We had overheard a conversation on the CNW over the weekend between two train crews indicating that there was to be detouring on the Iowa Interstate between Council Bluffs and Des Moines in order to accommodate track work on the CNW mainline near Dennison. Tuesday afternoon I heard that three eastbound detours were called, so we headed up to the west side of Des Moines.
While driving, we heard Iowa Interstate 802 West receive orders to meet the first detour train at Booneville, on Hwy. 90 just west of I-35. We first spotted the 802 in the woods by Commerce, an unincorporated community next to the Raccoon river on the east side of the interstate. 802 West had three IAIS units, 802, 801 and 407, and 70 cars of mixed freight, including a block of grain hoppers near the head end.
We turned around and went west to Booneville, and caught the first detour coming across the Raccoon River bridge at the west side of town at 5:25 p.m. UP 6330 and 6251 stopped their stack train just short of the west siding switch and waited for 802 to arrive. A cut of grain hoppers blocked the west end of the siding, so 802's crew would have to hope that they would clear, and would have to back out of the siding.
The meet was accomplished, with 802 West just barely fitting between the east siding switch and the cut of grain cars. On the scanner, we learned that 802 would meet the next detour at Earlham, so we headed on west. Train speeds are mighty low on the IAIS, (formerly Rock Island) so we knew we'd have plenty of time to pick up something to eat and wait for the next meet. This is dark territory, with the heads of the Rock Island's block signals turned to protect corn and soybeans. Interestingly, we both spotted one illuminated (green) signal just west of Menlo.
At Earlham, we found another stacker, behind UP 6275 and 3918, waiting at the west end of the siding. At about 7:00, 802 West appeared and entered the siding. The stack train rolled east past the west siding switch as 802 cleared the east end, and passed our vantage point at 7:10. UP 6275 carries a shield on the side of its nose with "Cheyenne" in the center.
Just before this meet, we heard that the third train was by Atlantic, and that the meet with 802 would be in Stuart. All of this activity took lots of radio conversation, and the eastbound detours were working their way around a track inspection hi-railer as well as by 802, so lots of warrants were being read on the radio by the Iowa City Dispatcher, "...track bulletins in effect - 536 (five three six), 540 (five four naught), ...". This evening there were seven bulletin numbers to repeat with every order.
Since old Hwy. 6 (now 925) parallels the rails, we drove on west of Stuart, listening on the scanner for the EOT of the third detour. We met it at a highway overpass about 10 miles west of Stuart, turned and paced it back east down the line. Train speed stayed under 40 mph, so there was time to go into a crossing in Menlo and get a picture as the third stacker detour, headed by CNW 6918 and UP 2487, approached its meet with 802 West. Back at Stuart, 802 showed up and passed very slowly into the siding, meeting the 6918 at 8:35.
Obviously, it was getting too dark for QuickTake pictures, and it had been raining on us pretty steadily since about 7:30, so we headed back down I-80 and I-35 for home.