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Track Construction Update
From Rail & Wire Issue 114, March 1985

By Jim Johnson
During the last six months of 1984, the track department accomplished two major expansion tasks: the construction of the last segment of mainline to Seeman Road; and the construction of the leads to the new carbarn number 7. Both were large projects. Together they amounted to more than one mile of track and five turnouts. As with much of Museum construction now, both were done by a paid staff of "semi" volunteers, unemployed Museum members and students working on weekdays at minimum wage. This is necessary due to the size of the project.

New Yard Is Started
The second major track project of the fall season was the construction of the leads to yard 7 in preparation for a new barn. This is a very ambitious project, with projected costs in excess of $35,000 for the track alone, including the fill and track in the barn area. More than 4,000 feet of track and four turnouts have to be constructed.

In general, the alignment calls for a switchback track east of the substation off of the trolley loop, then a diamond crossing over the trolley loop, then curving southwest to Central Avenue, and then a series of four tracks branching out to the barn area. The barn itself is in an east-west direction about 125 feet south of Central Avenue.

View of the tail track, and the diamond
View of the barn 7 lead off the trolley loop, the tail track, and the diamond crossing the trolley loop.

The track is constructed of 80-pound and 90-pound rail, and will use up all the remaining "yard" quality rail on the property, as well as most of our tie plates, spikes and bolts. It thus served also to clean up all the little piles of "iron" around the property.

As construction proceeded, some ties were purchased. Finding most of them was difficult. The Museum first bought all the available good ties in the area, then sought them in neighboring states. It wasn't until January 1985 that most of the ties had been lined up, although as workers were able to get the leads and turnouts constructed before the inclement weather set in.

The first rails are laid crossing Central Avenue
The first rails are laid crossing Central Avenue.

Construction started early in October when Bakley Construction Co. began grading the site for the track and barn. Sub-ballast was dumped and compacted over the area and then graded flat. Much of the sub-ballast was donated by Vulcan Materials in Crystal Lake, IRM having only to pay for trucking. Also at the same time IRM had to do a major cleanup effort of the area, removing most all the old motor vehicles and other junk stored at the site; also the old caboose storage track was removed.

Building the leads was slow. All the rail had to be bent on curves, as they were all sharper than normal. And four turnouts had to be built and the diamond installed. But by the week before Christmas, the leads were basically finished awaiting the carbarn.

View of the new switches and leads for Barn 7
View of the new switches and leads for Barn 7.

The weekday track crew consisted of IRM members Bob Olson, forman, Jon Fenlaciki, Roy Hughes, Roger Kramer and a couple of other local young men. On weekends, the volunteer track crew of Jim Johnson, Olson, John Naglich, Jim Blower, Harold Armstrong and other members Al Choutka, Les Asher and Tim Peters regularly did the associated jobs on the project.

The track crew poses for pictures
The track crew poses for pictures. Shown from left to right are; Carlos Rodriguez, John Fenlaciki, Bob Olson-Foreman, Roy Hughes, and Roger Kramer.

Seeman Road at last
On Labor Day weekend, the first train chugged the last lap to Seeman Road, celebrating the completion of a four- year construction project to reach this destination, about 3-1/4 miles from Union. Tuskeegee Railroad locomotive 101 was used, as it has light axle loadings, and therefore easier on the unballasted track. This summer's construction of 1/2 mile of track was accomplished almost entirely through donations. Ties were securred from various railroad dismantling operations in western Illinois and eastern Iowa. The 100-pound and 112-pound rail was already on hand.

The first was to fill and grade the low area west of Seeman Road. Luckily, Aubrey Manufacturing in Union had also done some construction, and the Museum was able to haul away more than 3,000 yards of fill for only trucking costs. In the area just west of Seeman Road is the proposed passing siding, so the fill had to be made wide enough for double track. After the fill was compacted and graded, about eight inches of crushed gravel was spread as sub- ballast for the mainline track.

As track building began, several semi-trailer loads of ties were brought in and unloaded with a fork-lift, and put into position. Rail was put on the ties using the Museum's 1972 GMC derrick truck which was obtained from the Toledo Peoria and Western Railroad. Track constructing at IRM is now largely done with machines, which makes the job easier, and definitely more efficient.

A Number 10 turnout was built in the correct location at the west end of the passing side and track was constructed to within about 50 feet of Seeman Road.

On weekends, the volunteer staff of the Museum set line poles, did necessary surveying and laid signal foundations. The weekday track forman was Bob Olson, and on this project he had several local students on the crew. Weekend volunteers included the track crew, Jim Johnson, Olson, John Naglich, Jim Blower and Harold Armstrong, with regular assistance from Al Choutka, Les Asher, Wally Ostopowitz, Bruce Bergman, Nick Kallas, Rick Fenhaus and several other Museum volunteers.

Passengers and crew on the first trip over the new railroad
Passengers and crew on the first trip over the new railroad pose at Seeman Road. The "I Bought A Ton" buttons worn by these folks indicate that they have made a $5.00 donation to the East End Extension ballast fund.

From the Rail & Wire Issue 114, March 1985


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