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Frisco 1522 In June, 1993

March 6, 2010

June, 1993, found mainline steam coming to southern Illinois for the first time in three years. In 1990, three locomotives had been in the area for the National Railway Historical Society convention in St. Louis. Now it was the turn for the one locomotive at that convention that didn’t cross the Mississippi River; St. Louis based Frisco 1522.

A few days before heading north to an appearance at Railroad Days in Galesburg, 1522 was to make a pair of round trip excursions from St. Louis to Centralia, Illinois, while flying the flag of the Norfolk Southern steam program. What would come in conjunction with that made for an interesting story; one which may or may not have been completely accurate.

The Illinois Central was contacted, or so the story went, to get permission to turn 1522 on the turntable in I.C.’s yard south of town. The reply, the story says, was something to the effect of “there is no way that piece of junk is coming on our property.”

Or so the story goes.

And that should have been the end of the story, as N.S. had no place to turn a locomotive in Centralia. But then, like the fabled knight in shining armor, to the rescue rode the Burlington Northern. B.N. had had a positive experience with the 1522’s convention trip in 1990, and was impressed by the positive reaction to the operation of a steam locomotive. Once the train reached Centralia, B.N. offered to take the train down to Sesser and turn it on the wye, running it as an employee special while the N.S. passengers spent a few hours in downtown Centralia.

The experience was a good one for B.N., and it planted the seed for the steam powered employee specials that B.N. and B.N.S.F. would operate until 1522 was taken out of excursion service in 2002.


On June 6, 1993, 1522 was Centralia bound just east of Belleville, Illinois.


A bit further east, the train makes the legal 40 miles-per-hour near New Baden, Illinois.


The train is still eastbound a bit west of Centralia. The train will be easing to a stop downtown in a mere matter of minutes.


Three days later, 1522 was deadheading to Galesburg with a short train and a few invited guests aboard. The train was operating over the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, and the Burlington Northern had no 40 mile-per-hour limit like N.S.

This made for quite an energetic day.


North of St. Louis, the train is northbound as it crosses the bridge over the Missouri River.


By the time the train reached Old Monroe, Missouri, the train was cruising along at an easy mile-a-minute pace.


The train encountered a slow order north of Old Monroe, which allowed us to get ahead of it.

We were riding in my friend Kurt’s Ford Fairmont, a vehicle whose useful life had been extended through the miracle of shadetree mechanicking. After shooting this photo, a B.N. special agent arrived and began chewing us out for allegedly blazing by him at 80 miles-per-hour. Kurt’s initial reaction was to argue the point, as the car was physically incapable of that sort of speed (the best we managed all day was about 60 going downhill) but I whispered to him that sometimes it is best to just nod, smile, and say “yes sir.”

I wonder if the allegations of being a racehorse may have gone to the car’s head.

Regardless, we were back on the road in moments.


The train made an inspection stop at Dundee, Missouri. While the train was stopped, we found a quiet location just north of town to shoot the train as it continued north.


The train made a service stop at Hannibal, Missouri. The extended break allowed us to get off the main highway and find a location to shoot from north of town.


Slow running while crossing the Mississippi River at Quincy, Illinois, gave us another chance to get ahead of the train and quickly scout out a location. We found a good one, shooting from a highway overpass east of town.


We managed one more location before reaching Galesburg, shooting the train at speed just north of the small town of Abingdon, Illinois.


Text and photography

Copyright 2010 – Mary Rae McPherson

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2010 11:01 am

    I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work 🙂

  2. Adam Auxier permalink
    March 6, 2010 12:33 pm

    I was able to ride the 1522 from Centralia to Sesser and back. To get on board BN employees showed their employee pass, which looks just like the Amtrak one! Since my dad was the ticket agent in Centralia I had a Amtrak pass.

    It was a great trip south, i was only 11 at the time. At Sesser lots of mileage collector nuts walked to the back of the train to claim all of the mileage. I remember how overgrown the wye was with brush.


  3. Greg Nevels permalink
    March 6, 2010 1:00 pm

    I always enjoyed seeing the 1522. She has a unique look with those air tanks mounted atop her boiler.

  4. T. J. Kaufhold permalink
    March 6, 2010 5:06 pm

    Dear Mary Rae: Thank You again for another well documented layout. It was very enjoyable for me especially when the train was east of Belleville IL probably before Freeburg IL Thank You again T.J.

  5. Paul Bliss permalink
    March 7, 2010 5:47 pm

    Dear Mary Rae:

    Great photos.Enjoyed them.I rode some exursions behind it and Norfolk Western 611 during the NRHS convention in Atlanta GA in 1994.Sure like the sharp exhaust on the 1522.

    Paul Bliss
    Oxnard CA
    UP(Coast) Santa Barbara Sub.

  6. March 21, 2010 4:29 pm

    That’s a great story. It is a shame that so many contemporary Railroaders don’t appreciate their own history. Even non railroad buffs love steam engines. It seems that IC missed a great public relations opportunity.

    By the way, you have a nice clean theme for your blog.

  7. Jim Tiroch permalink
    December 6, 2010 10:43 am

    Mary, thanks alot for your blog on this excursion. I work for Greenfrog Productions, and we are getting ready to release a DVD on this very excursion. You have cleared up some facts. Thanks alot!

  8. Kelley Wright permalink
    January 17, 2012 3:17 pm

    I would love to see pictures of this train at Sesser. That wye is the centerpiece for my Z scale railroad.
    I love your pictures and stories. It makes me homesick.
    Kelley Wright
    Giessen Germany

    • January 17, 2012 4:36 pm

      Unfortunately, I was on the train and didn’t get any photos at Sesser.

      The photos posted with the article are darn near everything I got.


  9. David permalink
    October 20, 2012 9:35 am

    May I use so of these 1522 pics? Working ANV committee for St.Louis NRHS.

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