"Winter" Saturday on the UP

December 4



Iowa's winter has been exceptionally mild so far this year, and Saturday's forecast predicted a sunny day with a high in the 50's.  At 5:50 when I left home near Pleasantville it was just above freezing.  On the radio the UP Trenton subdivision dispatcher was discussing with a track rider an "impassable" broken rail at milepost 41.5, just north of Melcher-Dallas.  I drove toward Des Moines on Hwy. 5 and noted a set of covered hoppers in the siding at Carlisle with UP 7272 on the south end.

At 6:23 the BNSF WQMDMO (a.k.a. "447") called the NS Glake Yard and said that they had 20 cars and were just a few miles out.  I took the Pleasant Hill exit from the 65 bypass and went east to the first grade crossing to await the local.  At 6:33 they crossed the road in front of me.  I paced the train back to the west toward the Vandalia Rd. grade crossing.  On the point were FURX 7250, BNSF 6119 and 1510.

After the local cleared the crossing I drove up East 30th to Dean Ave., and then to the west end of Short Line Yard.  A train, that I'd later learn was the M-DMDM, was just coming around the northeast leg of the yard and heading north out of town.  I went north to Euclid and got on the Interstate to follow them up the Mason City subdivision.  I heard them on the Elkhart detector at 7:18, and considered checking out the siding at Cambridge, but decided to play it a bit safer and go all the way to the "mixmaster" junction with the E/W mains at Nevada.

The connecting Nevada Sub. and the Chicago Jct. wye tracks were under a Form B and had a speed restriction of 10 mph this morning.  The people working there were on the mainline radio channel so the DMDM, still on the north dispatcher's channel, had some trouble contacting them.  This allowed me to get into a good spot to take pictures of them coming off of the Spine Line to connect and head for Marshalltown.  (The DMDM makes a roundtrip between Des Moines' Short Line Yard and Marshalltown.)  The DMDM came under Hwy. 30 at 7:48.  On the head end were SD40-2's UP 2973 and 2977, and C40-8 9027.  I watched while they rolled slowly around the curve toward the northwest.

Just a few minutes earlier I'd heard a southbound M-ITPS calling Short Line to get "landing" instructions.  I drove east and found a grade crossing in the south part of Nevada, near the one-time location of the Rock Island depot, to wait for them.  They rolled just before 8:00, as soon as the DMDM was out of the way.  This train had UP 3530, 3163 and 2052 in charge.

A second train was waiting in the siding at Nevada.  This turned out to be a WPSX coal empty that had come down from the north and now needed to go west on the mainlines.  They had an SP lead unit that wasn't ATC-equipped and needed to "spin" their power on the Chicago Jct. wye.  By the time I got there, they had cut away from their train and were on their way south (west geographically) toward the junction. SP 330 was in the lead, followed by UP 6013, which would become the lead unit after a few moves, switches, signals and Form B permission.

At this point I headed east on E-41 (old Hwy. 30) and shortly caught up again with the DMDM, stopped west of Clear Creek.  I went to the crossovers and waited until they were on the move toward Marshalltown again.  I caught them at Clear Creek at 8:33 and then went to the crest of a hill on the gravel road to get a shot of the whole train going away.

Since the signal at Clear Creek was set up for a westbound, I decided to wait there a while.  Before any westbound came, I heard the Colo detector on Main 1 and could see the headlights of an eastbound stack train.  The stacker was following closely behind the DMDM and came by me fairly slowly.  Power on this train was UP 5115, 9557 and EMD 9056.  At 8:53, before the stacker had passed, the westbound I expected appeared.  This manifest had UP 4774 and UP (SP patch) 9847 on the point.

I heard the Colo detector announce another eastbound and the stacker was still not moving very fast, so I got back on the road, passed them, and went through State Center to a grade crossing northeast of town to await them.  It was almost 1/2 hour before the stacker came out of State Center, where I got another picture or two before going on toward Lamoille and then Marshalltown.

I heard the DMDM inform the dispatcher that they were off of Main 2 at 9:38.  I went to the grade crossing at the east end of the yard and caught 5115 again as it took the stack train out of town.  Simultaneously, the DMDM pulled up to the road and doubled a portion of its train back into the yard.

My seventh train of the morning, a westbound CAEG empty, popped up at 9:47.  In the lead were UP 6624 and 6996.  Right at 10:00 I got two more, another eastbound stacker with UP 4994 (dirty), 3853 (clean) and 9819, and in the opposite direction a CWEX empty behind UP 5566 and 5563.  Midst all this activity, a switch crew was working the east end of the yard this morning with UPY 717 and 731.

I moved to the old depot area north of the mainlines and, at 10:30, caught the M-CBPR pulling in on Main 2 to make a set out and pickup.  This freight train was powered by UP 9092 and 9056.  Before too long, two eastbounds were routed around the CBPR.  The first, at 10:45, was a string of covered hoppers behind UP 8109, 9096 and 6681.  Fifteen minutes behind was a WEPX coal load with UP 6536 and ex-SP 6292 in front and another ex-SP unit, UP 6373 behind.  6292 had an "interesting" number board.

In the next few minutes both the CBPR and DMDM left town. I went to Taylor's, got my MaidRite lunch and was back at 11:40, in time for the next eastbound, a CWEX load led by UP 6513 and 6826, with UP 8153 in back.  Things seemed to be quieting down a bit in the early afternoon.  At 12:24 I caught westbound covered hoppers with UP 8250 and 8139.  The next train, number fifteen today, was a DEEX empty, that came by at 1:14.  On the point were UP 6556 and ex-SP UP 6271.  Note the 'buff under the viaduct!

I led this last coal empty out of town and stopped on the gravel west of Lamoille around MP 162 to catch them again as they crossed a little through girder bridge and continued west toward State Center.  Susan called with instructions to copy on picking up some quilting safety pins on the way home, so the coal empty got a lead.  However, they slowed just west of State Center and I passed them again.

Between Colo and the "Hollow" (where the Spine Line passes under the mainlines), around 1:55, I found the covered hopper train (UP 8250/8139) stopped to cut out a car that was giving brake problems.  On the radio I could hear the DMDM making its way into the Form B at the junction.

I found a southbound manifest in the siding at Nevada with UP 6804 and 9498 in charge.  The lead unit appeared to have a little number board problem.  I went south of town and caught the DMDM one more time as it came slowly under Hwy. 30 and headed home for Des Moines' Short Line Yard.

I drove back to the junction to see if I could catch the manifest I'd seen in the siding and got there in time to watch them roll around the north leg of Chicago Jct. at 2:37.  I then took off after the DMDM, reaching the north end of Cambridge just in time to see the rear of the Marshalltown turn going through town.  They met a northbound grain empty waiting in the Cambridge siding at 2:50.  This train was to pick up a crew manager and go north on the Spine Line.  Power for the covered hopper train was ex-SP UP 6229, 5995 and 6575.

I went on south on county roads and then took I-35 into Des Moines.  I caught up to, but couldn't get ahead of, the DMDM as they reentered the yard.  On the radio I could hear the NS yard and the dispatcher talking to the outbound crew on the M-DMOWQM, personnel I'd seen come into town early this morning.  They had 26 cars, 13 fuel tanks for Albia, 13 cars for New London and would then run light to Burlington.

That's It!