Sioux City
August 22, 1998


Jan and I left Indianola around 8:00, with Sioux City and northwest Iowa as our general objective for the day. We were still in the midst of a heat wave, and the thermometer climbed steadily through the eighties as we headed west on I-80.

Our first stop was in Missouri Valley, where the UP mains divide, going toward Fremont, NE, to the west and Council Bluffs to the south. A new overpass, which will eliminate the UP's busy grade crossing on highway 30 is under construction at the west end of the town.

A coal load was coming in just as we got trackside at 10:24. On the point were UP 8088 and 8093, pulling WFCX hoppers. We'd met a crew van as we came down main street, and we found a westbound stacker with a fresh crew getting ready to depart at the east end of town. This train had engines UP 9523, UP 2422 and SP 9207.

We went up the UP line out of California Junction, taking blue highway (K45) to stay as close to the rails as possible. In Onawa, we stopped to see a "captive caboose", Rock Island 17037, painted for CNW. The caboose is with a preserved depot and a number of other structures in the Kiwanis Museum Complex in the northwest corner of town. The UP was in town doing a little switching of some grain hoppers. We waited by an interesting old elevator for them to reassemble their train and head out of town northbound. On the head end of this train were CNW 6885 and SP 8537. This area of town appeared to be the original depot location.

The Cargill elevator in Onawa had a "critter"!

Just a short way up the "Sioux City Sub", in Sloan, we found Western Iowa Coop switcher 1833 resting in the sun at the end of newly constructed elevator sidings. After taking over the CNW, UP has forced Iowa elevators to load 100 car grain trains, so a number have rebuilt their tracks and purchased locomotives like WIC 1833. Of course, a number of others have switched to truck transport.

Interesting side note: In this area, the Sioux City Sub has pole lines on both sides of the tracks.

After reaching Sioux City, we went to a park along the river and had the picnic lunch we'd packed before exploring the city's railroads. We found the railyards, both UP and BNSF, easily accessable. At the UP 22nd Street yard, freights were stopped in each direction, and the yard had grade crossings right in front of the engines. At the south end we saw UP 2562 on a short cut of cars, and SP 9391 and UP 3712 getting ready to depart.

Just southeast of the above locos, I spotted an Illinois Central unit, 8416, parked in front of the IC office.

At the north end of the UP yard, we found a freight with UP 3420, 3594 and SP 8235 on the point, and next to it switcher 1411.

We next went east a short distance to the BNSF yard, where a couple of trains were on the move. We spotted BN switchers 162, 242, 384 and 447 in the yard. At the south (east on the BN here, I think) end of the yard, at 2:00 p.m., there were two trains: BN 6786, BNSF 6720 and BNSF 548 were standing with a crew waiting, and BNSF 8732 and BN units 7896 and 2814 were backing a train into the yard.

With the temperature above 90, we headed northeast out of Sioux City on Highway 75. This road parallels fairly closely all three railroads (UP, BNSF and IC) between Sioux City and Le Mars. The BNSF angles off to the north just before Le Mars and the UP and IC separate at a switch in Le Mars. Just north of Hinton, at 2:28, we met a BNSF train heading for Sioux City with BN 8000 and HLCX units 6502 and 6070.

We made a brief stop in Sioux Center to see if we could find a net-friend, Bob Drenten, but he was not at home today. From the scanner we knew that another BNSF train was on it's way, but it was still well north of us, so we continued our trip by going east and then north to Sheldon. Sheldon is on the UP line and is also the end of the line for the IMRL (ex-SOO, ex-MILW) in northern Iowa. The two lines once shared a depot, and one wye track connection is still in place northeast of the depot.

Out of Sheldon, we followed the IMRL line east, again using blue highways and, in some cases, gravel roads to stay near the tracks. At Everly we caught up to an eastbound IMRL train switching the elevator. We waited for them at a grade crossing east of town. On the point were NREX 2036, Rail Link 608 (ex-SP) and IMRL 221. We paced this train to the west, losing them at Spencer where we stopped for supper.

We drove southeast out of Emmetsburg, taking a sentimental journey through a number of small towns where we'd photographed Rock Island trains and depots years ago, West Bend, Ottosen, Bode, Livermore, Hardy and Goldfield. At Eagle Grove ("Where It's Still America"), we took a look at the UP engine service facilities, spotting UP 2312 and 2737, along with CNW 4531 and a few others. A southbound grain train was at the elevator and corn processing plant with UP 6263 and SP 9602. They started south toward the UP mainlines at Ames around 8:30.

We went on down to Webster City and then got on I-35 for a quick ride home. As we passed by Des Moines around 10:45, we heard our first train of the day (UP 8088 coal load) talking to Short Line Yard.

That's It!