Illinois Fs end their tenure with 27 cars of freight

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Fans gather east of La Harpe, Ill., to document the last run of Keokuk Junction Railway's cab units on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019
Steve Smedley
MAPLETON, Ill. — Feeling like rock stars, Keokuk Junction Railway engineer Jeff Ducharme and conductor Jeff Rhoades fired up FP9A No. 1750, F9B No. 1761 and GP20 No. 2003 at Mapleton, Ill., on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 — a day dreaded by railroad enthusiasts across the nation.

The two Jeffs had as an entourage some two dozen railfans who followed the freight train west to La Harpe, Ill., where the crew ran them into an open track of the three stall engine house and shut them down for a final time.

Dekalb, Ill., resident Gilbert Sebenste, consulting meteorologist at AllisonHouse LLC, was one of the lucky fans. “Yesterday was watching a beautiful piece of history come to a spectacular end. While we all had wished that these engines would continue to run forever in revenue service, they were already past their reasonable expected lifetimes, by a lot.”

Before shutting down the units, the crew turned over its 27-car freight to three former Santa Fe GP20s for forwarding to Keokuk, Iowa. “It's over. Those were the most dependable engines we’ve got. Whoever buys them is getting a good engine,” says Tom Black, vice president of safety and transportation for Pioneer Railcorp. “All of those lnocomotives were great; the 1752 just needed wheels; it wasn't broken down.”

Pioneer Railcorp's new owner, BRX Holdings, a division of Brookhaven Capital Partners, says it is storing the three Keokuk Junction Railway units, which made up the A-B-A consist, along with the Gettysburg & Northern Railway's one operable unit, joining two others that had been awaiting mechanical work.

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