Cedar Falls
RITS Meet
April 3, 1999


On Saturday morning, Jan and I took off around 7:00 a.m. for Cedar Falls where there was to be a Rock Island Technical Society local meet. It's about a three-hour drive, even without too much train-watching along the way. We decided to follow the UP "Spine" line north to Iowa Falls and then go east along the IC into Cedar Falls.

We stopped briefly in Garden City to get a picture of the Prarie Land Coop switcher. There was very little activity on the Spine line, although we eventually heard a southbound getting a warrant to come from Sheffield to the north end of Iowa Falls. He was given a "joint with" warrant, since a switch job was working in town this morning.

It was cloudy and we ran into showers here and there along the way. In Iowa Falls, we went out to Mills Tower and found that an ICG caboose, 190438, has been added to the enclosure protecting the tower. Work is underway to restore the IC depot as well.

We located the switch job, with CNW 4633, near the "Purina" station sign behind the Cargill plant.

It was now around 9:20, after the starting time for the meet, so we drove on eastward, following the IC line. As we were leaving town, we learned from the scanner that the southbound that we'd heard leaving Sheffield was nearing Iowa Falls, but we figured we'd better keep moving. On Highway 20, a short way out of Ackley, we came upon some traffic congestion and discovered this critter running along the north side of the road.

In Ackley, we stopped long enough to have a look at the diamond where the IC and NCRA cross, and also got a picture of the IC depot. judging from the fence, this structure, along with a frame section house, has been set aside for preservation.

From the scanner we learned that a westbound local was leaving Cedar Falls, with engine Grand Trunk 5827. We made a quick stop in Parkersburg to get a picture of another caboose (No. ??) and a brightly-painted structure that looked like it might have been the depot. Both were located a short distance north of the IC tracks.

We intercepted the local at 10:15 in a small settlement consisting of an elevator and five homes. In our old Iowa platbook, the place was named "Sinclair". Since it was raining pretty steadily by now, I positioned the Jeep for a 3/4 shot out of the driver's window and opened it just long enough to catch the engine as it rolled by.

Around 10:45, we arrived at the meet and were welcomed by Lee Bertholf and several other Rock Island railfan-friends. It was nice to get in out of the showers for a little while! A great collection of HO Rock Island models was on display, so I took a shot or two of some of the locos.

Our friend Harry Grossman, who organizes the model train show at Galesburg Railroad Days, was setting up some of his models, including this BL unit in N scale. The picture of the model's been resized and generously compressed - the image out of the camera made the loco frame over a foot long. Harry had along some photos of the artwork for the RR Days '99 poster and gave us a sneak preview of artist Ron Hatch's creation.

An announcement was made at the meet that an O-scale layout in the basement of Caboose Hobbies in downtown Cedar Falls would be open until 1:15, so Jan and I went up Main street to do some shopping and see some models. According to Merlyn Lauber, the hobby shop owner, the layout in the basement is about two and half years old. Several trains were running, with lots of Rock Island equipment in operation, including a train headed up with this unusual power.

Jan and I picnicked by the ice house in hopes of catching some traffic on the IC, but nothing came by. Back at the meet, it was time for movies and slides. George Niles brought along a video that contained lots of footage of Rock Island passenger trains in Des Moines, and which even included some of those "new" diesel freight locos!

While we were indoors for the video, the weather improved considerably, so we decided to take advantage of the daylight and head on down the road for some more train-watching. We drove south, intercepted the UP mainlines at Tama, and followed them back to the west toward Marshalltown. Under sunny skies, the temperature quickly climbed to 75 before we'd reached Tama. On the way over along Hwy. 30, we heard the dispatcher and some trains at East Marshalltown so, after passing through Le Grand, I turned north and went into Quarry in order to follow the tracks on a gravel road.

Just west of Quarry we passed UP 7527 and SP 8690, with the PRNP, waiting to get into town. An eastbound needed to cross over in front of them, since this is left-hand running territory. The eastbound came out of the yard and by us at "East Marshall" at 3:36. On the point were CNW 6880 and GSCX 7364. As you can see in the picture, it was starting to cloud up again.

We drove on toward the east side of Marshalltown. Just outside of town, a line of new-looking LNTX hoppers, in black, yellow and aluminum, were sitting on the lead into the Powerville generating plant.

Before too long, the PRNP came into town and stopped in front of the depot to pick up some paperwork. They'd been instructed on the radio by the dispatcher to pick up the cars on tracks one and nine, but not to exceed 8000 feet. After a long wait, they pulled their train down to the west and took their power into the yard to get the cars to be picked up.

We drove over to the south side of the yard to see what power was around. The usual line of CNW junkers, 4189, 6639, 4553, 954, 4165 and 4142, rested next to the old lumber yard building. In the engine service area we found CNW 8646 with SP 8352 and SP switcher 2751 with UP 1411.

The scanner alerted us to some eastbound traffic, so we went west along the old CGW lead far enough to get a clear view around the switching. At 4:30, CNW 8698, with UP 9581, came hurrying by us with a stack train. The PRNP power reappeared with a long cut of cars, so we drove back to the north side of the mains to await the next eastbound. This turned out to be another intermodal, mostly piggybacks. We got to the tracks just in time for a quick picture as they roared by at 4:40 behind UP 6302 and 9447. By now it had started raining again, and I worried about taking a box of high-tech electronics out in the weather, but the only problem seemed to be the droplets on the lens.

Just as the PRNP was getting out of town, at 5:15, the next eastbound appeared, a coal load of NORX cars. They stopped abruptly just west of us and then proceeded slowly by the depot. From the radio we learned that they'd had "train control" problems. On the point of this train were UP 7125 and and 8013. We went to get some supper and returned to the mains just as the last of the NORX cars was going by.

At 5:45, a westbound manifest, the PRDM, rolled into town past the endless rows of Cargill corn syrup tanks in the yard. This train was pulled by UP 2982 and 5945. Before they were clear we could see the headlight of another eastbound manifest. This turned out to be powered by UP 8005 and 4522.

Another eastbound showed up at 6:10 with UP 9072 and CNW 8661 in charge of a train full of loaded autoracks and stackers. On our way out of town we saw one more train, an eastbound piggyback, but didn't see the power. From the radio, we figured it was probably led by UP 9461.

On the way over to Nevada, we heard two southbounds leave the junction and head for Des Moines. As we drove south on I-35, we could tell from EOT clicks and detector announcements that we'd gotten ahead of one and were catching the other. We heard horns and saw the headlights as we were turning the corner on the freeway in Des Moines and we managed to pull up to the crossing on Dean Avenue just in time to watch the PRDM, that we'd seen in Marshalltown, head into the yard.


On Sunday afternoon we heard quite a bit of discussion on the scanner between "JCB", the Trenton sub dispatcher and some power that had been sent south out of Short Line Yard to take a train from the siding at Beech on down to Kansas City. After arriving and tying onto the train, the crew discovered that they could not make a satisfactory radio connection with their EOT. A northbound stopped and tried to help, finding that they could receive the EOT just fine. Eventually, after a machinist arrived from Des Moines, the southbound crew discovered that some "black box" of electronics was missing from their loco.

Since it was a beautiful afternoon, we decided to drive out to Beech and have a look. We arrived around 5:00 to find the machinist's truck present. In the siding were UP 6841 and 5945, with a fairly short train that just cleared the road crossing in town. We listened while they made plans to drive back to Short Line to pick up the missing part, which was to be brought down from Boone. This promised to be a long delay. Since we'd heard a northbound warranted out of Williamson toward us, we decided to wait for it to come through.

We left the head end of the disabled train in the siding and went up to the road crossing in Beech to await the northbound. They came through at 6:11 behind SP 9605 and IC 6141.

That's It!