At this writing the one hundred thirty year old Rock Island is involved in liquidation proceedings. A major railroad, so a part of American folklore and history, is being divided up and sold off, an unhappy time for modern Rock devotees. In the past five years Rock Island fans have witnessed the epic struggle on the part of the John Ingram administration to rebuild and revitalize the road in the face of what proved to be insurmountible odds.
A reflection of this effort to survive was readily visible on the Rock's new, leased or rebuilt freight car and locomotive fleets. To provide an image revamp (an activity not unknown on the Rock Island) after filing for bankruptcy in early 1975, the rolling stock began showing up in an attractive light blue color including new block lettering declaring this was "The Rock" in operation. Unfortunately after prolonged exposure to the elements Rock blue tended to fade into a chaulky-like blue, in terms of modern graphic design, the dramatic 8' stylized "R" logo along with other aspects of the locomotive and freight car cosmetology was as good or considerably superior to much of the bold, flashy graphics that began appearing in the mid-70's on a flood of shortline incentive per diem (IPD) cars.
According to the April, 1980 Official Register, the Rock owned or leased a freight car fleet totaling 29,147 cars. Disposition of the Rock's freight cars and locomotives has moved forward with surprising speed. The June 9, 1980 issue of Railway Age provides a fascinating account of the dispersal process. Railway Age confirms that about two-thirds of the fleet were leased, primarily box cars and covered hoppers, from more than two dozen lessors. Roads receiving elements of the Rock's rolling stock have included Grank Trunk Western, Chicago North Western, Conrail, Cotton Belt, Union Pacific, and even the diminutive Georgetown Railroad in Texas. Union Pacific has added Rock bay window cabooses to its CA-11 fleet. Locomotives have gone to MOPAC, Union Pacific, CNW, and others. Few Rock cars and locomotives will retain their colorful graphics and paint beyond 1980, so the time frame for the Rock blue would be 1975 to 1980.
Micro Scale Decal has recently released two superb Rock Island HO scale decal sheets: Route Rock Freight Cars, catalog no. 87-229, the Rock Diesels, catalog no. 87-230. Both sheets coupled with separately available dimensional data sheets from the same company, make possible almost complete coverage of the Rock's graphics for the time frame mentioned above. (See an exception represented by the photo of a late period all white Rock caboose 17184).
Freight car set supplies adequate 8' and 5 1/2' logos plus "Route Rock" were applied to new and rebuilt equipment beginning in mid-1978. If a railroad modeler selects to letter equipment with the earlier "The Rock"; sheet includes four of the necessary "The" ('s), therefore one may select to drop "Route" and cut off the black emphasis underlining below the word "Rock" before applying "The". All reporting marks and car numbers on the freight car sheet are white. The earliest cars in "The Rock" scheme came from the paint shop with black reporting marks (see photo of RI 57444) which was later abandoned due to lack of effective contrast with the blue background. Dimensional and weight data continued to be produced in black over the five year reorganization period, and near the end equipment began appearing in all-white livery with all letters and numerals in black, so we have considerable variation within the time frame.
The locomotive sheet contains adequate numbers, logos, and lettering to decal five diesels. Nose logos with blue or white hexagons in heights 2' and 3' respectively can be applied to either high or low nose units. The illustrated GP-7 4430 sports the word "Little" on its side, a reference to the light density line between Little Rock, Arkansas and Eunice, Louisiana that was given a quasi-independent status in the summer of 1977 to operate as a profit center. This operation had its own captive fleet of twenty-three locomotives, with 4430 apparently being a member of this group.
The decal printing in the two sets examined was of highest quality. Again, MicroScale has produced another conscientious job of replicating modern prototype graphics. Rock modelers are indeed blessed to have available such a variety of excellent decals.