Spine Line and Marshalltown

Saturday, December 6


The mid-week forecast of a sunny Saturday was not accurate and the day came up cold and foggy, the air temperature in the upper 20's with wind blowing across the snow.  I was desperate to get trackside, however, and my final exams were printed and ready to go, so around 8:15 I headed north out of Indianola.  It wasn't long before I heard some radio chatter indicating that a northbound was leaving Beech, so I took the "Scotch Ridge" road over to Carlisle to intercept them.

The train hit the detector between Hartford and Carlisle at 8:43 - 316 axles at 23 mph.  The dispatcher told them that they'd, "almost had a good trip", because they were going to have to wait on a southbound that was on duty in Des Moines at 7:00, but it hadn't called for a warrant yet.  Later in the morning I heard them told to tie the train down and bring the power into Short Line.  Here they are coming down the hill into Carlisle at 8:45, UP 5925 and 9285 with an empty grain train, G-EVBAP according to a list I received in an email.

I drove on into Des Moines to see if I could catch the southbound the dispatcher had mentioned.  I got to the "BN" crossing south of Maury at 9:10, just as the southbound, a grain load, was crossing the street to head across the diamond and onto the bridge over the Des Moines River.  Three units led the grain train, UP 4623, HLCX 568 and UP 4127.

I drove back to East 30th, took the viaduct over the east end of Short Line Yard and went down Dean Avenue to the junction.  The new gates on the northeast leg of the wye were going down for a northbound pulling out of the yard.  UP 9229 and 9310 led a a manifest, KSIT around the corner at 9:17.

From the scanner I learned that the dispatcher had the M-KSIT, "lined around one at Cambridge", so I went north on I-35 and then jogged over to NE 46th St. to follow the old Rock Island route toward Nevada.  I went north far enough to have a look from an overpass at a southbound manifest waiting on the main for the KSIT and then parked at the next gravel road crossing to the south of the siding, NE 158th Avenue.

UP 9229 poked its nose out of the fog at 10:10, rolled past me at the grade crossing and headed for its meet at Cambridge.  About 10 minutes later I could see the southbound coming out of the siding and up the hill toward me.  This train had UP 9425 and 9845 on the point.

I went north to Nevada behind the KSIT, which received a warrant to leave the CTC and go to Buckeye at 10:40.  After a quick pit stop at Casey's, I observed a couple of westbound stackers, one in town at 10:47 and another out at the "Hollow" east of town less than 10 minutes later.

I followed old Hwy 30, now E-41, east to State Center and then took to gravel roads to stay by the UP's two-track mainline on over to Marshalltown.  The gravel was mostly clear of snow, but at a T-intersection (230th and Jesup) near Lamoille I hit an icy spot and was going too fast to turn or to stop.  The Jeep went squarely into the ditch on the far side of the crossroad.  After feeling relieved that there'd been no cross traffic and that the air bags hadn't fired, I tried, but found that I couldn't move either direction.  A call to 911 brought a Marshall County deputy and Larry's Towing & Tire, "The Best Hooker In Town".  Before long I was back on the road, inspected by the deputy and found, "not reportable".

Nothing went by on the mainlines during my little misadventure, but I could hear the M-DMDM doubling its train together in Marshalltown.  I checked them out briefly and then went to Taylor's for takeout Maid-Rites.  Back by the rails with my sandwich and shake at 12:15, I watched the "DuM-DuM" pull out onto Main 2 as an eastbound coal load came in on the north track.  CIPX and NCUX cars were led by UP 7002 and 6756.

Less than 15 minutes behind the coal load was a manifest led by UP 4446 and 9070.  After they came through, I caught the next train, a stacker, at the east end of the yard at 12:40.  This one had plenty of power, UP 4183, 9355, 4050, with CSX 8608 and 7386.  Meanwhile the DMDM appeared to be ready to go west, but waited out at West Marshalltown.

Once the DMDM pulled, I drove out to Lamoille to watch them come by and get some pictures.  I got a bonus there, as another eastbound came into sight at the same time.  After "guestimating" the two trains' speeds I decided to shoot from the north side of the tracks.  The DMDM was powered by two units, UP 2958 and 3044.  The two trains met right at the grade crossing at 1:10.    The eastbound was a manifest powered by UP 6163 and 9456.

With 117 cars and two units, the DMDM wasn't moving very fast.  Even when driving a bit more cautiously on the gravel, I overtook the train at a grade crossing northeast of State Center and waited for it to pass again.  After leaving State Center, I went ahead of the train to the crossovers at Clear Creek and got some more pictures as it approached in the fog and frost.

Interestingly, the DMDM was lined across to the north main at Clear Creek.  Since the train was Des Moines bound, they would be passing back over to Main 2 before long in order to take the "KC Junction East" switch off of the E/W main tracks.  I stayed with them to "Devil's Hollow" and stopped for a windshield shot as they crossed old Hwy. 30.

There was a northbound grain empty in the Nevada siding, just turning off the headlights as I drove by.  I decided to try to catch the DMDM coming around the "mixmaster" west of Nevada and then go back to the siding if possible.  UP 2958 showed up on the "Nevada Sub." just after 2:00, came around the west leg at "Chicago Junction" and hurried off toward Des Moines.

By this time I could hear a southbound on the Mason City Sub. clearing up and the grain empty I'd seen a few minutes ago getting a warrant to head north.  I decided to wait at Chicago Junction for the southbounder, the M-SSDM.  It appeared at 2:20 with ex-CNW UP 3077 and a second unit whose number I didn't get.

I drove on south to Des Moines and arrived at Short Line around 3:00.  An M-DMSS train was ready to leave the yard with CP 5993, CP 5641 and LLPX 2238.  The DMDM arrived at 3:30 and took the switch onto the northeast leg of the wye into the yard.  This black Cherokee couldn't wait and drove around the new gates in front of 2958.  After seeing the head end make its left turn into the yard, I headed for home.

That's It!