RITS Meet in Cedar Falls

March 24


Byron came over on Friday evening and stayed over so that he and I could get an early start Saturday morning on an excursion to Cedar Falls.  It was bright and cool, just 20 degrees, and with a pretty stiff breeze out of the northwest giving a sub-zero wind chill.  We bypassed Des Moines and went up I-35 to the Hwy. 30 intersection.  We got to the bridge where the highway passes over "Chicago Junction South" at 8:00, just in time to catch a grain train coming off of the double-track mains and rounding the wye to head south toward Des Moines.  Leading the train were UP 7046, SP 314 and UP 9573.

After the train passed we drove into Nevada and then took the old (blue) highway east to Marshalltown without intercepting any more traffic on the UP mains.

The signals at the West Marshall crossovers were set up to receive an eastbound, so we went into town and waited by the tracks at the west end of the yard.  At 8:58 we caught this K-Line stacker with UP 7578, 9526 and 3736.  This was the first time I'd seen the "wings" on other than the SD-70M's.  All of the pictures in my excursions are reduced in size and jpeg-compressed - if you have the bandwidth, you might want to see 7578 as it came from the camera - perfectly lit and in your face.  This is still just using the next-to-poorest resolution mode of the camera.

Almost immediately we had a westbound, empty WPFX hoppers, behind UP 8164 and 8169.

We did a little exploring of the engine service area next.  In town today:  UP 1643, 1698, 397 and 6465, also CNW 4704, 5517 and 5527.  A couple of cannabalized CNW units and IC 8729 and 8708 sat west of the Transglobal shop.  While we were looking around, a short eastbound stacker passed through at 9:17.

We got back on Hwy. 30 and made for Toledo/Tama.  Not far from town we could see our short stack train moving pretty slowly, so I decided to try to get ahead of it.  We caught it at 9:47 in downtown Tama.  On the point were UP 7531 and 1876.

Byron and I got to Cedar Falls about ten 'til eleven.  The RITS meet, which started at 8:30, was in a slide-show phase, with Merlyn Lauber, proprietor of Caboose Hobbies, at the projector.  This year's meeting was in a senior citizens center, which provided plenty of room for the activities.

RITS has recently purchased a very nice portable display unit to be set up at train shows and meets.

After stopping to say hello to a few RITS friends, Byron and I decided to do some exploring.  He was curious the location of the Illinois Central tracks up here, so we drove across the north side of Cedar Falls and Waterloo and over to the IC yard area.  Access to the yard is pretty carefully controlled, probably a necessity in this part of town.  Northeast of the IC yard where the UP tracks pass over, we spotted UP 371 idling at the UP office.

It was time for the open houses at various layouts to start, so on the way back from the IC yard we stopped at the Cedar Valley club layout.  This fairly large permanent setup is housed in a second-story room over a moving firm.  They were running a freight with four RI GeePs in their factory paint scheme.  Parts of this layout have full scenery and buildings, and include lots of interesting details like this fly fisher.

After our visit to the CVRM, Byron and I got takeout at the local Maidrite, which was doing a land-office business thanks to the RITS meet just a block away.  We took our sandwiches to the Icehouse Museum parking in hopes of catching an IC freight, but from the radio conversation I think we must have missed an eastbound not too long before we parked.

After lunch we went to the hobby shop to browse and to see the O-gauge layout downstairs.  They too were running Rock Island equipment today, and had an Alco loco circling on one of the mainline tracks while a GeeP with a trainsfer caboose pushed a track-cleaner around the branch line.

Another layout of a sort was open just a couple of blocks west of the hobby shop.  This was part of the "Victorian Home and Carriage House Museum".  One William J. Lenoir, a scratch-builder of O-scale models, had donated his collection and the museum had set up a display layout.  The layout, which had trains operating, was very dimly lit and surrounded by a glass barrier, but I was able to get one decent flash picture of a Lenoir Chicago and Great Western steam loco through the glass.

We went back to the RITS meet where another slide presentation was about to get underway.  I got a few pictures of some of the models on display.  There was a huge collection of HO stuff as well as a few larger scale pieces, both S and Garden-sized.  The organizer behind this program is Lee Bertholf, who does an excellent and enthusiastic job.

Byron and I went out to explore a bit more and to start toward home around 2:00.  I was curious about the crossing of the Illinois Central and ex-RI (now Iowa Northern) lines in the north part of Cedar Falls.  We drove up into Greenwood Cemetery, where at the top of the bluff overlooking the Cedar River, you can see the pair of switches used to get one line across the other.  The remains of a derailment litter the sides of the right-of-way, which is itself just a narrow shelf between the bluff and the river.

We heard the horns of an IC westbound and figured that we wouldn't have time to change our location, so we just watched the train pass from well above on the bluff.  I'm sure that you'd be able to see almost nothing from up here in the summertime.  The train, which crossed over the Iowa Northern at 2:11, was all covered hoppers and pulled by some interesting power, LLPX 2159, 2150 and 2154, in assorted paint schemes.

I decided to follow the IC to the west as far as Iowa Falls and then go south along the UP, at least to Nevada.  We had no luck finding any trains along the way, however, and the radio was pretty quiet, too.  We paid a brief visit to Mills tower and I made a stop at the yard office to get a shot of the Iowa Falls switcher at 3:15.

We were rolling along on S27 south of Garden City, lulled into that daydream land that takes over when there are no trains to chase, when Byron said, "There's a train!"  Sure enough, almost directly west of us about 1/2 mile away was the head end of a northbound train.  We could probably have spotted it earlier, but we'd just stopped looking.

I pulled into a farm field access, reversed course, and we started back north well over the posted limit.  We made it back to the east side of the grade crossing in Garden City just as the gates were going down.  "Wrong side of the tracks...", I heard myself say into my tape recorder.  The train came through right at 4:00, with SP 8590, and UP units 635, 253 and 110.  Doesn't 110 look a bit sway-backed in that picture?

Our next stop was in Nevada at 4:26 for a westbound manifest.  This train was powered by UP 4321, 9428 and 3223.  The conductor opened the window as they passed and sent us a little air-mail delivery of some interesting paperwork.  This train was the MCHNP, with 13 loads and 48 empties, 2875 tons, 4023 feet long.  Apparently UP 9428 was dead in consist, since it showed no horsepower, while 4321 had 4000 hp and 3223, 3000.

We drove on to Des Moines and went to Short Line Yard, since we'd heard an IAIS eastbound clearing a warrant at East Des Moines.  When we arrived, around 5:15, the UP was sending a unit, 5945, around the northeast leg toward Hull Avenue Yard.  The IAIS train came through on the mainline at 5:20 with IAIS 604, 431, 405 and 626.  604 looked like something had punched it in the nose recently.

The next activity at Short Line was a northbounder that pulled out of the yard at 5:30.  After picking up the conductor, who had to throw switches for the train, they took the switch onto the northeast leg and rolled around the wye track and across Dean Avenue.  On the point were UP 5642 and 2903.

Byron and I started south, waiting to hear the outcome of a discussion with a northbound train coming up from Beech.  The dispatcher finally decided to bring them on up to the BN diamond.  We heard the head end hit the detector between Hartford and Carlisle, and figured that we could catch them at Avon.  This northbound manifest arrived at 5:52, with SP 8328 and UP 2936.  The sky had clouded over earlier in the afternoon, so by now it was getting pretty dark for shots of speeding trains.  2936 blurred the bits somewhat as they rolled by us at Avon.

That's It!