Bad Day at Short Line

Saturday, March 21


    Byron and Blake were to meet me in Des Moines for lunch (by the tracks, of course) on a sunny Saturday morning.  I left the ranch just before 8:00 with the Jeep's thermometer showing 41°.  I started to Des Moines on Hwy. 5 and before long heard the Hartford detector report 306 axles and 41 mph.  Unlike the Melcher detector, where northbounds generally are moving 10 mph or so faster than south, you really can't tell which way trains are headed on the Hartford (MP 61.6) one.  It was quite a while before I was to meet Byron, so I decided to take a chance and head south off of Hwy. 5 down toward Beech.

    It was a good meet!  I could see the signals at the north end of the siding set up for a southbound, and at 8:15 here they came.  This train had a single lead unit, UP 3874, pulling 75 empty auto racks.  As a bonus, I did not hear the crew on the radio reporting me as a "potential terrorist".  I hope they don't get in trouble with the "Borg" for failing to do so.  (Stay tuned)

    I drove on up to Short Line and parked in my usual, for 42 years or so, location north of the tower.  The tower's gone, and so is one of the people in that picture, but today I was to meet the guy in the blue hooded sweatshirt and his son for some train-watching.  At 10:20, I caught some power being turned as it rounded the northeast leg of the wye, UP 7198, 5730, 6834, 4037 and 4912.

    I'd settled in to work on the NYT crossword and wait for Byron when a vehicle approached.  I assumed it was another 'buff, since as far as I know, the UP, although they have stopped using true 4WD vehicles and settle for Jeep Libertys, aren't yet using pimpy little Honda SUV wannabes.  The guy in the little car announced that he was "with the railroad", said that I'd have to move, and that he would be reporting me as a "potential terrorist".  I'll be charitable here and assume that he was just doing what the Borg ordered him to do.  If he was actually pursuing his own motives, and really thinks that railfans are terrorists, I don't know what to say, and I'm certainly not going to put into writing what I'm thinking.  This incident sort of ruined the day, and maybe the next few, for me, but I'm over it (this is being written mid-May) and you'll see the red Cherokee there again.

    I moved to what I was very certain was public property along Dean Ave. for the next power turn at 10:50.  These units were, as far as I could tell from the radio, intended for the M-DMKC:  UP 4732, 4609, 4507, 6265 and 4479.  They were followed at 11:15 by two units coming down from Hull Avenue Yard, LLPX 2248 and UPY 1432.

    When Byron and Blake arrived, we all got in the Jeep and went for some takeout, returning to the yard area to catch the EADM's arrival behind UP 4003 and 5175.

That's It!