special, Twin Cities to Chicago
99: Chicago to Twin Cities Red Ball
903: Tricities (old name for the Quad Cities) to Twin Cities Red Ball
904: Minnesota to Chicago Red Ball (combined with other trains at Silvis I believe)
932: Cedar Rapids to Columbus Jct. (or maybe Eldon) freight
933: Columbus Jct. (or maybe Eldon) to Cedar Rapids freight
There is also a midday local in each direction ran as extras.
1953 Timetable Page (the closest I could find) courtesy wx4.org: