Based upon a good weather forecast, Jan and I had decided to take Saturday for a train watching excursion of some kind. When the day arrived, we still didn't have a definite destination, but decided to start by going to Des Moines and Short Line Yard. On the drive up Hwy. 65, we could hear the yard preparing to receive a couple of southbound trains.
We arrived at the junction of the UP and IAIS at about 9:20. A headlight was already visible to the north. This first train was the Valley Park job. On the point were UP 3050, UP 3017 and SP 8568 (extra grubby). They rolled around the northeast leg of the wye at Short Line and on into the yard. A ROCK hopper (ROCK 803597, it looked like) was near the head end of the train. We also noticed that a block of cars on the rear of the train had a coat of snow on the tops.
A second train, the BYDM, followed closely behind, getting to the junction just 20 minutes later. It was pulled by UP 2991 and UP 6138. They too were around the corner and in the yard in short order.
At this point we decided to travel on northward - a mistake, it turned out. As we were clearing the interchange with I-80, we heard the ITKS told that they could come south toward the junction and then heard them get a warrant to go on south of Des Moines. I considered trying to circle back, but figured we would miss them if they were already on the move.
We didn't hear any other trains on the Spine Line as we drove to Ames, but it sounded like there was plenty of traffic this morning on the E/W mainlines. We got to the Ames yard area as an eastbound grain train was rolling through. I stopped on the overpass outside of Nevada long enough to get a (long distance) shot of the engines just as they passed Kansas City Junction around 10:15.
We went on into Nevada and took up a position on the south side of the tracks. We'd already heard the Colo detector announce a westbound. This turned out to be a CWEX coal empty with UP 6854 and UP 8036 in charge. They came through town at 10:20. Just 5 minutes behind trailed another empty, MCHX cars behind UP 6847 and UP 9364.
We drove out east of town to the bridge where the E/W mains pass over the old Rock Island line (today part of the UP's Spine Line) for another westbound. We'd heard this train hit the detector, so I waited on the north side of the highway for the picture on the bridge. This train had UP 7071 and 7147 on the point and consisted of NORX coal cars. They were by us at 10:50, but slowed and stopped east of Nevada to wait for a train to cross over in front of them and go south on the line toward Des Moines. We were back in Nevada again by the time they got the signal to proceed westward through town.
At 11:10 we had the first eastbound since we'd stopped in Nevada. This was a short stack train, referred to as "half a stack" by the first train they met. On the point were UP 9497 and UP 5091. They met the next train, a westbound, normal-length stacker, just east of town. Powered by 8515 and 9518, this one blasted through at 11:15. The 8515 had had an enounter with something white.
We just missed an eastbound coal train as we were driving back out to Ames Yard for our "picnic" lunch by the tracks. The consist was mixed older hopper cars, RG, BN, MP, etc., and the train was pulled by two UP and one SP unit.
Around 10:30 in the morning, I'd heard southbound 8243 get a warrant from MP 150 to Nevada (CPU 109) from the north Spine dispatcher. Just as we were finishing lunch we heard them clear up as they came into town, and started looking around for the train. As it turned out, they went around the wye to the north and then westward onto the E/W mains. We found them just starting under the overpass outside of Nevada, UP 8243, UP 6653, and EDGX empties. They pulled around the Kansas City west curve and waited for mainline traffic just after noon.
Naturally, we went to intercept the above traffic! I stopped by the S-14 underpass at the west edge of Nevada and waited a short time before yet another coal empty came by. This time we saw UP 6864 and UP 7231 with CWEX cars. 6864 appeared to have had its number boards covered with something.
We heard the Colo detector annouce another westbound, so we went into town to catch it. This was a stacker with four units, and it came by us at 12:15. We were close to the rails and they were really rolling, so we had trouble getting all the numbers, CNW 8688, SP 9692, UP 9506 and UP 56??.
We'd talked earlier of running north to have a look at Williams, a tiny town on the IC where I'd once given a conductor a ride on a day when I was hunting an Amtrak inspection train. Williams has been in the Iowa news media lately because residents are complaining about dust from a coal-transfer facility. Since there'd been nothing but a grain elevator when I was there back in March of '97, I thought it might be interesting to check this out. We started up the Spine Line with an ear on the radio and both the UP and IC frequencies on, but heard nothing all the way to Iowa Falls.
We went by the UP yard office, where CNW 4611 was idling away this afternoon. At Mills Tower, a fresh coat of orange had been applied to the captive ICG caboose, but as yet no lettering. I got some pictures of old IC buildings, a section shanty, freight house (both for sale), and the IC depot, which is being refurbished. Still nothing on the radio.
We drove west on county roads along the IC line to Williams. At least one CEFX coal train was parked in the siding and was being unloaded. The coal transfer outfit has a switcher on hand (sort of CRandIC-like paint scheme) to move cars over the conveyor for shaking, unloading and washout. The switcher was inside a fence on company property and blocked from a side view by the coal and coal cars. After all the negative media atttention the place has been getting for the last few days, I decided not to trespass just to get an image of the loco.
After our visit to Williams we started back south along the Spine Line toward home. Things were pretty quiet in Nevada and we made it back to Des Moines about 4:45. A southbound had tied up and been relieved at Hull Avenue yard. The power consisted of UP 7536 and UP 3649. Down at the big yard, switching at the west end was being carried out by UP 1602 and CNW 1307. It was starting to get dark, so we drove on home.