Des Moines Branch Trio
DP Grain - August 3
Derailment - August 7
Donnelly - August 18
Friday, August 3
On the scanner at home, I could hear a grain train being assembled at the
Pleasant Hill this morning. In one bit of conversation, I heard someone
say that they'd managed to get the train "DP'd", and I'd not seen a DP train
on the branch, so I decided to see if I could get some pictures. I
drove to Runnells to wait for the train and found an Express Shuttle van waiting with someone who was
The train showed up at about 10:30. The head
end power consisted of three units, BNSF 711,
5013 and 513. I
went ahead of the train as they crossed the Des Moines
River and headed for the Hwy 316 underpass.
From the underpass, I got a couple of
shots as they approached, passed under the highway
and headed up the hill.
I didn't wait for the distributed power, but went to the grade crossing at Erbe St.,
just a few miles west of my home. They came through at 11:07, and this
time I waited to see the rear unit, BNSF 4037.
I raced the train to the State St. crossing just north of Pleasantville and
got there just in time to catch 711 leading the
power into town. The trailing unit rolled by at 11:21.
Tuesday, August 7
On Tuesday afternoon, radio traffic on the scanner indicated that there'd
been a derailment somewhere on the branch. All I got off the air was
that they had seven cars derailed with five on their sides, and that they
were clear of "the bridge". Just which bridge I didn't know, but I
decided to take a chance on the most accessable, the bridge over the Des
Moines River by Runnells. I found the eastbound DMOWQM stopped, at
about 3:30, with the head end on the curve south of the bridge and an ambulance
About 40 cars behind, there were seven derailed covered
hoppers. The last derailed car was just south
of the bridge and about 20 cars remained on the bridge
itself, but fortunately on the rails. The rails
were torn up and it was apparent that there'd been a pretty good impact between the cars that remained upright. The
ambulance drove away from the head end and the front
portion of the train resumed its trip, leaving the derailment
Saturday, August 18
I received an email from conductor Todd Pearson asking if I knew that there
was a truck coal-loading ramp at Donnelly on the Des Moines branch. In
fact, I knew only vaguely where Donnelly was. According to my wife,
who grew up in the Pleasantville area, it was once a coal mining community,
but was long gone. We checked out some state plat books and discovered
that it was in an area where rails and roads had been rerouted for the Red
Rock flood plain.
On Saturday morning, I heard a crew dog-catch the WQM-DMO and then put together
a DMO-WQM to come back, so I suggested we head out and try to find whatever
remained of Donnelly and perhaps intercept the eastbound on the branch. While
driving down toward Knoxville on gravel roads, I heard the DMO report that
they were nearing "Hawkeye"(a.k.a. Pleasantville), so I knew we were ahead
of the train. As it turned out, we were well ahead...
Donnelly is today just a spur at milepost 38, remaining after the east switch
of a short siding was been removed. A badly rutted "road" led down
to the spur where a few ballast hoppers were set out. After getting
a few pictures of the coal loader, in remarkably
good condition for what its age must be, we waited for the DMO. And
waited... The five miles between Pleasantville and Donnelly took almost an
hour for the train to cover.
At 11:45 they appeared, with BNSF 6034, 885 and
1072 leading (I believe I heard - 65 cars).
After they passed the loading dock, we drove
to an overpass over the track relocated by the Red Rock project and watched
6034 come by again.
As they headed up the well-ballasted section
of track, apparently cut into mine tailings, Susan reported radio contact,
"Hello, Mr. Tinder".