Chasing the Challenger 2004

Friday, June 25


UP 3985 was scheduled to come through central Iowa, apparently on a positioning move without many passengers, on the "Spine Line" and we'd been tracing it using the UP's global positioning setup.  With this information we were able to see the loco moving around in the Trenton, MO, yard area before it started north and to know just when it left Trenton.

Our first move was to drive over from Susan's place to Beech and see what might be coming through ahead of or meeting the passenger train.  We found one 'buff on the bridge south of town and visited with him until a grain empty came north at 10:20.  This train had ex-SP UP 6344 leading, with UP 7081, 9463 and as-yet-not-patched SP 354 behind.  Based on radio conversation we expected it to be some time before the steamer made Beech, so after the grain cars were by we drove on south to Melcher/Dallas.

There was a fair crowd gathered on the wooden bridge at the south of town, including some Rock Island Technical Society members waiting to see the Challenger on ex-RI rails this morning.  I drove downtown to the crossing where the depot once stood and found my son Byron who'd driven over from Audubon for the occasion.  Susan and I went back to the bridge to wait for the train, which finally arrived at 11:40.

I got a few shots as the articulated engine passed under the bridge and rolled downhill to the north.  We, along with a number of other fans, got in our car and took off to follow the loco.  Our next stop was the highway overpass near Fairview Church.  The train got there at 11:54 (about 7 miles from M/D - not exactly speeding this morning).  Again, we watched the train go under us and then took off for the next photo-op.

Instead of returning to Beech, I decided to stay on Highway 5 and head for the section of track where the rails parallel the highway between Hartford and Carlisle.  We'd learned from the radio that 3985 would be meeting a southbound at Carlisle and that this train was too long to fit in the siding, so they would be stopping on the main.  The steamer reached the top of the hill east of Carlisle at 12:25, rolled slowly past us and down toward the signals at the south end of the siding.  After a few shots, we moved on down the hill and stopped near the siding switch.  The train came across the river and approached the siding.  As they passed us I got an image of each car:
UPP 9336
UPP 6334, "Art Lockman"
209 "Howard Fog" - one 6 and one 4 wheel truck, generator car?
5714 "Golden State Limited"
?? "Sherman Hill"
203 "Idaho" - theater car
Standing in the siding for the meet was UP 8553.

At 12:50, the passenger extra pulled up to the "BN" to meet its traveling support crew.

(I hope I don't get in too much trouble for posting The Company's logo.  Believe it or not, UP is actually suing model railroad manufacturers like Lionel and Athearn over the use of their graphics.  I'm not making this UP!  Ironically, The Company says in its claim that those using the logo get the benefit of "good will" toward UP.  Their stinginess should pretty well take care of that problem.)

A large number of railbuffs had assembled south of the Maury Street grade crossing.  3985 stopped south of the diamond to change crews and test the ATC equipment, needed for its run west on the ex-CNW mainlines to Boone.  After this work was completed, the loco pulled north across the BN but stayed short of the grade crossing so that it could be serviced and load fuel oil.  There was a fairly long stop while the hose was brought up from the fuel truck and the bunker in the loco's tender was filled.

All on hand got a chance to make a close inspection of the steamer before they pulled again at 1:24.  Here's a 4 Meg .MOV clip of them crossing Maury.

That's It!