A few years ago I made the acquaintance of Rev. Bob Drenten when he wrote to me to comment on one of my excursion posts. We first met face to face when I went to Osceola to say hello as he came through on Amtrak in April of 2000. Later that year we managed to get together for some train-watching in Albia and Ottumwa. Bob lives in Sioux Center, Iowa, but will soon be moving to Michigan to take a new church. We decided to try to do one more day trackside before he leaves Iowa by meeting in Missouri Valley.
I rolled out of Indianola very early on Saturday and picked up my son Byron in Audubon. We were having another cloudy and wet morning. As I compose this, Indianola's had at least a little rain every day for the previous seven days. Byron and I were hoping to get out from under the stationary front that's been providing the gray skies by heading west this morning.
We got to "Mo" Valley just before 9:00. A westbound stack train was stopped in town making a crew change. The stacker had plenty of power: UP 4103, 4015, 6170 and 4576. We drove on to the west side of town and looped back. Bob saw us wandering around and followed us back into town. We parked in the middle of UP's wye connection to Council Bluffs and waited in a light rain for some railroad traffic. This is normally a fairly busy line, but it was quiet today. After killing almost an hour just visiting without seeing any trains, we decided to drive over into Nebraska and try Fremont instead.
Bob followed Byron and me in his van and we stopped at McDonald's for a restroom break. Of course, things started moving in Mo. Valley as soon as we left our position next to the rails! I turned off of Hwy. 30 before we left Iowa and drove into California Junction to catch an empty grain train. They came west at 10:40 and took the northeast wye track to head north. On the point were UP 5749, 3165, 6202 and 3475.
Our next stop was Blair, NE. I spotted a train sitting on what appears to be an industrial lead south of the mainline, with UP 2325 and 2005. We again positioned ourselves near the mainline and waited for traffic. After another 3/4 hour in the rain with nothing happening, we decided to move on to the west.
We finally intercepted some traffic at the west end of the Kennard siding just before noon. We watched an eastbound stacker with UP 4342, 9152, CSXT 7388 and UP 3155 pull in and stop on the main. In a couple of minutes, a westbound NCUX empty came around the corner on the side track. This train was pulled by UP 7115 and 6622. 7155 appeared to be suffering a little diesel indigestion.
Just west of the siding Hwy. 30 passes over the mainline. We knew from the radio that a second eastbound was coming to meet 7155, so Bob and I took up positons on the west side of the bridge and waited. At 12:20 we caught another stack train with UP 4621, 4656 and 9619.
We drove on over to Fremont and got some take-out to have by the tracks. We parked in an open area southeast of the diamonds where the BNSF crosses the UP. Shortly after 1:00 smoking 7115 came through town and continued westward.
Things continued to be pretty slow early in the afternoon. On the radio we could hear the BNSF doing some switching and eventually their northbound (I think this might be "eastbound" on the timetable?) local pulled up to wait for a signal to cross the UP. The local had EMDX 789 and BNSF 6329 on the point and headed out of town at 1:50.
At 2:00 a westbound stacker came through on the UP. Lead unit was UP 4269, followed by 4545 and 4537. As they crossed the diamond, a BNSF track inspector who'd been working north of the diamond hopped back on to continue his work. As you can tell from the pictures, we were still stuck with a cloudy day - at least the rain had pretty well stopped. We stayed around Fremont for a few more trains:
2:06 - EB
Manifest with UP 2264, CSXT
8821, UP 4289 and UP
2:27 - WB JHMX Empty with UP 6577 and UP 6518
2:55 - WB Manifest with UP 3413 and KCS 633, Symbol CBGI
Around 3:15 we parted company with Bob. Byron and I drove back east along the UP under improving skies and actually started intercepting some trains. Just west of Blair we decided to investigate a gravel road that followed the rails and immediately met a westbound manifest.
I did a U-turn and hurried ahead of the train. We set up for pictures at the first grade crossing we found, where some thoughtful citizen had mowed the right of way! This train was powered by UP 4252 and CSX 760, and was by us at 3:45. We followed the gravel into the northwest corner of Blair and met another westbound at 3:51, this one a WEPX empty behind UP 6825 and 7068.
Around 4:45, Byron and I caught up to and passed a CWEX coal load east of Woodbine. On the point were UP 6651 and 8225. We left this train behind, but would see it again several times this afternoon.
We rolled into Denison about 5:20 and as we were going across the highway overpass Byron spotted a westbound coming through town. I parked on the shoulder and jogged back to the bridge for a shot of a manifest with UP 8096, 9099 and 2085. Out on the east side of Denison we let 6651 catch up and pass us just before they met a westbound automobile train behind UP 6208 and 9197.
Our last stop of the day was at Iowa's "continental divide", a roadside park just east of Arcadia, where we waited for 6651 to pull up the hill and cross the watershed. I watched the coal load head into the corner east of the park to get one more picture. Had I waited a few more seconds I would have seen a westbound coming. As it was, I had to grab a quick shot while standing on the door sill of the Jeep. This was a WEPX empty with UP 8278 and SP 340. They were by us at 6:05.