Two Short Excursions
January 2 and 16, 1999

Saturday, January 2

Southeast Iowa is well into a storm that will bring things here and to the east pretty well to a standstill. Around eight inches has fallen so far in Indianola, and strong winds with additional snow are forecast for the rest of the weekend. After lunch, I persuade Jan that we should take a trip "around the block", just to see what it's like outside.

At Beech, the UP is tying down a southbound merchandise train in the siding with UP 8159 and SP 6800 on the point. A northbound train stops to pick up the engineer and bring him to the road-crossing where a Cimmaron van waits. After negotiating with the van driver some passing room on Beech's snow-filled main street, we pull up across the tracks and wait for the nose of the northbound to pop out from behind the cut in the siding.

The northbounder has two tunnel motors - SP 8328 and RG 5375. After dropping off the engineer from the UP 8159, they pull on toward Des Moines. It's clear from the discussions with the dispatcher that there are a couple of others in the vicinity, all hoping to get to an accessable road crossing before dying on the law. Those who are unfortunate enough to be fetched by a city cab instead of a van can expect to spend the night trying to tell the UP dispatcher how to tell the cab company dispatcher how to tell the driver just where they are. "Well, there's an electric power thing with lots of transformers just off to the right side of the engine..."

We head south through Melcher to Chariton and have a couple of near misses with UP and BNSF traffic. They seem to sneak a train by whenever we take a restroom break, so we eventually head back north toward home. The north/south roads still aren't too bad, but the east/west ones are beginning to drift over as the winds pick up late in the afternoon.

Saturday, January 16

The first day above freezing in what seems like forever - sunny and up in the forties! Plenty of snow is still on the ground from two weeks ago. After visiting Jan's folks, trying out a new Bosnian diner in Urbandale (loved it), and making a quick stop at Hobby Haven, we headed for Short Line Yard.

A drag from Hull Avenue yard with a switch engine in charge is just going around the northeast leg of the wye and into Short Line when we arrive. An IAIS eastbound is downtown and calls the yardmaster to see about getting through. They're told that they'll probably get through as soon as the drag clears. The drag stops with about five cars hanging out on the west end, but eventually they pull down and track three is clear for the IAIS train. They come by us at the junction about 1:40, with IAIS 800, 602, 303 (still green) and 628.

The IAIS train looks lengthy and is moving slowly. We've heard from the radio that there's a northbound UP train coming up from Carlisle, so we drive to the East 14th viaduct to get over the IAIS and then go back east, stopping at the "BN" diamond on the Spine Line. Before long, we're joined by another railfan, who turns out to be Dave Kroeger! Dave and I had communicated many times by email but never met in person. He's now living in West Des Moines and was out enjoying the fine afternoon, too.

The northbound appears at 1:55 with UP 9408 and 3226. They follow the IAIS train down track three into Short Line Yard.

Dave inquires about the NS Glake Yard, operated by BNSF, and I say "follow us" and we caravan down through southeast Des Moines and out Vandalia Road. On the way, we spot BN 2724 switching the Cargill plant. We drive past the NS "No Trespassing" signs and onto the property of another business northwest of the yard office. The NS has four BN units parked in the corner of the old CB&Q yard, 5051, 8100, 9588 and 9524. It's unusual to see MACs up here.

After some discussion of the way the tracks used to be laid out around here, we part company with Dave and head for Indianola.

That's It!