A Review of “Rock Island Recollections”

Now nearing the fortieth anniversary of its demise, the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific is still well remembered, from its flashy Rocket streamliners, through a diverse range of freight diesels, to the final years of “bankruptcy blue”. Robert Olmstead’s Rock Island Recollections provides a great photographic account of the Rock in Kansas, Illinois, and Minnesota from the late 1940s to the end of CRI&P operations in 1980.

The Rock had bought a lot of Alco steam, and continued to give the company business into the diesel era. We get to see FA freighters (including a shot of one after repowering) RS-3s, and the repowered DL109 #621. On the EMD side, I’ve always been a fan of the early F-units, and there is coverage of the Rock’s FTs and F2s – the latter being a limited-run design combining the FT’s internals with an early F3 carbody.

The 1970s were not a kind time for the Rock, and by 1975 with hopes of a UP merger unfulfilled, little money in the coffers, and a deteriorating physical plant, the CRI&P went into bankruptcy. The road would struggle on for another half decade, but the writing was surely on the wall at that point. Olmstead chronicales this twilight era, with the last new EMDs and GEs, and old and new units in the white/blue scheme constrasting with E6A #630 and the bicentennial-themed E8 #652.

And finally, we see a glimpse of the world after the Rock’s liquidation in early 1980, with dead locomotives at Blue Island, including a by-then rare E7A.