Snowy Day at Boone

Saturday, January 31

Friday would have been perfect, snow in the morning and sun in the afternoon.  The BNSF was having a fine traffic jam, with a DP coal load stalled on Whitebreast Hill and a broken rail on the other main.  In the end, Amtrak was delayed just east of Osceola waiting on a westbound to clear the crossover.  However, it was a work day at Simpson College, so I had to settle for listening to the scanner while at home for lunch.

I was determined to get some pictures of trains in the snow, and Saturday's forecast called for snow in the morning to the northwest of the Des Moines area.  On my early morning commute from the acreage to Indianola, I passed under a grain empty in the siding at Beech around 5:30.  On the radio a relief crew aboard the train was inquiring about the southbound, M-ITKC, they were supposed to meet.  They were told that the train was just out of Cambridge and that Des Moines was "a little congested" right now.

After breakfast in Indianola I was back on the road at 6:45 and headed north under a cloudy sky.  Just after 7:00 I heard an Iowa Interstate train talking to the UP yard master, looking for permission to pass through Short Line Yard.  They were told to wait at East 18th St. for a signal.  I got there at 7:15 and found the train just pulling to a stop, its old GeeP's belching white smoke.  IAIS 402 was on the point, followed by ex-ICG IAIS 481 and IAIS 403.  I crossed the tracks and went down Dean Ave., and then drove through the snow down to the Short Line Jct. diamond.  Just before 7:30 they came east, rolled across the diamond and headed into the yard.  The UP has a new crossing ready for the intersection of their "Spine Line" and the IAIS route, both formerly Rock Island routes.

I got back on the road and headed up I-35 for Boone, hoping to get under the weather, so to speak.  I got to the east end of Boone yard at 8:30 and found a PRBX coal train standing with a fresh crew.  The load was powered by UP 7005 and 6821, and rolled east just after I stopped.  On the radio someone was demanding to know "Who decided to block the streets and change out an eastbound at the yard office?"  The reply, "There were no crew vans.", brought back "That's not what I asked!"

The sky finally yielded a few snowflakes as I drove down to check out the west end of the yard. It was 2 below zero on the Jeep's thermometer.  As I drove slowly through the old yard office area I was caught unaware by a westbound long-pool stacker that roared through behind 5007, 4285, 4798, 4857 and 4715.  UP 7082 stood at the west end of a yard track, apparently the rear DP unit on a CWEX coal load currently with no leader.  I was afraid that the stacker was going to keep me from seeing the eastbound, but they cleared just in time.  This was a manifest, led by UP 4756 and 4634, that came by the west end of the yard at 8:45.

Several "UP Y" designated locos were parked at the west end of the yard, 699, 731, 711 and 732.  (picture taken later in the day)

From the radio I could hear discussion of several eastbounds coming in and awaiting crew changes.  The first, at 8:56, stopped at the "hard road" crossing and waited for a relief crew.  The new crew was kind of slow in coming so, after threatening to do so on the radio, the inbound crew started to tie their stack train down.  The fresh crew showed up shortly and the inbound engineer whistled his conductor back to the lead unit, UP 2394.  This train would wait for several to go around it on Main 2 before finally getting on the move again at 10:00.

Next in was a westbound that was to stop east of the crossovers and wait on traffic.  I went east to the elevators at Jordan to intercept this one.  Leading a set of empty miscellaneous company hoppers were UP 6815 and 5963.  They would wait at the "Shamrock" crossing for traffic passing 2394 to clear before proceeding just after 10:00.

I took a quick restroom break and returned to the east end of the yard at 9:45 for an eastbound stacker coming around 2394 on Main 2.  In the lead were UP 4486, 9790, 4937 and 4602.  They headed through the high-speed crossovers back over to Main 1.  Just before 10:00 another eastbound followed them, this one with UP 3973 and 4318 on the point.  This short piggyback train was also routed back over onto Main 1.

With this traffic ahead of them 2394's outbound crew started their stack train moving again.  Behind the lead unit were NS 9330 and UP 5640.  Within a few minutes the empty hopper train waiting east of the crossovers was rolling also.  By now the light snow had let up and the sky showed some signs of beginning to clear.

At 10:15 one more eastbound train, a coal load with IESX hoppers, came through the yard.  On the head end were UP 6658 and 6799.  That was all the traffic I'd heard about on the radio so far, so I decided to take a drive out west of town and have a look at the high bridge.  With all the snow on the roads, there wasn't much parking available, and I noticed that one place I'd used before (in better weather) now had a large concrete barricade placed in it.

While I was out sight-seeing, I heard a westbound told to pull down to the yard office and tie down to await their outbound crew.  After driving back into town to have a look at this one, I got some takeout lunch and parked in a lot west of the old C&NW depot.  The westbound, a WPSX empty, pulled at 11:38 behind UP 6624 and 6873.

A long quiet period followed with no traffic and little talk on the radio.  I finally decided to start working my way back east toward I-35.  Before leaving the area, though, I managed to intercept two more westbounders.  At 12:45 near the elevators at Jordan, I got a coal empty with MARX tub gondolas.  On the point were UP 7276 and SP 354.  They were told to tie down their train for a crew called at 13:30.

I heard the detector at MP 192 announce another and caught it at the first gravel road crossing east of Jordan.  This was a short stack train powered by UP 4348 and 9442.  They were by me just before 1:00.  By now the sky had cleared and a fairly strong south breeze was blowing.  Trips out of the Jeep to get pictures were pretty wind-chilly experiences, even though the static temperature had risen 8 degrees from when I arrived in Boone this morning.

I drove over to the Interstate and started south toward Des Moines.  The UP "North" dispatcher was talking to two trains, an Iowa Falls extra and the Marshalltown turn, known as the DMDM.  There seemed to be some uncertainty about bringing the extra to Des Moines and they were first told to hold up at Cambridge.  After a few minutes, instructions were issued saying to start for Des Moines.  The crew was on short time, with just 28 minutes left before they would "die on the law".  I took the Hwy. 210 exit and started south on a paved road paralleling the UP's "Spine Line".  The train was ahead of me leaving Cambridge, but I managed to get to the grade crossing near White Oak just as the gates were going down and the head end raced by.

I counted on them slowing somewhat on the hill into Elkhart and managed to pull even with the head end as we went through town.  They weren't wasting any time and neither did I on the blacktop south to Enterprise.  I made the crossing ahead of them and got set on the sunny side of the rails for a few shots as they approached and sped past the tiny community and elevator.  Power on the Extra was UP 2011, ex-Cotton Belt UP 1969 and UP 2052.

As far as I could tell from the radio, 2011 just made it to the crossing at Broadway and then was out of time.  I took a look at Hull Avenue, and found a remote control job with UP 376 and UPY 1432 blocking the road while working the "Bean Plant".

At Short Line, a southbound manifest was just pulling out when I arrived at 2:05.  I went around to the Market St. crossing to catch them as they came onto the Spine Line and across the NS diamond.  On the point were UP 4152 and NS 3551.  After the two locos were across the grade crossing I drove down Dean Ave. and out to the south on East 30th St.  At the Cargill plant I found NS 5295 doing some switching, operated by BNSF personnel, but working today for its own railroad.

You were probably wondering about the state of our garden railroad here in Iowa...  No?  Well, here it is anyway - this was taken February 6.  The two dark spots sticking out of the snow at the left are the tops of the depots!

CIGRS Meet, February 15, Washington Township Schoolhouse

On Sunday afternoon Susan and I took our potluck dinner to an intersection of paved county roads west of Minburn for a meeting of the Central Iowa Garden Railroad Society.  Winter meetings of the group are held indoors and this one was at community center created from a 1920's school building.  The site for the meeting was rented by the club (very reasonably!) for the entire day.  In addition to a meeting area with a nicely-furnished kitchen, the building houses a museum documenting, among other activities, the high school graduating classes through 1959.  In an adjacent room visitors have an opportunity to contribute to the project or buy souvenirs.

Most of the club's activity was in the carpeted gym, where several layouts were in operation.  The club's display layout was in the center, with paper towels under the bridges in anticipation of some live steam operation later in the day.  Bryan Anderson's excellent scratch-built traction models, based on FDDM&S equipment, were shuttling back and forth on his portable layout.  A loop of track on the floor had a steam loco with realistic sound pulling a few weathered reefers.  Other operating equipment included Sharon Seeley's Rio Grande Southern "Galloping Goose" on the club loop and a steam "critter"photographed on Bryan's layout.

On the way back home, around 3:00, Susan and I encountered the Union Pacific out removing snow from grade crossings and switches in Dallas Center.  UP 918, equipped with a small plow on the pilot, shoved the "grader drift" out onto Hwy. 44.  With two crew members watching closely, they pushed through the north side of the crossing and then backed into the clear.  The crew then boarded the walkway on the front of the loco and they proceeded north.

That's It!