Silver Solarium on the IAIS
Des Moines' Short Line Junction
August 22 and 23, 1997

Former California Zephyr dome-observation car Silver Solarium made a couple of round-trips on the Iowa Interstate RR between Newton and Des Moines on Saturday, August 23. We were there to get some pictures for the WWW.

But First...

Jan and I decided to go to Des Moines for a take-out taco on Friday evening (Aug 22) and to take our supper to Short Line Junction for some train-watching. The first thing to come by us, at 6:50, was "Job 73" going up to the Hull Avenue Yard behind UP 1961. We could hear horns to the south of us, so I drove down to Market St. and found SF 3440, doing business as the Norfolk and Southern, waiting for a signal to cross the UP "Spine Line".

We cruised around the yard and found CNW 4629 switching the west end of Short Line. Back at the NS diamond at 7:30, a southbound manifest, the MPRKC headed south for Kansas City with UP 3041 and CNW 8562 on the head end.

We returned to the junction to catch one more train, the DMBV, with CNW 6894 and UP 5038. They headed around the northeast leg of the wye at 7:35.

Now, the main attraction:

I was obligated to a Simpson College activity early Saturday morning, so we didn't get to Des Moines in time to catch the first of the two IAIS passenger runs, scheduled for an 8:00 a.m. departure from Newton. The second trip was supposed to leave Newton at 11:00, and we were in Des Moines at that time, well ahead of the passenger train.

We circled Short Line Yard, finding CNW 4629 again, this time working at the east end, putting together the MDMEA (Eagle Grove) train. At the west end of the yard, UP 2227 was doing the switching chores.

At 11:30, Job 63, behind UP 1961, headed north to switch the "bean plant". By this time, we'd encountered a couple of Illinois railfans whose scanner had lost its program and who knew nothing about the passenger special coming from Newton. We led them from Market Street up to the "railfan parking area" at Short Line. I gave them a retired edition of the Kalmbach frequency book I was still carrying around, and Jan set them up with some maps of Iowa railroads on which we'd marked mileposts and such.

While we waited on the IAIS passenger train, the UP turned some power, bringing CNW 6801 and UP B4281 down on the old Fort Dodge line and then running them east into the yard. At 12:10, a northbound, the MKSDMX, came up around the southeast leg and into the yard. On the point were SP 216 and UP 4158 - too far away for a decent picture. The MDMEA finally got underway at 12:25, with CNW 6824 and EMD 401 on the point.

The passenger special finally appeared at 12:45, with IAIS 628 pulling Silver Solarium. I'd told our Illinois railfan friends that I didn't want to appear rude, but that, as soon as I got my pictures, I'd be headed for downtown Des Moines and the old Rock Island depot at a "high rate of speed". I told them to stick with us, but they were gone from the mirror before we crossed East 18th Street. I didn't see them again.

Downtown, a small crowd was waiting for the train at the Fourth Street arch. I was surprised that I didn't spot many other railfans around the area. IAIS 628 rolled up and spotted the car right over the street, there being no passenger platforms in Des Moines these days. Up close and personal, Silver Solarium is gorgeous. Having ridden this equipment back in the last few years before Amtrak, I really miss the dome cars. Short of a cab ride, there's nothing like a front row seat in one of them - nothing.

Before trailing IAIS 603 moved in from the east to couple to the car, I got a couple of shots of the illuminated signboard on the rear of Silver Solarium. In a minute, the flag was removed from the coupler and 603 moved in to lead the train back to Newton. Passengers boarded for the return trip and they were moving east after a fifteen minute stop at the Des Moines depot.

While I'd been at the college earlier in the day, Jan had packed a lunch, so we drove east along the IAIS route to Colfax, where there's a nice little picnic-park by the tracks. We had plenty of time to get there and to eat before the passenger train showed up at 2:25. We got a big wave from a woman in the cab of 603 (Dixie?). IAIS 628 was still coupled to the west end of Silver Solarium as they buzzed through the town. You'd think the IAIS could have found an eastward-facing unit somewhere!

We came back by Short Line on our way home, and got there just in time to catch a crew change on a southbound stacker. They pulled up to the NS crossing at 3:06, behind two SD60s - UP 5998 and 6045. We paced them down to Carlisle, where they went into the siding to wait on a northbound at 3:40.

Many thanks to Allan Hunt, Tom Persoon and others who help keep me posted on IAIS activity - I really appreciate it!

That's It!