Miscellaneous Observations

May 23 through June 2

Monday, May 23

On my way home from the last faculty meeting of the school year, I encountered the M-DMOWQM at 1:45  on its way through Pleasantville. Leading the collection of grain, syrup and carbon black cars were BNSF 7845, FURX 7248, CR 6739, BNSF ?928 and BNSF 8816.

Thursday, May 26

While working outdoors at the acreage, I heard airhorns and big power pulling the hill out of the Des Moines River valley.  I buzzed into town and caught a grain load powered by BNSF 8047, ex-SF BNSF 602, and BNSF 4177.  They crossed 40th Ave. at 3:50 in the afternoon.

Sunday May 29
Susan's daughter Lisa and son-in-law Stan were visiting from Dubai, UAE, and we invited a number of friends, colleagues and relatives out for the afternoon.  Naturally, we had the garden railroad running and it provided plenty of entertainment for my grandkids as well as some of the grown-ups.

Thursday, June 2

I received from the MNRail list on Wednesday an interesting email, which included an "ASCII art" map, about some work being done near Short Line Jct. in Des Moines:
UP has scheduled a 12 hour signal suspension on both Wednesday and Thursday due to
signal work at two interlockings at Des Moines. CP U074 (the crossing at the old
Short Line Tower, plus the Dean Avenue power switch) and CP U075 (Easton Boulevard
power crossover switches) will be involved, and pilots will be on hand to keep
traffic flowing.

Will this involve the new bypass/FDDM&S extension that will let trains on the
Fort Dodge pass trains coming and going on the Mason City S/ub main track?
Stay tuned for news, but not from me this time;
perhaps a correspondent in the Des Moines area can report.

Change the following simplified (!) linemap to a unispace font if necessary.
There are 22 lines of 80 characters; in case MNRail's linebreaks mangle the map,
each line is numbered and ends with an asterisk.

 1                                                                             *
 2     To Perry Sub, IAIS                                   ------> N          *
 3         (ex-CRI&P)                                                          *
 4             |                                                               *
 5             |                                                               *
 6             |\                                                              *
 7             | \                               To Ankeny                     *
 8             |  \                           /----                            *
 9             |   \      EASTON    Hull Ave /                                 *
10             |    \     CPU075    --Yard--/          BROADWAY                *
11  DES MOINES |     \  (remove?)  /       /            CPU078                 *
12    CPU074   |   /--\-----/-----/-------/---/-----------\--- (ex-FDDM&S)     *
13             |  /        /                 /   CPU077    \                   *
14  -----------+-/--/-----/-----------------/-------\-------\------ (ex-CRI&P) *
15  To K.C.    |   /Dean                (Guthrie     \      To Mason City      *
16             |  / Avenue             crossover)     \                        *
17             | /                                      \                      *
18             |/                                   To Bondurant               *
19             |                                      (ex-CGW)                 *
20             |                                                               *
21   To Short Line Yard, IAIS                                                  *
22                                                                             *

New track is in red, or beginning just north of the diamond on the left side and
running northwest then north.
CP U075 Easton may be removed.
I decided to check this work out and also do a little train-watching around the Des Moines area.  A fairly thorough examination of all the areas between grade crossings, Dean Ave. to Easton Blvd., revealed no new construction, save for a power pole (yeah, those are bugs on the Jeep's windshield) just south of Dean between the two rail lines.

However, while in the area, I managed to catch some train traffic.  At 9:40 the NS brought a switch job with a few cars, led by NS 5514, west across Maury St.  The UP's M-NLDM had pulled up to the "BN" diamond (same as the NS here) for a crew change.  Up at the south end of the Hull Yard, a remote control setup with UP 368, UPY 101 and UP 1042 appeared ready make a transfer run to Short Line.  I believe they made the drag south to the other yard at about 11:15.

On the radio I heard the Iowa Interstate call the UP yardmaster and say that they were at West 16th St. and ready to come through town.  The yardmaster discussed this briefly with his switch job and then instructed them to come over to East 18th.  I got in position and waited for IAIS's CBBI to arrive.  At 10:20 they came to the NS stop-boards and pulled up the short hill to the grade crossing on the old Rock Island main track.  The IAIS train had five units today, IAIS 708, 717, 706, 713 and 400.  The 700's appeared to be in fairly fresh paint.  Although the IAIS train got quick clearance to come across the diamond, blocking East 18th, they had to wait for about a half an hour before moving on through the yard.

More news from the radio:  North of town, the M-ITDM had fallen down with a "dynamiter" near Ora Labor Road.  After walking the train, they were on the move again around 11:00 and told to tie down the train at the Hull Avenue Yard.  Also from the scanner, a crew assembling a grain train at Avon (ex-CNW UP 6712 and UP 6422) was having trouble keeping one of the units running and couldn't get the brake system to cooperate.  A call to "Mechanical" brought the standard advice, shut off the circuit breaker, wait a while, turn it back on and see if it recovers.  That seemed to help temporarily, but the system dumped again later.

An attempt to arm the EOT system revealed that there was no head end box on either unit so the MIC came down from Short Line with a replacement.  By this time the problem unit had shut itself down and been restarted so many times that the battery would no longer turn it over.  The crew reported feeling that they were in the "Twilight Zone".  A fresh crew,  that was to have taken this train south, was redirected to dog-catch a northbound stopped at MP 48 south of Beech.

I picked up a sandwich at "FISS'S" in Carlisle and went to the Main St. crossing to wait on the M-DMPS, which was being talked by a signal problem on the southeast leg of the wye at Short Line.  They arrived at the north end of the Carlisle siding at 1:11 with UP 4277, NS 9112 and UP 4843.  They had a pretty good roll going around the corner and up the hill parallel to Hwy. 5.  I decided to chase them down to Beech and try to catch the meet between them and the dead northbounder.

At 1:16 the female-voiced detector at 61.6 reported the DMPS at 442 axles and 46 MPH.  The axle count was higher than that on the train's printed manifest, so a call was made to the yard to check the discrepancy.  While I hurried south on S-31, I heard the train report restrictive signals as it neared Beech.  At 1:35 the manifest got to Beech and rolled slowly to a stop on the main track.

I waited in the Jeep and listened to the scanner as an Armadillo van tried to locate the dead train a few miles southeast of the siding.  There seemed to be quite a bit of confusion about just how to drive to the head end.  When the Armadillo van appeared on the gravel road beside me for a second time, I flagged it down and showed the driver my DeLorme map of the area.  "We're here at milepost 52 and the train's at 48.  Here's one, two, three, four miles.  You need to get to this grade crossing."  I told him which roads on the map were actually closed at the RR and suggested he go back to Hwy. 92, wait for the sign saying "G-40" and try going south there.

Within a few minutes he had again gone in a circle and returned, pausing to say he must have turned too soon.  He headed for Hwy. 92 again.  In a few minutes (at 2:20) yet another Armadillo van arrived and joined the chase.  Having two trains and two vans on the radio exchanging, "Where are you?" messages led to one of the train crew members to ask, "...you gonna join us in bidding out of this circus?"  Eventually, the task of recrewing the northbound (a grain empty) was accomplished and the train came up the tracks at 2:50.  Leading were UP 8036 and ex-SP UP 6407.

The grain empty headed into the siding, cleared up and the switch was thrown back for the main by the DMPS's conductor.  The southbound got a warrant and a 10 MPH slow order near MP 42, "Just a 'heads up', we may have trouble pulling that hill...", but they were facing a red signal waiting for maintenance to clear up in Melcher.  I decided not to wait for them to roll and headed for home.  On the way out to the acreage I heard the grain empty on the Hartford detector at 3:22, 456 axles, equivalent to 111 covered hoppers.

That's It!