Along the Spine Line
August 28, September 5 and 6


Saturday, August 28

Jan and I paid a short visit to Hobby Haven on Saturday, stopping by Short Line Junction in Des Moines both on the way to the store and back. On the way up, things were pretty quiet. We did find a southbound that had just pulled in and was doubling its train at the east end of the yard around 1:30. The power was CNW 6871 and UP 2957. Near the head end I spotted an interesting gondola, carrying the AMGX reporting mark.

We returned to Short Line around 3:00 and caught a southbound grain extra as it crossed the IAIS diamond at 3:20. This train was led by UP 6793, CNW 8555 and UP 2969. I took a second shot of the CNW unit, figuring that its days in green and yellow are numbered.


Sunday, September 5

Sunday was our 35th anniversary, and some of the family were around to celebrate and go to church with us. With our weekend company on the road, Jan and I decided late Sunday afternoon to go "around the block" and see what we could find. I'd heard the Melcher detector announce a 50 mph train, undoubtedly a northbound, just before we left home. We went east out to Beech, where there was a manifest parked in the siding, apparently without power or EOT (Short Line Yard South?). At 5:15 a northbound grain empty came through behind UP 5835, 4474 and 3317.

We noticed that the signal remained red at the south end of the Beech siding and figured there might be another train on the way up from Williamson. We drove east and then south toward Melcher-Dallas. Just as we were coming into town at 5:30, the radio came on with, "UP Detector. Milepost Three Nine". This detector's located right next to the site of the old Rock Island depot. I pulled onto a wooden overpass and grabbed the camera just in time to get a shot of another northbound. This turned out to be a manifest with UP 3638 and 4289 on the point.

We continued on down to Chariton, where we managed to miss an eastbound while we were stopped at a convenience store. From the radio, the train was 9571 East, 488 axles on the Russell detector - probably a coal load. We drove over to Osceola and waited there for a while, but didn't catch any traffic on the BNSF.


Monday, September 6, Labor Day 1999

Jan and I decided to take another late afternoon outing on Monday, this time to Des Moines and Short Line Yard. I'd again heard the Melcher detector just before we left town again, however this time the speed was three-something, in the equivocal range as far as train direction was concerned. I drove up toward Carlisle first. From the hills south of town, we spotted a train at the south end of the Carlisle siding (CP U064 on the Spine Line), but couldn't see any locos. This turned out to be another parked manifest like the one we'd seen at Beech yesterday. The train was in the siding with cars both north and south of the grade crossing and no power in sight (Short Line Yard South?).

We drove on up to Des Moines and out to the east end of Short Line where CNW 4612 and 1314 were doing some switching down under the East 30th Street viaduct. We took Dean Avenue along the north side of the yard and saw some power being backed onto a manifest sitting on the main. This turned out to be a "Marshalltown Extra" that we would see leaving later in the evening.

About the time we reached the junction, we heard a northbound, "MKSIT 06", call in and get instructions to change out at the BN diamond. This was probably the train I'd heard on the Melcher detector at home.

The first train through the junction was the "Perry Job". They came in from the west about 4:50 with CNW 6930, UP 3725 and CNW 1307. They were instructed to pull into track three in the yard.

We next drove down to the BN crossing to meet the KSIT. This train had SSW 9678 and UP B4236 on the point, and had stopped by 5:05. The guard at the adjacent readymix plant seemed inordinately interested in my business this afternoon, first talking to the crew and then walking up to the plant gates as I took my picture. We'd parked near the entrance, but well in the clear of any of their truck traffic. Heck, they were closed anyway! I think he was trying to get my attention, but I just ignored him until I was ready to depart, and then I held the camera in the air as I got back in the Jeep - he waved in return. We met the van that was coming to trade crews as we were leaving.

We returned to Short Line Junction where Job 6 was switching the west end of the yard with UP 1675 and UP 1698. These locos were both facing eastward. The practice we've observed lately has been to have the two units with the short hoods together in the middle.

Jan and I went to Arby's on East 14th and brought baked potatoes back to the junction, arriving at 5:30, just in time to catch the KSIT as it came through and pulled north for a stop to change out the EOT battery. They were followed closely out of the yard by the "Marshalltown Extra", with UP 5955 and SP 8678. The KSIT had to pull well north for their battery change in order to make room. Both trains were given warrants to CP U106, the junction with the E/W mainlines at Nevada.

Another train was together in the yard. We could see its power from Dean Avenue, SP 8541 and UP 2070. We heard them get a warrant to go south much later, after we'd gotten back home to Indianola.

We'd heard one other train arrive from the north and we drove up to Hull Avenue yard for a look. Here was another grain train, with its crew waiting to be picked up. On the point were UP 5835, UP 3317 (both of which we'd seen in Beech on Sunday) and SSW 9838.

That's It!