Rare Beech Meet

Monday, September 28



The Union Pacific has changed the operating pattern south of Des Moines.  The south end of Williamson siding (CPU030) has become a control point and the beginning of CTC for southbound trains.  The north end of the Beech siding (CPU053) is within the CTC from Des Moines, leaving 23 miles under track warrant control.  Where meets in the past were often made at Beech, most seem now to be made at Williamson instead.  Monday morning, however, I heard the Trenton subdivision dispatcher say "...we'll have to have a Beech meet."

I was planning a trip to Indianola that morning to take my signal head to the blacksmith to see if the two large castings held together with a steel pin could be separated.  In order to be able to aim the signal vertically, the portion of the head containing the lights could be pivoted on the part that attached to the mast.  The pin on which it was supposed to pivot is visible to the right of the center of the assembly in this image.  Nothing pivoted on the signal I had acquired, however, the whole assembly was very well rusted and unmovable.

As I headed west on Hwy. 92 with the signal carcass in the back of the Jeep, I heard the dispatcher responding to a request from a southbound to be "talked by" the signal at the north end of the Beech siding.  Figuring that this was the Beech meet I'd heard about on the radio, I headed for one of my favorite spots for train pictures, a wooden overpass constructed when the "Short Line" was built in 1912.  Today the bridge is out of service for auto traffic, but still accessible to railfans, and apparently public property where there's hopefully little risk of being reported as a potential terrorist by zealous UP employees.

It was pretty chilly (59°) and windy on the bridge this morning, sometimes sunny, but often the clouds would come over.  I noticed right away that the UP had built a pathway and a metal staircase down to the south siding switch - new since my  last visit here.  By 10:40, the southbound had passed the signal at CPU053 and was rolling very slowly toward the switch.  The brake-ductor dropped off and walked down to throw the switch and inspect the points.  The northbound train was waiting a short distance down the line and came around the corner at 10:45.

On the point of the Des Moines bound train were UP 4727 and UP 3855.  The crewman from the southbound watched from the landing of the new stairway as the meet was accomplished.  The northbound had to stop before proceeding out the north end of the siding, and did so with quite a few cars still fouling the mainline.  After a brief stop they pulled the rest of the train into the siding and the conductor returned to 4451.  At 11:00 the Kansas City bound train was moving south behind 4451, 4842 and 8097.

At the welding shop I answered, "What is this?" and explained what I wanted done.  The blacksmith and I agreed that the pin could be sacrificed and that it was, in fact, the only replaceable piece.  I stopped back on Tuesday morning to pick up the signal head and heard the long story of the struggle to separate the pieces, involving the torch, saws-all, slide hammer, etc.  They had accomplished the work without damaging the important parts, however, and fashioned a very nice replacement pin.  Even the cotter key holes as well as the ends were chamfered.

I paid the Indianola shop for their work on the "railroad piece" and returned the signal head to my garage, where it's ready to be cleaned up and refurbished.  The three pieces of the old pin are in the foreground.  The new pin isn't in the picture, that other loose part is a threaded rod used to hold the cover on the back of the lights.  It too needed a little attention from the 'smith in order to make it removable.

That's It!