Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (CRIP, RI, ROCK)

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The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (reporting marks CRIP, RI, ROCK) was a prominent Midwest Class I railroad (by 1970s standards). It was known to most railfans as the “Rock Island.” It was also my very first ever Tyco train set!

It was the first railroad across the Mississippi River where it connected Midwestern farms to urban Chicago and beyond. It connected large cities like Denver, Minneapolis, Houston, and Kansas City and had no major operating handicaps, like mountains. It had long routes, unlike eastern regionals like the Reading Railroad or Central Railroad of New Jersey.

In it’s heyday it played an important role in the Midwestern agrarian economy, serving 1700 grain elevators in hundreds of small communities.

But like all American railroads in the postwar years, it found it harder and harder to compete with trucks. Especially in a region that was overloaded with rail lines when the trucks were utilizing newly paved highways.

And those who were accustomed to the Rock Island in the old maroon or red were quite-the-bit startled in 1975 when the road’s new president, John Ingram, started painting cars and locomotives in the white and blue shown on the hopper car above. Ingram, who had come out of marketing and sales (IC, NYC) and figured the Rock, which had just entered bankruptcy, needed a fresh new look!

The entire line was abandoned in 1980 and to this day it ranks as the longest and most complicated abandonments in U.S. railroad history. Any surviving rolling stock is now well over 35 years old and counting and increasingly hard to find!

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The Rock Island Railroad