Selected Shorts

Osceola - April 28

Short Line - May 2

Marshalltown - May 3


Sunday, April 28

Failure of a bridge support on the BNSF line near Hastings, Iowa on Saturday night stopped the westbound California Zephyr at Creston.  As the train reported out of Osceola, I'd heard dispatcher Wes Carr call the Zephyr's engineer, Rich Fertig, and ask which way his engines were facing.  As Rich put it later, when they ask which way the units are facing, you know you're (expletive deleted).  Passengers were transferred to buses at Creston, the freight was set out, and the power run around the train.

On Sunday morning, the passenger train ran back to Osceola to await buses coming east from Denver.  Three passengers had elected to remain aboard, requiring a crew to stay with the train even though the buses were not expected until late Sunday afternoon.  I decided to run down to Osceola, hoping to catch the boarding and departure of the train.

The Zephyr was parked on Main 1 just west of the depot.  In the consist:

AMTK 42, 85 and 133
Coaches 34054, 34012 and 31514 (Smoking)
Sightseer Lounge 33032
Diner 38005
Sleepers 32048 and 32029
Transition Sleeper 39043
Baggage 1005
The lead unit showed signs of some sort of collision, but without serious damage to the loco.

I hung around the depot, visiting with the station attendant, Pat Greene, and the with the train crew.  The plan was for the bridge to be opened to traffic again at 22:00 and for No. 5 to run on it's usual schedule tonight, picking up yesterday's freight in Creston.  Six's engineer had been on duty since 8:30, so there was some concern about when the buses would arrive and if he'd be able to make it to Ottumwa on his hours.  As it turned out, they did make it, but with just minutes to spare.

The first bus from Denver showed up at 5:15 and was directed to park just north of the rails on Main St.  The "Peoples Choice" coach driver said he'd been driving since 2:30 a.m.  I didn't get a chance to ask what time zone that was, but even correcting for Mountain, that's a long day at the wheel.  After the bus was in position, the Zephyr was brought forward for boarding.

After the passengers were on the train, it was backed off of the grade crossing.  I had a supper date back in Indianola, so I didn't wait on the second and third buses.  I heard that they arrived around 6:30 p.m.


Thursday, May 2

On this afternoon I decided to pay a short visit to Short Line Junction.  I arrived at the yard just after 3:00 p.m., missing the arrival of the "Dum Dum" (MDMDM) but in time to catch some power being turned on the wye.

As I'd observed on other visits recently, the remote control locos were being used to move power onto yard tracks.  CANX 7101 brought a long string of locos across the diamond.  The throttle action on the remote is interesting.  It's constantly applying short bursts of power alternated short periods at idle.  As I understand it, the operator uses the control pack to set the speed, rather than selecting a throttle notch.  There seems to be a very tight loop in the loco's control system (you wouldn't like it if your thermostat worked like this), so the diesel is constantly hunting for an appropriate throttle notch.

As I've remarked before, this is one strange-looking loco.  Check out the cab end.  7101 had these locos in tow:  UP 2978, UP Y1391, UP Y644, SP 9733, UP 1078, UP 2991 and UP 3040.  The long line of engines rolled to the north and then came back down the northeast leg of the wye, challenged by motorists racing through the flashing lights on Dean Avenue, as usual.

Two sets of remote control units met at the west end of the yard as 7101 moved in to set its locos onto various yard tracks

While on this visit to the junction, I noted welded rail laid out beside the Iowa Interstate line on both sides of the diamond, and a UP caboose, buried deep in Short Line Yard, visible from the East 30th overpass.


Friday, May 3

Even though I'm not teaching a May Term class this year, my calendar's been pretty full.  May 3 was the first weekday without some appointments or other obligations on campus.  I'd already contacted Engineer Fertig and we'd made plans to get together later in the day.  I started north around 7:15 to check out the Union Pacific mainlines today.

Things were quiet around Short Line Yard and on the north Spine Line.  I got to Nevada around 8:30.  A ballast train, with UP 2999 and 2987, was on the Spine east of town and getting ready to dump north of the siding.  I spotted an eastbound stacker on the double track and decided to chase them over toward Marshalltown.  I got a quick shot of the head end just outside of State Center, but after that they got away from me.

I followed the gravel next to the tracks out of State Center and heard the Lamoille detector announce the train I was following plus another coming toward me.  I caught this westbound, another stack train with UP 7301, 9826 and 9740, at 9:08.

In Marshalltown, the M-PRCB had just arrived at 9:25 and was starting to do some switching in the yard.  On the head end were UP 3043 (a CNW "patch"), UP 3029, CNW 6858 (as yet unpatched) and UP Y735.  The M-DMDM was also in town, with UP 2982 and 3025.  I heard them later, around 11:00, getting ready to return to Des Moines.

I noticed that the former CNW shop building, recently abandoned by loco rebuilders Transglobal, now carries signs for Trans Loading Services, LLC.

I parked on the north side of the mains to wait for trains.  There was a Form B in effect to the east of Marshalltown, apparently they were single-tracking for a rail gang, and this created long gaps in the traffic.  Before long the Jeephone rang - it was Rich.  We made arrangements to meet up in Nevada for lunch and I started working my way back west.

After pizza in Nevada with Rich and his girlfriend Amy (celebrating her last day of classes in Vet. Med. at ISU), Rich and I headed back toward Marshalltown to see if we could catch any trains.  Our first stop was Clear Creek, a set of crossovers between Colo and State Center.  We got an eastbound stack train there just before 1:00.  On the point were UP 4511 and 4866.  You can easily see the change in the radiator on the newer SD-70.  This train fit a pattern of relatively short intermodals we observed throughout the day.

We knew from the radio that there were a couple of eastbounds yet to come behind us.  Our next stop was just east of State Center where the line angles to the northeast.  Here we caught an automobile train with UP 7539 and 6278.  The autos were by us at 1:10.

Rich and I went on over to Marshalltown and looked around for a while, but did not manage to intercept any UP traffic.  We were starting back to the west again when we heard the Lamoille detector, so I stopped at the overpass by the West Marshalltown crossovers for another short stacker.  This train arrived at 2:28 with UP 4514 and 4588.

At 2:45, on the gravel between Lamoille and State Center we saw one more eastbound, a short set of piggyback cars with UP 4776 and 9066.  4776 was my first sighting of one of the new "Flag" units.

That's It!