Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Goodbye, Pink Lady

Collapse
X
Collapse
  •  

  • Goodbye, Pink Lady

    Pretty much everyone in the railfan community who's been around me for any length of time knows that I grew up along the Chicago North Western's Harvard Subdivision. Up until the 1980's, this was still the secondary mainline between Chicago and the Twin Cities via Madison and other exciting points like Evansville and Wyeville.

    One person or another in my immediate and extended family has lived at almost every station stop between the Chicago City Limits and Harvard, Illinois. If you ever wondered why I chose that to model, there's the reason.

    Just north of Madison on that line is the Baraboo syncline, a geological wonderland. This is where the Ice Age ended -- glaciers pushing their way south created much of the features that make up the modern day Wisconsin Dells, and then stopped. The syncline is also home to 1.65 billion year old Baraboo quartzite, which has a very distinctive purple-pink color.

    The CNW, often regarded as the Cheap and Nothing Wasted, discovered that quartzite made for excellent ballast, much better than the pit gravel that other roads like the Milwaukee Road often used... For decades, they owned and operate their own quarry in the aptly named Rock Springs, WI, that produced their distinctive pink ballast and became known forever as Pink Lady.

    Pink Lady was used systemwide, from Chicago to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and all the way to the end of the line in Lander, WY. Because they owned the quarry, it made sense since moving it at cost was still cheaper than buying it somewhere else.

    Whenever I saw it, even halfway across the country, I felt at home.

    When CNW merged with the UP in 1995, I never really heard if the Rock Springs quarry was kept in-house, or if it was sold off, but Pink Lady was still being loaded there as recently as 2007 and used regionally.

    And then in 2008, the Baraboo River had epic flooding, which knocked out the bridge to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in nearby North Freedom, and also managed to flood the Rock Springs area, including the quarry. It closed down to rail loading permanently.

    For the next 15 years, as I traveled up and down US-14 and occasionally on the Harvard Sub to get to and from downtown Chicago, Pink Lady was always there, like a well worn comfortable pair of boots.

    Until last week.

    While driving between errands, it happened.

    There was grey ballast freshly dumped for a couple miles along on the Harvard.

    Grey? Here?

    For years I lived in in Arizona and Texas, so grey ballast was not new to me. It was really the norm. As I watched the UP extend double track along the Gila Sub between Tucson and Maricopa, there was no shortage of new grey ballast being laid, and replacing older ballast was no longer able to be undercut & cleaned.

    Grey worked. It fit the desert environment. It even matched the color of the UP's locomotives and grain hoppers... And since I didn't grow up with the Southern Pacific, I didn't think twice about the black and brown ballast that was being replaced.

    But not here in Illinois.

    No.

    It looks wrong. Out of place. Unthinkable. Sacrilege.

    But to be fair, I knew this day would eventually come.

    I just wasn't ready for it this week.

    Ah well.

    Long live Pink Lady. You had a great run.
    Last edited by eric; 08-01-2023, 12:18 AM.

    • rt35ge
      #2
      rt35ge commented
      Editing a comment
      The C&S/CBQ/BN line in Colorado from Denver to Cheyenne used pink ballast. It all went by-bye with the merger that became the BNSF.

    • jbtower
      #3
      jbtower commented
      Editing a comment
      That's depressing to see the once proud right of way tainted with grey ballast. I first caught some of it just west of Geneva were they have been playing with slight alignments for the third track to Elburn. Can't stop the inevitable!!!!

    • ebnertra000
      #4
      ebnertra000 commented
      Editing a comment
      CN has been slowly covering up the very iron-stained ballast (mostly mine waste) on DMIR trackage. Of course, after a couple months of ore trains, it just turns it rust brown again anyway.

      I know BNSF got ballast in the region from a quarry in St. Cloud, MN, and apparently KCS did, too, since I saw quite a few ballast trains with their power. That quarry may have closed recently
    Posting comments is disabled.

article_tags

Collapse

Latest Articles

Collapse

  • Finding Nemo
    by eric

    I'm guessing only a handful of people on these forums know about Nemo. No, not the clownfish with repeatedly bad luck. I'm talking about a long-disappeared town about 30 miles west of Oak Ridge, TN. I know long-time member Jerry Sullivan (landnrailroader) is certainly acquainted with it... This week, I was able to take advantage of our hybrid work policy which affords "work from anywhere" on occasion. Today, that meant setting up shop at the table in our RV, which is currently parked at some pro...
    Posted 07-18-2023, 06:34 PM
  • Goodbye, Pink Lady
    by eric

    Pretty much everyone in the railfan community who's been around me for any length of time knows that I grew up along the Chicago North Western's Harvard Subdivision. Up until the 1980's, this was still the secondary mainline between Chicago and the Twin Cities via Madison and other exciting points like Evansville and Wyeville. One person or another in my immediate and extended family has lived at almost every station stop between the Chicago City Limits and Harvard, Illinois. If you ever wonde...
    Posted 06-08-2023, 12:50 AM
  • Happy Birthday Dad
    by eric

    My father celebrated his 90th birthday a couple weeks back. What does that have to do with railroads and simulation?.... Everything, as it turns out. My earliest railroad memories as a kid come from time spent at my grandparent's place in Crivitz, Wisconsin (about an hour north of Green Bay). Around age 3 or 4 getting a ride around the wye on a Milwaukee Road switcher after my dad apparently talked the crew into it. I'm also pretty certain he wanted the ride more than I did. From there, I w...
    Posted 05-04-2023, 12:20 AM
  • Chasing the Corn
    by eric

    Earlier this week, my wife asked if I could pick up my granddaughter from a friend's birthday sleepover she'd been at. She's been on Spring Break this week, and as they only live one town over, she's been spending a lot of time at our place while their parents are at work. On the way back to our house, I saw an approaching train on the tracks that parallel the highway between our two towns. This is a pretty rare thing at 11:00 am, given the commuter trains that run on weekdays. Being the train nerd tha...
    Posted 03-31-2023, 01:39 AM
  • Feature: Do You Want to Become a Train Driver?
    by Nels_Anderson

    Do You Want to Become a Train Driver? Here are Some Quick Tips As kids, most of us dreamed of becoming a doctor, pilot, soldier, or a train driver. Unfortunately, only a few people were able to pursue their life-long dream of driving these marvelous engines. According to an article published on UK's National Career Service web site, there are almost 159,000 people employed in the rail industry to date. The industry is also receiving over 300 applications per available position and qua...
    Posted 11-26-2013, 11:39 AM
  • Waushakum Live Steamers Open House
    by eric

    Waushakum Live Steamers Open House By Nels Anderson (28 August 2004) During the weekend of August 27 through 29, 2004, the Waushakum Live Steamers of Holliston, Massachusetts held their 34th Annual Meet Weekend where live steam and model diesel operators from a wide area meet at the WLS site to operate on one of their large sets of track. The club operates two sets of track, the "high line" supporting two smaller gauges where the operate rides sideways behind the locomotives pl...
    Posted 09-28-2012, 10:38 AM
Working...
X