Bad Day at Short Line
Saturday, March 21
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
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.