Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, Chicago & North Western
Manly Iowa, September, 1974

Many of the photos that you see on Wx4 were generated during a Staff cross-country bicycle journey. Though we had chosen bicycles to railfan America (actually, the only transportation that we could afford), we certainly were not purists and weren't above accepting a ride if offered, as was the case one cool day in Iowa. As we sat under a tree waiting out a shower, up rolled a brand-spanking-new Rock Island maintenance-of-way hi-railer. Its two young inhabitants greeted us with smiles and asked us if we wanted a lift. Well, let's see: northern Iowa is far from flat from a cyclist's perspective; it's raining; we're working a strong headwind...

After a few miles, their curiosity was sated regarding our wanderings, and the subject turned to their work. These two guys were the Rock's track gang responsible for patrolling and maintaining the local branch lines. I commented that the railroad must be pretty flush to buy them a new truck, and through the rear view mirror I could see the foreman roll his eyes.

He replied, I wish that they would give me something to haul in it. The truck pretty-much contained all of his worldly goods: a variety of the usual hand tools and jacks, plus two new crossties. Do ya see those two ties in the back? That's all that I have to spread over 130 miles of branch line.

You're kidding, said I! So, what do you do about the particularly bad spots - red flag them? Oh hell no, we let the trains derail. That way we can over-estimate the number of ties that we'll need to repair the track. Then we'll have a few to use in other places. Looks like you haven't had a derailment for awhile, since you only have those two ties. Yeh, things have gone pretty well. Nothing has gone on the ground for more than a week.

To this day, I don't know how much he was pulling my leg, if indeed he was.

His last comment about the railroad was: The branches are in bad shape, but the main line over in Manly is pretty good.
-
EO


below: Manly yard lead track


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"Pretty good" was a relative term. While the branch lines were a pathetic sight, conditions at Manley merely bordered on pathetic. It was at about this time that , at another RI shop (just where, we no longer recall), a locomotive derailed while parked - the ties simply gave way and the rail rolled over. Manly looked like a plausible candidate for an encore.

While most of us older employees endured rapid post-1980 retrenchment on our respective railroads, it must have been particularly tough and sad for the Rock people to come to work each day and watch their railroad slowly rot away around them.

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(above) The engine in the shed is one of RI's first-order U28B's, the 246.


Other RI locos at Manly that day:
1209; GP-7, built mid-1951
1258; GP-7, built mid-1952
1289; GP-7, built late-1952; ex-passenger torpedo boat
1353; GP-18, built late-1961; last one built for RI



Chicago & North Western had no Manly facilities in 1974. The town merely was the spot where its former Chicago Great Western trackage diverged northeast from the main track that RI & CNW shared down to Mason City.

(below) In a stroke of good luck, a local freight powered by one of C&NW's six ex-Omaha Road RS-3's, the 167. Is that a steam generator we see? We were doubly lucky, because if we hadn't watched the train's northbound progress, we would not have noticed the Rock Island terminal in the far distance. We're curious about how much longer the old 167 lasted after this photo.


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