Operations on the Chicago & Aurora Divisions


Our operating sessions on the Chicago & Aurora Divisions attempt to replicate a normal day of operations on the CB&Q during 1954 on the line between Chicago and Aurora.  We use a scale clock with a 6:1 ratio.  Each operating session starts with the scale clock set at 6:00am. Each operating session normally ends around midnight on the scale clock.  In real time each session takes about 3 ¼ hours.  This allows us to run a number of the morning commuter trains (the “dinkies”) as well as most of the manifest freight trains that the CB&Q ran across the Chicago & Aurora Divisions back in 1954.  A feature of each operating session is the running of the Burlington’s first class passenger trains, including a number of the Burlington’s famous “Zephyrs.”  During the typical operating session a visitor will see the California Zephyr, Kansas City Zephyr, American Royal Zephyr, Ak-Sar-Ben Zephyr, Nebraska Zephyr, Morning Zephyr and Afternoon Zephyr.  A visitor will also see the Empire Builder, North Coast Limited, Western Star, Mainstreeter, Blackhawk, Coloradoan and The Fast Mail.  Each operating session also has the afternoon rush with dinkies headed outbound from Chicago back to Aurora.  We operate four way freights during each operating session (Oregon Turn, Kedzie Local, East End Turn and the Sheep Job).

There are a number of operating positions that the crew members can sign up for each session.  The positions include a Dispatcher, Harrison Street Tower, 14th Street Yard, Union Avenue Tower, Eola Yardmaster, Aurora Tower and six or seven engineers. We generally need a crew of 12-13 operators.

We use a car card system with highly prototypical waybill information.  Several of us have spent a large amount of time researching the on-line industries, how they received materials and shipments and where they shipped their products.  Over the years we have interviewed actual shippers to find out where they shipped products and how they received material. 

An example is the Carnation plant in Oregon.  The Carnation plant in Oregon canned evaporated milk. We interviewed the retired shipping manager several years ago.  He was able to tell us that the plant received cans in boxcars from two main suppliers, one in Milwaukee and one in Chicago.  Once canned and boxed, the evaporated milk was shipped out in reefers to seven Carnation regional warehouses around the country.  Carnation preferred shipping the evaporated milk in the insulated reefers in lieu of using boxcars. The plant’s boiler was coal fired, so it normally received 1-2 hoppers of coal per week. 

 The Burlington was well known as a bridge carrier. The CB&Q would receive a large number of freight cars in Chicago from the eastern roads.  The Burlington would then deliver these freight cars to the western and southwestern railroads in Council Bluffs, Denver, Kansas City and St. Louis.  The Burlington also delivered loads to its parent railroads, the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific, in St. Paul.  We have researched the shippers on the eastern roads to determine where they shipped their products and how much of this traffic would have been routed across the Burlington.

An excellent example is Studebaker.  Studebaker manufactured automobiles in South Bend, Indiana.  In the 1954 era, these automobiles would generally have been shipped in 50’ automobile boxcars.  The Pennsylvania Railroad would deliver automobile boxcars full of Studebaker automobiles to the Burlington in Chicago.  This was regular traffic for the CB&Q. It would have been a normal daily occurance for westbound Burlington freight trains to have in their consists loaded automobile boxcars headed to Studebaker dealers in the Midwest, west and northwest.  These boxcars would normally come back empty across the Burlington, headed to South Bend to pick up another load of new Studebakers.

The Burlington carried a significant volume of meat and produce traffic eastward across the railroad from Council Bluffs.  The Burlington would receive a volume of produce traffic every day in Council Bluffs and in St. Paul that was headed for eastern markets.  Every operating session will see “LW68” running east across the railroad with a solid consist of reefers filled with fruits and vegetables headed east to Chicago to make the connections with the eastern railroads.  Each car in the consist of LW68 is prototypically waybilled from a shipper and headed to an actual destination and an actual consignee.

The Burlington also transported a large volume of meat and packing house products (PHP) to the Chicago connections of the eastern railroads.  The CB&Q would get meat and PMP from slaughter houses in St. Joseph, Omaha, South Omaha, Ottumwa, Sioux Falls and Sioux City.  One of the manifest freights we run in every operating session is the “LC,” the eastbound meat train with reefers that had been loaded in Omaha, South Omaha, St. Joseph and Ottumwa.  Just like with the fruit and vegetable traffic, each reefer loaded with meat and PMP is shipped from an actual shipper and is waybilled to an actual destination and consignee.

One of the most important meat shippers on the CB&Q was John Morrell & Company.  The company opened its first plant in Ottumwa, Iowa in November 1877.  Over time Morrell opened additional plants throughout the Midwest, but its largest plant and corporate headquarters were in Ottumwa.  The Ottumwa plant delivered dozens of loaded meat reefers to the CB&Q yard in Ottumwa every day.  The eastbound “LC” would stop in Ottumwa and pick up the block of Morrell meat reefers that were headed for the eastern markets.  Our “LC” normally has a block of 5-6 Morrell cars in each eastbound consist.  Morrell would ship meat reefers to their branch locations in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati.  Morrell would also ship cars to eastern market meat brokers and grocery companies.

During the normal operating session we will usually run 54 scheduled trains.  There may be some extras and special movements thrown into the session as well.  We try to duplicate a normal day on the Burlington’s Chicago & Aurora Divisions back in 1954.  There is a lot of traffic, constant activity and very little down time.  We try to have one operating session each month, usually on Sunday afternoons.

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