RITS Meet in Cedar Falls

Saturday, March 23



Saturday came up cool and clear, a beautiful spring morning in Iowa.  I was on the road by ten after six and headed for a meeting of the Rock Island Technical Society in Cedar Falls.  I took the wide roads all the way to Nevada and then jumped onto S-27 around 7:00 to follow the old Rock Island (today known on the Union Pacific as the "Spine Line") up to Iowa Falls.  The red-winged blackbirds are back along the rural roadways, a sure talisman of warm sunny days to follow.

At Garden City I found that the UP had left a couple of units in one of the elevator yard tracks, SP 122 and UP 8518.  I started out of town, again on S-27 which sort of stair-steps away to the northwest.  A mile or so out of town I spotted a southbound coming toward Garden City.  I made a very quick three-point turn and charged south, thinking that I probably wouldn't make it back in time.  I went for the first grade crossing south of town and made it with just enough time to cross to the sunny side and get off a shot as they came through at 7:30.  The short manifest had UP 2986, 3020 and SP 8566 in the lead.  After watching them roll off across the prairie (northern Iowa is so flat!) and catching my breath, I retraced my route out of town.

On the "Omaha North" dispatcher's channel I heard another southbound train getting a warrant to come to Buckeye for a meet.  I went on up there and waited for the train to arrive.  At 8:15, a coal empty came into sight and rolled to a stop to wait while the conductor got out to throw the switch and let them into the siding.  The set of NSPX hoppers was led by UP 8296 and 6524.  I watched them and got a couple of wide angle shots as they pulled by the elevator and the large grain dryers before going east and north out of town toward Iowa Falls.

I didn't make any more stops for pictures along the way to Cedar Falls, and arrived at the Rock Island event at 9:40.  There was a good turnout for the meet.  I noticed several rail fan license plates on the way in.  This RR Buff plate belongs to Jeff Spangle, I don't know whose the BL 2 plate is.  Inside the Cedar Falls Senior Center the Rock Island buffs were gathered to talk, check out display models, watch videos, spend money and generally have a good get-together.  The morning included a presentation of slides taken by Mike Joint.  Mike couldn't be present, so narration to the group gathered for pictures was handled by George Niles.  Many thanks to Lee Bertholf for organizing a fine day for the RI fans!

At lunch time I got some take-out and went up to the Ice House park, hoping to see some traffic on the Illinois Central (now part of CN) line.  My stake-out was rewarded at 12:50 when a westbound grain empty came toward me from the Cedar River bridge.  The train had very colorful power, LLPX 2159, 2038 and 2034.  After the train was by, I went over to Caboose Hobbies to spend a few bucks and to check out the O-scale layout running in the basement.  The Cedar Valley line was running some Rock Island equipment today and also had these very nice-looking F units on display on the turntable.

I'd returned to the meet only to be dispatched by Bill Riebe back to the hobby shop to take some pictures of a picture of the Cedar Falls depot.  On the way to the shop I heard horns to the north and hustled back to the Ice House just in time to watch a short IC freight come through at 1:38 with units 6120 and 6005.

I left the meet about 2:15 and started back along the IC route toward Iowa Falls again.  Before long I could hear switching going on on the IC radio channel and when I got to Iowa Falls at 3:00, I found the train I'd seen in Cedar Falls.  They had their consist stretched out across the river bridge with the head end pretty close to Hwy. 65.  I went to a grade crossing just south of the river and waited while they backed the black locos into sight.

I got some fuel for the Jeep and a fresh cup of coffee and returned just as they were starting to take their train out of town.  Following a gravel road west, I got just ahead and took a picture or two at "I" Avenue as the train passed me.  I followed on west until the road turned away from the rails and then continued south to follow the UP Spine Line again.

Back in Garden City at 4:00, I found that a crew had arrived to assemble the grain train.  When first disturbed from its long idle, UP 8518 belched a fine cloud of smoke.  I hung around for a couple of moves as the train was doubled together and then rode on down S-27 to Nevada.

I made one more stop for pictures, to catch an eastbound in Nevada with piggybacks, automobiles and containers.  They were through town at 4:45 with UP 4640, 4038, 4552 and 9237.

That's It!