We had a beautiful, sunny, 50-degree afternoon for Valentine's Day, so Jan and I decided to do some train-chasing. The Iowa Interstate was to be handling a passenger special this afternoon, due into Des Moines from Iowa City at 6:00 p.m. The train was a promotion for the Science Center in Des Moines. We'd originally planned to at least get some pictures of this train in Des Moines, but since the weather was so fine, we left right after lunch to make an afternoon of it.
We first headed south to watch traffic on the BNSF, still trying to catch up after Thursday night's derailment. We got to the west end of Chariton at 1:30, just in time for a westbound AEPX empty behind MACs 9414 and 9550. From discussion on the radio and the Russell detector, we knew that we'd just missed an eastbound and that another westbound wasn't far behind.
We went to east side of Chariton and waited for the next westbound. It seemed like a long time after the Russell detector at MP 328 announced its passage for it to appear, and it was in fact moving very slowly. The power on this merchandise train, SF 822 and BN 5090, was shaking like a conga line - swinging broadly from side-to-side as they progressed down the rails. It didn't look to me like a very pleasant ride.
We got onto Hwy. 34 and traveled eastward. Just east of town, at 2:00, we met a parade of Hulcher flatbeds leaving the derailment at Melrose. We heard a warrant given to a relief crew on another westbound at Melrose, so we ducked into Russell to await it.
There's a nice collection of old BN searchlight signals on the ground at Russell these days, recently replaced with three-light ones. All the "spears" are missing from the tops of the masts however. I wonder what one of the signal heads goes for? It would look great in my basement!
After a very long wait, our westbound appeared at 2:30. It was the GALOMA (formerly 491) with BN 2358, SF 1316 and 3000, and BN 5552. This train, with 119 cars, including a long block of auto racks and a scale test car near the rear end, was crawling along. Apparently the two SF units were "dummies" (model RR joke), and I'm not sure that the 5552 was contributing much except smoke effects. The front of 2358 carried some faded Christmas decorations.
After the GALOMA finally cleared, we drove on east to have a quick look in Melrose. By this time, eastbound traffic was starting to stack up along the line. We found a coal load, with BN 9659 and 9653, parked just west of town, and learned from the scanner that there were at least two others in the vicinity. Westbound traffic was blocked by Dude Rogers and a rail grinder, while the eastbounds were waiting on J.P. Cottrell and company to resurface a spot at MP 307 on the "South Hill" at Albia.
The dispatcher asked J.P. if he could clear up, but he said only if they put a 10 mph slow order on overnight. At this particular spot, slowing coal loads to 10 mph would prevent some from making the hill, so J.P.'s warrant was extended and discussions begun of shoving trains up the "North Way" instead. Just to make things more interesting, a couple of westbounds were now approaching the CTC at Albia. Not long after, the under-powered GALOMA called in to say that they had stalled between Woodburn and Osceola. The afternoon was turning into a real dispatcher's headache!
We made a quick pit stop in Albia and, around 3:15, headed north to intercept the IAIS Science Center special at Newton.
We arrived in Newton around 4:20, just in time to find the passenger special with its power stopped on the overpass west of the restored Newton Rock Island depot. I found a parking spot and went around to the south side of the depot to get some pictures. The train consisted of IAIS 603, IAIS 604 (the "Al Roberts"), CB&Q dome-observation "Silver Solarium" and observation car "Caritas". The Caritas is for sale - you can read about it here: http://www.geocities.com/RodeoDrive/Outlet/2807/pv/caritas.html
The train rolled at 4:30, right on schedule, and we drove over to Colfax to have another look as the train worked westward toward Des Moines. At Colfax, an eastbound IAIS freight was ready to pull into the siding for a meet. On the head end were IAIS units 431, 405 and 628. The "brake-ductor" dropped off while the train pulled into the siding and waited for the rear end to pass the west siding switch. After the passenger extra was well clear to the west, they would back from the siding and continue. Why back up? Well, once upon a time there were these cars called "cabooses"...
The passenger extra came through Colfax at 5:00 and wasted no time proceeding westward. We did the same, arriving at Short Line Junction with plenty of time to spare. The UP yardmaster was unusually cooperative this afternoon, and expedited the train's passage on track 3.
The special hit the diamond at 5:55 and moved slowly through the east side of downtown Des Moines. The platform of Caritas was populated with a group of unsupervised and rather mouthy youngsters.
At the Fourth Street archway next to the Rock Island depot, IAIS security had things well under control. The train arrived and pulled west so that guests could disembark from Caritas onto the pavement. Silver Solarium passengers were not treated quite as well and landed on the ballast. A bus was available to take patrons to a reception at the nearby Brown-Camp lofts.
After a 230-mile loop, Jan and I were ready to call it an afternoon and we left for home. On the way to Indianola, at about 6:30, we heard the stalled GALOMA start moving again.