The forecast had sounded so good that Jan and I decided on Friday evening to do a day of train-watching. Saturday turned up cool and bright, 57 degrees as we left town at 8:00. We went over to Pella first, to get a couple of pictures of the old Rock Island depot there. This is serving as a museum for Pella-Rollscreen Windows these days. The IAIS line, a remnant of the Keokuk and Des Moines Railroad, is all but abandoned and salvaged.
We stopped by Jaarsma's Bakery for some Dutch letters and went next on down Hwy. 163 to Oskaloosa. We had just rolled up to the grade crossing on Hwy. 92 at 9:45 when the gates went down. CNW 4609 and 4704 came south with grain hoppers and corn syrup tanks. We followed them to the south side of town for another shot of 4609 and of the 4704 as they left town. We took the long way (west) down to Eddyville got to the north end of town just after the train arrived.
The train stopped and did some switching at a siding in the north end of town. This area is parallel to Hwy. 63 and near a residence with two cabooses in the back yard - CNW 10393 and CGW 10535, both in fading CNW colors.
I drove on down to the overpass by the huge Cargill corn syrup plant. Inside the plant, UP 2308 was doing some switching. 4609 stopped by the Ajinomoto plant to wait for things to clear up south of the overpass. After the UP engine had finished setting a couple of cars out and backed out of the way, 4609 pulled its train down to the yard area, cut off and pulled into the plant.
Jan and I headed back north along 63, stopping in Oskaloosa again to get pictures of the old Rock Island depot there. This depot is now undergoing restoration.
We decided to go north and have lunch in Marshalltown, so we took 146 out of Oskaloosa. By Searsboro at 11:30 we spotted another southbound just south of the highway on the Osky branch line. They were moving very slowly, so it was easy to beat them to a gravel road crossing for pictures. This train had UP 6080 and 2989, and 16 corn sweetener tankcars. I drove south and back east to catch them again. This time we stopped on a rise east of the tracks and got a panorama with some Iowa corn and rolling hills in the picture.
We'd had such good luck today that I was hopeful that we'd see an IAIS train in Grinnell, but the radio was quiet and there were no trains around. We proceeded to Marshalltown, got Maid-Rites and shakes at Taylor's and took them down by the viaduct for lunch. This is a bad spot for light on the trains, but there's shade and good visibility down the track in both directions.
Our first train arrived at 1:10, a coal empty with UP 8191 and SP 189 pulling UP and CTRN cars. We had plenty of time to finish lunch before the next train arrived an hour later. This was an eastbound manifest with UP 6174, UP 5043 and SP 7468. My "approach shot" of 6174 came up completely out of focus this time. (??)
Ten minutes later a very short eastbound intermodal arrived on Main 2 (normally westbound) with UP 9527 and HLCX 6081. After a quick crew change at the Marshalltown depot, this train was pulled east far enough to clear 12th Avenue and parked, later to be combined with a following train.
The next train through, at 3:20, was another coal empty, WEPX gondolas with UP 7091 and SP 323 in charge. While we were looking around on the south side of the yard, an eastbound intermodal got by us.
At 3:30 UP 6343 and 3812 arrived eastbound on Main 2 with a short piggyback train. This train pulled up behind 9527's train and the power was cut off, run through the crossover to Main 1 and out to East Marshalltown. The two engines were then coupled to the front of 9527 and the HLCX unit and the first train was backed up to couple onto the second. In spite of several warnings, "Three cars...Two cars...One car...Half...Ten Feet!", the train crashed together loudly and we got to watch the long couplers on a half-dozen piggyback flats compress all the way to the hilt.
The combined train was still fairly short - just 25 cars - so it was backed until the head end was back at the east end of the yard. UP 9527 was set out to be put on another train. In spite of the conductor's far-in-advance warnings, there was another very hard coupling as the two lead engines connected with the HLCX unit. The middle engine, UP 3812, seemed to jump in the air and drop back to the rails, see-sawing violently from end to end. The conductor and a yard helper finished connecting the locos and the engineer was on the horns and had the train eastbound before the conductor, fingers in ears, could make it to the cab.
We went back to the shop area to watch 9527 turned to ready it to be added to a westbound as a fresh lead unit. Back over on the north side of the mainlines, we caught a westbound stacker at 5:00, with UP 9521, UP 9475, SP 8146 and UP 8002. The unit we'd seen turning was added to the front of a waiting westbound auto train and they rolled at 5:10. On the point with 9527 were UP 9670 and 9420.
We watched one more train before starting toward home. This was mostly ballast cars with UP 2997 and SP 8579. They left westbound out of Marshalltown at 5:20. We more or less paced this train back to Nevada, and saw or heard several others along the way.
Just as we were taking the overpass at West Marshalltown, an eastbound with an unusual consist came under the bridge. On the point were UP 1731 and CNW 4705, followed by one flatcar of wheels and 16 coal loads. From the detectors at Lamoille and Colo, and the "Okay on..." messages exchanged by trains meeting one another, we figured that there were three eastbounds "in the woods" - a coal train, a grain train and a stacker. We saw the head end of the stack train briefly, long enough to see that it had two EMD units and one smoke generator. This last train was spotted east of Colo at 5:50. With the corn as high as it is, it's hard to see the tracks these days.
Jan and I were having a little "discussion" about whether the ballast train had gotten ahead of us or not. I lost when it appeared again outside of Nevada just after 6:00. At about the same time, we saw a southbound grain train come down the "Spine Line" with a CNW, two UP and a RG unit. As we drove south down I-35, we heard the dispatcher on the Mason City sub say that he couldn't give a northbound a warrant yet, because, "I've got six meeting four between Nevada and Mason City".
We went to the north end of Hull Avenue yard in Des Moines and waited for the grain train to appear. They finally arrived at 7:20. On the point were CNW 8682, UP 6554, UP 3059 and bringing up the rear, RG 5405, one of the Rio Grande tunnel motors.
BNSF 9923 was parked in a siding east of the depot on the north side of the mainlines.
The Zephyr came in at 4:12, seven hours and nineteen minutes down. They'd made it through Salt Lake City ahead of the twister, but got hit with mudslides in Colorado. On the point of No. 6 today were AMTK 50, 302, and 2. Stationman J.R. Green directed passengers and the train made a quick stop and was on its way.
I delivered my passengers to their home in Dallas county and, at 5:15, intercepted an IAIS westbound on my way home. The train had only stack cars and covered hoppers. A, "Containers and Cobs Job", I guess. On the head end were IAIS 408 and 600.