An email message from Allan Hunt on Tuesday indicated that the UP's executive train routing had changed and it would be coming up the Spine Line from Kansas City on Wednesday. The train's symbol was to be the "S-SLCB". Allan's message said the train was expected in Des Moines around 2:00 in the afternoon. On this particular trip, the train was powered by the last operating DD-40X, UP 6936, part of UP's heritage fleet. I decided to try to catch the train as it came through Short Line Junction in Des Moines. Iowa's been in a cool and wet weather pattern, and Wednesday was cloudy with intermittent showers. I left for Des Moines around 11:30 in the morning in a light rain with 52 degrees and a strong northwest breeze - not exactly ideal train-watching conditions.
I got to Short Line a little after noon. A freight, the MTDM, was pulling into the yard on track 2 and just about in the clear at the west end. From the radio I leaned that the Iowa Interstate's eastbound had already been through and that the SSDM was waiting to come south and enter the yard. The yardmaster told them to come on down and to go into track 3 and to double to 23. The SSDM appeared north of the junction at 12:18 and rolled onto the southeast leg of the wye as autos raced them for the Dean Avenue grade crossing. This manifest was pulled by UP 3044, 5946 and 9132.
Next up was a northbound, the DMEA. I stepped out of the Jeep to get some pictures just as it started to rain (again!). On the point of the DMEA were UP 969, 747 and 161. They pulled at 12:37. As soon as the Eagle Grove train cleared, a Kansas City manifest (DMKC) started and headed for the southeast leg. I went down to Market Street to catch this one. While I waited for the train, I got some pictures of indigenous fauna found in the overgrowth around the junction.
The 'KC popped out of the brush and took the switch onto the Trenton subdivision just after one o'clock. On the head end were UP 3340 and SP 8540, a weathered tunnel motor. The MIC called the DMKC crew to ask if they were aware that their power had been involved in a derailment recently. He wanted them to know that he'd not down-loaded the information from the blackbox yet and that this would be done in Kansas City. The train replied, "In other words, we'd better be on our best behavior?"
There was still no word on the radio of 6936 and the business train. I went back to the junction, napped, and kept tabs on yard activity while the rains came and went through the afternoon. Working the west end of the yard today (Job 1) were CNW 1311 and UP 1643. Around 2:45 Job 64 brought a drag down from Hull Avenue behind UPY 626. I spotted a well-tagged ADM hopper in the consist. A bit later a transient walked along the IAIS and stopped to relieve himself near the diamond before walking on into the yard.
From the radio I learned that a grain train (G-SMLA 021), headed by UP 8210, had arrived for a crew change and was waiting north of Hull Avenue. The outbound crew had been called for 2:30. I heard the Trenton sub. dispatcher, talking to some maintenance of way people, mention "...one by north Polo - be about 5 hours." I wondered if this might be "my" train. A few minutes later she repeated this information to someone else, mentioning "four and a half hours".
The next action at the junction was the arrival of the EADM at 3:50. On the point, UP 116, SP 5111 and CNW 4703. On the radio, the IAIS westbound was clearing up at East Des Moines and looking for permission to come through Short Line Yard. About this time, the Trenton dispatcher was taking a report from a northbound train of the crossing gates at Beech being taken out by a farm tractor.
We had a little break in the weather, so I walked over to see if the condition of the IAIS/UP diamond had improved any since my last visit. Nope! By this time, the IAIS train had poked its nose out the west end of the yard and was waiting to continue its trip to Council Bluffs. They were released at 4:15 and made for the Spine Line crossing. On the head end were IAIS 625, 603 and 604. 625 had a hyperactive wiper on the conductor's side that could be heard slapping away over the sound of the locomotive.
I decided to head home for supper and keep an ear on the radio, figuring that I could probably make it back at least to Carlisle if I heard anything about the DD-powered train. After supper I drove to Carlisle, arriving a little after 6:00. From the radio, I'd learned that the KSIT was to drop some power to be picked up by the grain train parked in Des Moines. The crew of the grain train was told that they would be taken off that train and transported by van to Beech to dog-catch a northbound. It also sounded like I'd just missed a ribbon-rail train that was being put away at Avon.
The weather was still a mix of clouds and showers with the sky brightening slightly now and then. At 6:15 I heard the detector south of Carlisle announce a train, but it had way too many axles to be the "Special - St. Louis to Council Bluffs". This turned out to be a manifest, powered by UP 8635 and CSX 7555. They waited for a few minutes for the rail train to clear up and then moved on toward Des Moines. Apparently both this train and the Special had been behind the train dying on the law at Beech.
At 6:55 the detector reported an axle count of 51 (one of the business cars has a three-axle truck on one end and a two-axle on the other) and a train speed of 58 mph. Shortly the DD came quickly around the corner on the mainline and drew the bright yellow cars past me. Short Line Yard called the train to inform them that they would be crossing over to the Ft. Dodge line at Easton Blvd. and that a van would be waiting at the Hull Avenue yard office to take the crew back to Kansas City.