UP Detours on IAIS

February 15 and 16

Thursday, February 15

An email from Allan Hunt on the MNRail list alerted me to the UP's plans to detour a few westbounds over the Iowa Interstate Thursday night.  The UP'd had a derailment of a coal load at Beaver and was sending a few trains around the mess during cleanup.  Allan's email said that a couple of Z trains should be expected, ZSCCS 14 behind UP 4073 and ZPDCS 13 with UP 6301.

After getting away from an exercise in futility called the, "Citizenship and Civility Task Force", around 5:00, I packed my train-watching gear and headed for Des Moines.  On the way north I heard the Short Line yardmaster comment that he had calls for the detours at 9:00 and 9:15.

I got to Des Moines around 6:30 and checked out Short Line first .  The NS was switching their yard beween East 18th and Market St. with BNSF 2162.  (Camera/Flash problems plagued me for the first part of this excursion, so I didn't get usable pictures of the first few trains.)

At 8:00, I heard IAIS dispatcher Greg (GVH) giving a warrant to UP 4073 at Dexter.  By a series of "Partial Clearing" of warrants this evening, dispatchers Greg and Paul stepped three trains across the IAIS dark territory in western Iowa.  I decided to go west and try to intercept at least the first train at Booneville.  It finally arrived at 9:20, and turned out to be just light IAIS power, engines 481, 628, 800, 408 and 625.  They stopped beside a cut of covered hoppers in the Booneville siding, placed an EOT, ran east and backed into the siding to make a pickup.

I drove on into West Des Moines to await the IAIS train.  I found a UP westbound parked, crossing cut, on the Perry branch with engine 2418.  The IAIS train came through at 10:20 and was instructed to get into the clear on "the connection".  Warrants were adjusted and the two UP intermodals behind moved closer to IAIS yard limits.

At 10:45 the first of the two detouring Z trains came around the curve, approaching the point where the Rock Island double-track once ended in a spring switch.  On the point were UP 4073, 9411 and 9721.

As soon as the front of the train was past me, I drove up to Grand Avenue and headed for downtown Des Moines.  Once there, I saw that the IAIS train was in the clear out west of 16th Street.  I went down to the old Rock Island depot and parked south of the arch on 4th to wait for the detour.  UP 4073 arrived at the depot and crossed in front of the framework of the Rock Island arch over 4th Street at 11:15.

I waited for the train to pass and then drove over to the Short Line Junction area to intercept it one more time.  On the radio I heard the second Z train, UP 6301, get to West Des Moines at 11:23.  The crew let the yardmaster know that they were getting short on time and weren't sure if they'd be able to make it up to Hull Avenue for a crew change.  At 11:30 4073 came around the curve connecting the IAIS to the "Fort Dodge Line" on the UP and crossed Dean Avenue.

I decided not to wait on the second train, since it was a "school night" and I needed to be bright-eyed for my eight o'clock on Friday morning!

Friday, February 16

On Friday morning there was another email from Allan.  This time it said that there weren't going to be more Z trains, but that there would be a couple of "Q" ones, to follow IAIS train CBBI out of Council Bluffs today.  These trains were designated QNPCH and QNPSKP.  I headed home after classes around 11:30 and got my stuff together for another trip to Des Moines.

It was bright and sunny Friday afternoon, but much colder than Thursday night with the temperature around 12 degrees and a strong north breeze.  The IAIS people, talking on the radio as I drove north, had apparently run into some trouble while trying to plow the Prarie City branch this morning and werre discussing how they might straighten a bent plow.  I heard two IAIS trains get warrants out of the east end of Des Moines and figured that the CBBI must be out of the way of the detours by now.

At 12:09 I heard the first of the detours, UP 6330, reach West Des Moines.  I was hanging around the Short Line Junction area, listening to the chatter on the radio about problems with ice in the switches when someone came on and said, "Where's old Burt Elliot at?  He'd be havin' some words today!"  That was a blast from the past - the name of a roadmaster that we used to hear on the radio when the Rock Island was in business and Short Line tower occupied my afternoon parking place!  The roadmaster's name was so familiar at our house (the RI had lots of derailments) that little Byron had a stuffed animal he named "Bird Elliot"

I decided to intercept the first detour train down at the Rock Island depot.  It arrived at 12:50 and is pictured here about to take the "jog" south in the IAIS track where it passes the depot.  This was originally the eastbound of the RI's double track and the S-curve was to make room for the passenger shelter between the mains.  I parked on West Third today and shot across a vacant lot with a long lens to catch the engine in front of the depot and Fourth Street arch.  The train had four units, UP 6330, 6293, 3818 and CSX 8047.  In the latter image, the head end of the train is at the point were the RI double track converged to normal spacing again.  The north track has been removed.

I'd heard on the radio that this was an 8000-foot train and decided that I would not wait for it to clear my location.  I drove south and was going to use the East 14th Street overpass, but in the mirror I noticed that I kept seeing the same boxcar blocking the street behind me.  On the radio someone said "The police have been called...".  I drove over to the east side of the Des Moines River and found 6330 stopped because an automobile was parked too close to the rails.  Just to the left of the loco you can see a floodlight tower, about three-fourths of a mile away, that once illuminated the Rock Island passenger station and coach yard.

While they waited for the police and a wrecker, I followed a crew van (now there's an interesting retirement opportunity for a professor) east toward Short Line.  I parked at the old tower location again to wait on 6330.  The first activity I observed was Job 63, dispatched from Short Line to head north to Hull Avenue with a, "Let's just try it and see what happens...".  Although UP 1645 struggled mightily, the very long cut of cars behind it kept rolling slower and slower.  They crossed Dean Avenue at 1:28 - the crossing would not be cleared for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, the detour train had reached the point where the IAIS main connects to the old "Fort Dodge" line.  They stopped to throw the switch and headed around the corner and north toward Dean Avenue.  Once the second train was across the road, a few motorists found themselves trapped between trains.

Eventually, Job 63 stalled and the yardmaster sent another switcher to the rescue, "Job 2, cut off from what you're doin', go to the east end of one and give Charlie a shove."  The west end of the yard was being worked by CNW 1311 and UP 376 this afternoon.  While I waited for the two trains to clear Dean Avenue, the scanner picked up the second of the two detour trains clearing its warrant with the IAIS dispatcher as it reached West Des Moines.  I looked up from my crossword puzzle at one point and spotted an Amtrak baggage car in the middle of the detour's consist.

Next on the radio, at 1:40, I heard northbound UP 6279 clear Avon.  They tied down their train at the BN diamond at 1:47.  The detour train cleared Dean at 1:45.  To add to Job 63's problems, they did not get a signal they needed and had to stop again.  Eventually, at 1:58, they cleared Dean Avenue.  I counted; one pedestrian and 68 vehicles were waiting by the time the crossing opened.  I drove down to the BN crossing to get a picture of the waiting northbound.

The second detour train arrived for a crew change at East 18th Street at 2:30.  On the point were UP 6263, CNW 8565 and UP 9566.  They were met by a couple of vans, one of which was having a terrible time finding the 18th street crossing.  After the crew change, they turned north around the "Dodge" and crossed Dean Avenue, off to join the mainlines again at Nevada.

That's It!