Steam at Short Line

Friday, June 8



Susan called in the morning to say that she'd heard someone call WHO radio (a once great clear channel AM station, now broadcasting mostly far-right "hate radio" talk shows) and say that two steam engines were to come through Des Moines today.  This was purportedly to happen at 2:00 P.M.  After lunch I drove to Short Line Junction, arriving at about 1:00, to await the steamers.

While waiting, I took a few pictures of Union Pacific traffic.  I admit that I didn't take my usual "Leave No Train Behind" approach today.  Except for a couple of trips to Burger King to use the restroom, I just parked where there was once an interlocking tower, worked the crossword, read a Model Railroader magazine, and waited.  Here's the traffic report and a few images:

1:44 - Northbound leaves yard with UP 3279, 3081 and 3044.   Passing the cell phone tower.
2:08 - Southbound arrives with UP 595 and 1232.
2:30 - Northbound HNDM relieved by Job 64, into yard with UP 9431, 9238 and 2297.
3:15 - Northbound NLDM into yard with 4211 and 2504.
3:30 - UP 1248 with 6 cars goes south out of yard to Avon.
3:50 - Grain train comes south through junction with UP 7088, ex-SP 6183 and 6465.
4:06 - UP 9744, 9147, 4010, 3759, LTEX 8854, UP 3371 and 3259Power turn on wye tracks.
4:28 - Southbound DMDM returns from Marshalltown with UP 3071, 3082 and 3067.

By this time there had been some talk on the scanner related to the steam engines.  The IAIS dispatcher was anxious to get a rail detector off the track because "They're ready to move."  She was also having trouble using radio to contact the steam move, "RDCX 7081" and broadcast a request that they call her on the telephone.  Likewise, several attempts by the Short Line Yardmaster to contact the steam engine, using the usual yard channel that IAIS uses to come through the UP yard, had failed.

Through the afternoon a number of people had stopped to talk to me and ask about the steam engines, but no one had more information than the WHO blurb early in the morning.  Around 5:00, a reliable source arrived, Mr. John Nelson from Newton, who had followed the train over and left it in Altoona to come ahead to Short Line.  The train finally appeared at 5:20 on the "main", the remains of a track once operated as a westbound main by the Rock Island at the far north side of Short Line Yard.

Behind the two steam engines were two cars, a tank and a box car that John referred to as the "tool car".  By this time we did have a small collection of onlookers to see the show.  Unfortunately, except for the weird green headlight, there wasn't much of a show.  The two engines drifted quietly up to the junction and rolled across the UP Spine Line without so much as a puff of smoke, let alone a whistle.

On the second engine, RDCX 6988 (I'm assuming what I heard on the radio were the reporting marks, I certainly couldn't read what was on the engine!), the fireman was scrambling back over the coal as the steamer passed us.  As they passed, I got a shot of the "tool car" and one more of the engines as they approached East 18th Street.

That's It!