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Chicago Great Western, Oelwein To Stockton

Discussion in 'Content Suggestions & Proposals' started by Minneapolitan, Dec 30, 2018.

  1. Minneapolitan

    Minneapolitan New Member

    Dec 29, 2018
    Likes Received:
    Why is Chicago Great Western right for Train Simulator?

    Tunnels? Street running? Draw bridges? Big hills??

    This doesn't sound like a typical prairie railroad!


    Whether you like fast, heavy freight trains or switching cars on small-town wayfreights, Chicago Great Western's Chicago Division from Oelwein to Stockton during the late 1950's and 1960's would be an exciting addition to the Train Simulator experience! With appearances from four other Midwestern railroads, there's plenty of action on this segment of hilly main line through Iowa and Illinois. Your railroading skills will be challenged.

    General Characteristics of the Chicago Great Western


    In the world of railroad enthusiasts, the Chicago Great Western Railway does not get the respect it deserves. Despite being a reasonably well groomed, well ballasted route laid with heavy rail from St. Paul to Chicago and Kansas City, the rest of the CGW system earned the nickname "the Great Weedy." In a region dominated by the Rock Island, Chicago & Northwestern, Milwaukee Road, and Burlington Route, smaller roads like CGW had to think creatively in order to survive. CGW didn't have extensive branch lines; in many ways it was a trunk railroad in "granger" territory. CGW was the first American railroad to develop welded rail, and was likely the first American railroad to develop TOFC traffic, or "piggybacks." When CGW merged with C&NW in 1968, it was still a leader in annual piggybacks carried.


    Three characteristics of the Chicago Great Western make a route on Train Simulator very attractive. First, the CGW was famous for running extremely long freight trains. This began in the 1950's as an economic measure. Freight trains wouldn't always depart initial terminals on a schedule, instead sometimes waiting until enough cars were added for the train to meet a certain financial ratio. Particularly between Oelwein and St. Paul, freight trains were regularly 200 cars long, and 250 cars was not uncommon! Oelwein to Stockton, the segment I propose for Train Simulator, didn't typically see trains quite this long. The average train here was between 120 and 150 cars - but that's still very long for the 1950's and 1960's! And those 200-car trains did run here from time to time. This may challenge even the most experienced fans of Train Simulator.

    Second, Chicago Great Western pulled those incredible trains with long consists of F3's and F7's, usually six lashed together but sometimes even more. In the mid-50's, CGW began painting all their F-units completely maroon. However, it wasn't long until that maroon sun-faded to a unique purple that, quite frankly, was quite attractive with its orange "lucky strike" logo. By the early 1960's, a bright red was being used but plenty of the purple F-units remained mixed in with the reds. In 1963 CGW acquired eight GP30's and usually ran them in strings of four. In 1966, nine SD40's were acquired and typically ran in groups of three. But to the end, the F3's and F7's still ruled CGW in mixed purple and red strands of six, providing Train Simulators with 9,000HP through 24 driving axles!


    Third, the Chicago Great Western was very aggressive in attracting bridge traffic. Generally speaking, freight cars from any road can be found everywhere. But the number of freight cars from distant railroads was noticeably high on the CGW. Furthermore, CGW carried a diversification of freight that was envied by its larger neighbors in this region dominated by agricultural business. Lumber, iron ore, cement, petroleum products, coal, and finished goods, were all carried by CGW at healthy ratios to the more typical ladings such as corn, wheat, and meat. So if you think a Train Simulator route set in the Upper Midwest would make for boring rolling stock, think again! Plus, eastbound trains nearly always had meat reefers on the head-end from Armour, Swift, Rath, and Hormel, destined for timely interchange with the Indiana Harbor Belt in Chicago for points east.

    Oelwein to Stockton

    Now that we have a better image of the Chicago Great Western in the post-war years, let's explore the most challenging and action-packed portion of the system: Oelwein to Stockton, on the Chicago Division. As we travel east towards Chicago, you'll see how this roughly 115-mile segment of the CGW system would be a fantastic addition to Train Simulator!

    Oelwein, Iowa: This is the nerve center of the entire Chicago Great Western system. Located here is a major classification yard with at least thirty long yard tracks, roundhouse and engine facilities, car shops, and the famous Oelwein engine shops. CGW's locomotive shops at Oelwein were considered among the best in the nation and included a transfer table. When railroads from across the nation needed a specific repair that they couldn't do themselves, and needed it fast, Oelwein was often the answer. It wasn't uncommon to find a few locomotives from anywhere in the nation here at Oelwein at any given time. Young machinist Walter Chrysler used his education at Oelwein to build an automobile empire!

    Four Chicago Great Western lines sprawled from Oelwein: North to St. Paul and its southern Minnesota branch lines, west to Fort Dodge and Omaha, southwest to Des Moines and Kansas City, and east to Dubuque and Chicago. Oh, and Rock Island's Decorah branch crossed through Oelwein as well!


    Towards Chicago, we storm east across the rolling prairie of eastern Iowa - it's not as flat as you think! We pass through the quaint Iowa towns of Stanley, Aurora, Lamont, and Dundee. All these towns have a little industry for wayfreight switching action.

    Oneida, Iowa: Here we have our first diamond outside of Oelwein, the Milwaukee Road's wobbly old main line from Calmar to Cedar Rapids. In the setting of the late 1950's and 1960's, the abandoned Manchester & Oneida right-of-way would certainly still be visible stretching to the southwest. The M&O was an attempt of Manchester's citizens to gain CGW access and break Illinois Central's grip on that prosperous county seat.

    Dyersville, Iowa: It's another ten miles from Oneida to Dyersville with little but beautiful rolling farmland in between. Dyersville is a healthy town with more industry, and it's here that CGW's Chicago Division runs directly parallel for several miles with Illinois Central's main line across Iowa. This should provide some exciting IC action to Train Simulator users!

    West of Farley, Iowa, the line splits off from the Illinois Central and skirts north of town. This is where the flatter landscape of Chicago Great Western's Chicago Division changes dramatically. The rolling Iowa prairie changes to woods and limestone bluffs as the main line begins the looooong, winding, and steep descent into the Mississippi River valley. Using a creek called Hogan's Branch to descend, the line bridges the creek at least nine times before the creek connects to the Little Maquoketa River which is bridged another seven times. The line passes through the small villages of Graf, Durango, and Sageville. Just west of Durango the line goes through "Split Rock," a cut through a thick outcrop of limestone.


    In these steep and winding curves of the Mississippi Valley, 200-car trains will be tested!

    Dubuque, Iowa: This is where things get crazy. After Sageville, the line enters a narrow valley where CGW's Fairground Yard is located, adjacent to a large factory. Between Pinard and Elm Avenues, the Chicago Great Western main line replaces residential alleys as it emerges from the industrial area at 30th Street and through countless back yards. The main line crosses 29th, 28th, 27th, and 26th Streets at grade as well. At 26th Street, a shift in the street grid has us running directly down Elm Avenue along with automobiles and directly in front of homes!

    At 22nd Street, we're back to going through backyards before snaking our way into an older industrial area. Near 17th Street, now in downtown Dubuque, the CGW main line meets up with the Milwaukee Road very close to the Milwaukee's Dubuque yards and roundhouse. Between 12th and 9th Streets are the Chicago Great Western's freight houses which provide even more switching activity - and the Milwaukee is immediately parallel. Directly in the middle of 8th Street is the diamond where CGW crosses the Milwaukee Road's mainline from St. Paul to Kansas City.

    As the CGW main line curves east from 8th Street, it again meets the Illinois Central's main line across Iowa at Dubuque Junction. At this point the CGW has trackage rights over IC as the line extends through a heavy industrial area towards IC's long drawbridge over the Mississippi River. The line passes the "Shot Tower," a Dubuque landmark built in 1856 to manufacture lead shot and was saved for historical purposes.

    IC's drawbridge is a swing-bridge and is very busy with barge traffic. This adds another dimension to the complexities of extremely long CGW trains running at-grade through busy Dubuque, already with the dispatching challenges of a Milwaukee Road mainline diamond at 8th Street, permission to enter IC trackage - and the Burlington Route's double-main line to St. Paul directly on the other side of the bridge! Yikes!


    East Dubuque, Illinois: Once we've rumbled off the eastern span of the drawbridge and immediately over the CB&Q's double diamonds, we immediately enter a tunnel that curves south through a tall limestone bluff, emerging southbound in downtown East Dubuque and parallel with Burlington's double-main line between Chicago and St. Paul!


    Portage: Still on Illinois Central's main line, we cruise through the flat floodplains and backwater bottomlands of the Mississippi River, often hugging the limestone bluffs typical on this part of the river, for roughly twelve miles to Portage. Portage is an important interlocking where Chicago Great Western trackage rights over Illinois Central shift to the parallel CB&Q. About a half-mile further at Galena Junction, the IC main curves sharp to the north and into the bluffs to fight its own uphill battle out of the valley, and CGW enters its own trackage parallel to the Burlington.


    Aiken, Illinois: Another three or four miles from Galena Junction is Aiken. Here is where our CGW splits off from the CB&Q and begins its stiff uphill fight to exit the rugged Mississippi Valley towards Chicago.

    Winston Tunnel: Buried deep in the wild five miles east of Aiken, the CGW main line finds the famous half-mile long Winston Tunnel. The west portal of Winston Tunnel had a fan house, necessary to blow out all the smoke from steam locomotives. It was abandoned but still standing into the 21st Century. Across from the fan house was an unusual feature: A signal apparatus held a white spotlight pointed into the tunnel that would silhouette any obstruction for westbound trains.


    Stockton, Illinois: After emerging from Winston Tunnel, the climb is not over. We continue through the very hilly farmland of far-northwestern Illinois, curving and thundering through the towns of Elizabeth, Woodbine, and finally Stockton. Stockton isn't large but this is the division point between Oelwein and Chicago where crews changed. CGW used to have a yard here, along with icing and car repair facilities but all were closed in 1948. From here, there's a brief portion of double-main as it shoots fairly directly over flat Illinois prairie to Chicago.

    Because routes on Train Simulator can only be so big, Stockton is the logical place for this route to end.

    Gone But Not Forgotten

    Chicago & Northwestern was not kind to Chicago Great Western after the 1968 merger. Considering the entire system's structure, it's not clear who would have kept more of the CGW intact - but that's a different discussion. Today very little of the CGW system remains. But some of it still exists as biking and hiking trails, including potions of this route that I propose. Most of the CGW system is clearly visible using satellite and topographical maps on Google Maps and others.

    When considering Midwestern railroading, this segment of the Chicago Great Western really has it all! It was a spunky Class-1 railroad full of rich history and character. Like the Soo Line Railroad and neighboring Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway, Chicago Great Western was easily big enough to be a Class-1 yet small enough for us to wrap our arms around it.

    I hope you've enjoyed what you've learned and would support making this a reality in Train Simulator. Chicago Great Western would be a lot of fun!

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  2. Buynot

    Buynot Well-Known Member

    May 5, 2018
    Likes Received:
    This is such a well formatted proposal. I love it! I would love to see this railroad in Train Simulator. I'm a major fan of steam railroading so I'd like to see it set in the steam era if the route does get made, and I hope it does, because again, this is a fantastic proposal.

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