The FOBNR held its first “mini-meet” on June 17-19 in Galesburg, Illinois. Nineteen members and several spouses were present for the event. A number of the participants were from Galesburg, the Chicago area and the contiguous states, but we also had members from New Jersey, New York and Colorado!

We met on Thursday afternoon at Peck Park, nestled between the ex-ATSF Transcon and the ex-BN lines to Chicago and Minneapolis. While watching trains shoot by we were able to meet everyone and make a plan for the next day. We then adjourned to The Packinghouse for a great dinner.

On Friday we drove over to a BN caboose on display near the Galesburg Children’s Museum for a group picture (left), and then most of us took off for Iowa. We first drove to Burlington and then dropped by the Burlington Junction Railway facility to catch some unique locomotives. We drove out to the old West Burlington Shops, remembering the days in the early 90’s when our convention included a tour of the then bustling shops complex. Now everything was quiet with just a few stored locomotives. After that we drove to Fort Madison to watch the Transcon crossing of the Mississippi River. We set up at the depot, which was undergoing renovations, and spent some time on the pedestrian bridge over the tracks where we were able to see several trains. We drove on to Keokuk, driving by a wind turbine blade plant on the way. Those blades are absolutely huge close up! In Keokuk we were able to visit the yards and watch a train being made up, and were then able to follow it back up along the river towards Fort Madison. From Fort Madison we drove back through Media, Illinois, checking out the trestle there, but without any trains. The day wrapped up at the Cameron Connector on the way back to Galesburg where we marveled at the ballet of trains that went through that area!

On Saturday, after a wild Friday night of thunder storms, the group split up a little more. Almost everyone headed east to the Chillicothe area to watch trains transit Edelstein Hill. The advantage of flexibility allowed some of us to do other things. My wife and I stayed at the Cameron Connector most of the morning, then headed to Iowa to meet with my son for the first time in over a year, catching a meet on the Media trestle on the way!

After a long year of COVID it was a fantastic occasion to see old friends and meet new ones. We were fortunate to have several people with railroad connections and knowledge to help us with our train watching. We specifically avoided a lot of planning, leaving the time open for railfanning as it presented itself. Perhaps we’ll do this again some time in the coming years.