I'd received a note via the MNRail List saying that there would be a business train in our neighborhood on Saturday morning. The train was to arrive from the north at Grand Junction and then head west for Council Bluffs. Jan and I rolled out of Indianola at 6:30 and went up Hwy. 65 and I-35. At Ames we went west onto Hwy. 30 and were in Boone by a quarter 'til eight.
At the east end of the yard a manifest was just starting to pull with UP 5082 and SP 8379, the latter a tunnel motor marked "Los Angeles". We drove through the yard, spotting the following power: CNW 4705, 4605, 4400, 1316 and UP 1732. We also noted Dana Grefe's SUV, with "Train Nut" license, parked in front of the yard office.
We drove on out to Grand Junction, arriving at 8:20 just as an eastbound CWEX coal train flew through town behind a couple of UP units. A couple of other railfans were parked near the west end of the wye at the Hwy. 144 crossing. The next eastbound rolled in at 8:30. This was a manifest with UP 7517 and 4630. Fifteen minutes behind was another coal load, newish (2-99) NORX cars behind UP 8134 and 6688.
At 8:55 we had another eastbound manifest, mostly automobiles and a few containers. This train was pulled by UP 7518 and UP 9558. We drove on up to the north end of town to see if the business train were approaching and missed an eastbound piggyback train behind UP and CNW units. At about 9:15 the business train pulled to a stop north of the wye switch. There was a van parked here, but we didn't see anyone get on or off and eventually the train just pulled on south and around the west leg of the wye, stopping just clear of the Hwy. 144 grade crossing. Crew members climbed down from 951's cab and all available UP personnel converged on the scene in assorted vans and trucks.
At 9:28, another eastbound manifest came through Grand Junction. On the point were UP 7053, 7197 and SP 9388. Across the highway, UP people leaving and boarding the business train used the local elevator's outdoor facilities. I guess this is what's meant by a "relief" crew? While the crew was busy, another eastbound rolled in. This was a piggyback train, arriving at 9:44, pulled by UP 9470 and SP 8109.
At about ten 'til, the business train crossed the highway and started moving around the curve toward the switch connecting the wye track with the UP mains. Since the railroad runs left-handed here, they needed to cross over the eastbound onto the westbound and had been waiting on eastbound traffic. The train stood pretty much as described in the email message:
We went back into Boone to see what else we could find. At 10:30 we caught our first westbound, a coal empty with WPSX cars and UP 6660 and SP 336 (Yes, this one snuck up on us and I shot from the hip!).
Thomas the Tank Engine was in town and there was a very large crowd at the Boone and Scenic Valley watching the Chinese steamer and checking out other equipment near the depot. Thomas was running back and forth on the electrified line in the company of a couple of South Shore cars and Cyclone power 1858.
While we were cruising around the city, we heard a couple of remarks on the radio from the yard that went like, "When the siren sounds, all activity is to cease." Jan and I figured they might be having some sort of emergency drill this morning.
Some of the eastbounds we'd seen in Grand Junction started making it into town around 10:45. The first to reappear was 7053, which we caught near the BSV at Division Street. Before they were by, a westbound coal empty with CWEX and FURX cars left behind UP 8248 and 7184. Not far behind 7053, the piggybacks with 9470 and 8109 came into Boone at 10:55.
We took the underpass beneath the west end and were driving east along the north side of the yard about 11:00 when there were two loud explosions in rapid succession just south of us in the yard and a large cloud of dust rolled up and over the cars in the yard and on the mainlines. When the dust settled a bit, we could see that the concrete coaling tower had been dynamited.
We drove back around to the south side of the yard an in by the old roundhouse area where we found a few people who'd been able to watch and photograph the event. The tower was down, but had not collapsed as planned, so another blast was carried out around 1:40 afternoon.
At 11:20 we missed an eastbound, a coal load, CWEX again. We got the next EB at Story Street at 11:35. This was piggybacks with UP 9725 and 9110 on the point.
On the radio we heard a train in emergency out at Ogden, so we drove down through the river valley on old 30 and went west out of Ogden on a gravel road. The train had come in two when a knuckle broke on the west end of a NAHX hopper. Car 54 from the Boone yard had already arrived and was assisting in getting the train back together. From the discussion on the radio it sounded like this was not the first problem they'd run into on their trip. The crew had only about 2 hours left on their 12 hour limit.
We went back into Ogden to get pictures of the power, UP 9714, UP 4308, SP 9365 and CR 6066. We waited around until the train was back together and ready to roll, but they went into emergency again at 12:36, so we went back into Boone to have lunch and await traffic west of the yard. 9714 finally made it into town around 1:00 p.m.
After witnessing the second blasting of the coal tower (above), we started back toward home. On the run down I-35 we heard a couple of northbounds get warrants out of Des Moines, so I drove west on the Ankeny Industrial exit to intercept them. Both trains turned out to be grain empties. The first came up the hill at 2:40 with CNW 6935 and SP 7380. We found the second one sitting at Broadway where the Ft. Dodge line joins the main. On the point were UP 5735, SP 8519, HLGX 6805 and HLCX 6074. We waited a little while for them to proceed, but the first train called in on the radio to say that they were having trouble with their SP unit, so we decided to leave them and go on home to Indianola.