Short Line Morning

Tuesday, June 5



Susan had to report to her teaching job one more morning this year and after she was on the road I packed my camera and coffee and headed out for some train chasing.  I left around 7:00 on a clear, 60-degree morning.  I checked the siding at Beech and listened to the scanner.  The Des Moines yardmaster was talking to two southbounds coming in, the ITDM and MCDM.  Meanwhile, the Trenton sub. dispatcher was bringing two north (4090 and 4993) against one or two southbounds that were already out of Beech.

The procedure for track warrants on the UP has changed a bit lately.  The "summary" part of the warrant, indicating the count and numbers of lines marked, used to be read by the dispatcher and repeated by the train conductor.  The dispatcher now does not read this part, but the train crew needs to read it to the dispatcher.  I've heard a couple of dispatchers comment on this, as they from habit read the summary after the routine changed.

I drove up along the Spine Line through Carlisle and Avon, then went in on Vandalia Rd. and up to Short Line Yard.  I intercepted the first train of the day, the MCDM-05, at 7:55 as they crossed Walnut and came by a defunct elevator, now serving as a cell phone tower, and brought a long string of ethanol tanks into the yard.  The Mason City train was led by UP 3044, 3081, 3034, and 3358.  They stopped on the northeast leg, blocking Dean Ave. for a time, while the switches were lined for them to go into the yard on track 5, doubling to 10.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered, while listening to yard radio traffic from home, that there is now another active radio channel at Short Line.  One needs to monitor at least four frequencies when train-watching at the yard (in addition to the other Des Moines rail lines, of course).
Trenton Sub:  161.040, AAR 62
Mason City Sub:  160.845, AAR 49
Yard "5":  160.320, AAR 14  (In use as a repeater for walkie-talkies in the Rock Island days)
Yard "4":  161.550, AAR 96  (the new one - once used widely on the Southern Pacific)
I heard this last called "Channel Four" on the air.  As far as I know that's also the designation (left over from CNW) of the "Branch" dispatcher, who is on yet another frequency.

In a few minutes the yardmaster invited the Iowa Interstate to "come to eighteenth and watch for a light".  They came out of the dense foliage west of the diamond at 8:13, with a single unit, IAIS 495, and a short train with no EOT, just a flag stuck in the rear coupler.  I assumed this was just the IAIS "tramp" making a transfer, but I later heard them get cars off of track 6 in the yard and obtain a warrant to go from Short Line to Newton.

The west end of the yard was being worked this morning by "Job 1", with UPY 1388 and LLPX 2248.  Though set up for remote control, 1388 was manned this morning.  Around 8:45 "Job 63" came out of the yard with UPY 1328 and UP 918 and headed north to transfer some cars to Hull Ave. and work the "Bean Plant".  They had a flat of long poles protected by idler cars on each end.

One of the two northbounds I'd heard earlier, the M-NLDM-03, was now calling the yard, and I went to Market St. to get some images as they arrived just before 9:00.  The North Little Rock train was pulled by UP 4080 and 9512, and took the southeast leg into Short Line Yard.  About this time, I heard the north dispatcher (Mason City Sub.) give the rail from CPU 078 to 094 to maintenance until 11:00, so I assumed that there wouldn't be anything coming south for a while.  However, there was a previously arrived Eagle Grove train doing some switching at Hull Ave., and they finally came south into Short Line just after 10:00.  The M-EADM-05 had UP 3492, 3749, 3182 and 1216 on the point, and their crew was relieved by "Job 64" to complete yarding the train.

I caught the second of the northbounds stopped at the "BN", near Maury Ave., at 10:45.  The train, designated M-KCDM-04 was led by UP 4993 and 9390.  They delayed a very long line of traffic on Maury as they stopped to line switches into Short Line.  From the radio I learned that there was a "stack train" coming south, and I could hear horns north of the junction, so I went to the Market St. crossing again.  This train, through the junction at 11:10, was pulled by UP 4119 and 4321, and turned out to be a "flattop", just a long string of empty well cars.

Back at the yard, a short manifest came out and waited while switches were lined for the northeast leg.  I didn't catch the train's symbol, but it looked like it might have been a DMEA or some such.  The power, UP 2859 (tunnel motor legacy unit) and UP 3591, took the train north at 11:45.  Following this move, the dispatcher handed over the same block of track to the north to maintenance until 15:30.  Things got pretty quiet for an hour and a half, and I got lunch and read a magazine while parked about where Short Line Tower once was.

Eventually, I heard a southbound getting a crew up north of Hull Avenue and drove up there for a look.  Job 63 was working the Bean Plant while a grain train waited to roll south.  The unit train had UP 6487, 7108 and 7266 on the point, and it sounded like they were about ready to roll at 1:30.  I was ready to roll, too, so I drove south to Carlisle, went to Fizz's to get a little dessert, and then parked by the rails to wait for them to come through.

The grain train appeared at 2:20, with plenty of momentum built for the climb away from the Middle River bridge.  For this telephoto shot showing the train leaving one curve and leaning into the next, I was standing directly upon the original Rock Island mainline grade, easily spotted because the curb for the passenger platform is still visible.  The rails were relocated for the Red Rock dam project in the late 1960's.

I hopped on Hwy. 5 and followed them up the hill.  As I reached the 65 mph limit I was pacing the last car of the train, but they slowed on  the hill and I caught the lead unit just as they hit the detector at MP 61.6.  The detector reported that they had 429 axles, which seems unlikely, and that the train speed was 41 mph.  I turned south on S-31 and met the train again at a grade crossing just northwest of Beech.  They slowed considerably as they turned and took the signals at the end of the CTC, and I was able to get them one more time on the Hwy. 92 overpass.


Running Extra:  WQMDMO - Monday, May 28

While working outdoors at the ranch I heard the horns of a westbound coming into Pleasantville.  I drove straight west from our place on Erbe St. to a grade crossing with the BNSF Des Moines branch and waited.  The West Quincy Mo. to Des Moines train popped out of the trees and rolled down hill into the Des Moines River valley at 8:40.  The power this particular day was a lashup of GE-EMD-GE units, BNSF 582, 7857 and 8604.  They had a fairly long string of empty company tanks to be filled with diesel fuel in Des Moines, along with a mix of covered hoppers, corn syrup cars and a few cars of carbon black for the Titan Tire plant.

That's It!