Bad Fit at Beech

Friday, December 14



Friday was the first day of Christmas Break at Simpson College.  I decided to take advantage of the free morning to do a little train-chasing along the UP in the Des Moines area.  I headed north out of Indianola and then over to Carlisle.  The UP had parked a grain train in the siding and cut the crossing in town.  There appeared to be no crew aboard the power, UP 7563 and CSX 7757.

I hopped on the Hwy. 65 bypass and then took Vandalia Road and East 30th up toward Short Line Yard.  What appeared to be an Avon turn was just leaving as I came by the yard on Dean Avenue.  Things seemed pretty quiet, but just after 9:00 I heard the yardmaster talking to a train just arriving at Hull Avenue, so I went north to catch them.  This train had UP 8136, UP 2796 and SP 229 on the point.  The conductor got out his camera and took my picture as I stopped to get the numbers of the units.  UP's switched to Armadillo and the crew was waiting on a van to take them back to Boone.

On the way back south I caught UP 2526 (probably Job 63) at Easton Blvd. pulling north up the Fort Dodge line.  Back in the yard, switching duties at the west end today were being handled by UPY 1320 (ex-CNW) and 1391.  As you can see in the shot of the yard, it was becoming pretty foggy in the city this morning.

The yardmaster had mentioned several times on the radio that he had a northbound coal train coming, and at 9:45 I heard them clear their warrant now that they were in the CTC beginning at Carlisle.  They showed up south of the junction a few minutes later.  The train had CTRN hoppers and was powered by UP 6855, 8308 and 6615.

After the coal load was by, the yardmaster called a southbound parked at the north side of the yard and told them, "It's your turn."  I'd spotted some interesting power in this train when driving along Dean Ave. and I decided to go down to Market St. to get pictures as they left town.  I got stopped for a minute at East 18th St. where the Avon Grain switcher, 1269, was shoving some cars into the elevator.

The southbound came around the southeast leg of the wye at ten after.  In the lead was UP 6255, with that ugly center windshield, followed by EMD 6305 and two more UP units, 3078 and 1916.  The trailing loco, a four-axle engine with a high short hood, was the most interesting.  This was a red, white and blue "Rail America" unit, CSCD 6637, with CSCD the reporting mark for the Cascade and Columbia River RailroadRail America is owner of a large collection of regional and shortline railroads.

As soon as the head end was by, I started south to see if I could catch the train again at Carlisle.  They were given a warrant to Beech, where they were to meet a northbound train.  I made it to the Main St. crossing in Carlisle just ahead of them and got them coming around the curve at 10:30.  Then it was off down Hwy. 5, paralleling the train for a while before turning south on the Palmyra pavement.  I heard them hit the detector at MP 61.6 at 10:38.

I got to Beech ahead of both trains and drove down a gravel road to the old wooden bridge over the "Spine Line" at the south end of the siding.  By the time I parked, got my gear and walked up onto the bridge, I could hear the northbound approaching.  6255 rolled up and stopped on the main around 10:50.  Conductor Ron "Thunder" Thornton hit the ballast and threw the switch for the northbound to take the siding.

About this time, a discussion began on the radio about the of the lengths of the trains.  The southbound was too long to clear the north switch, and the dispatcher had planned on the northbound fitting in the siding.  As it turned out, this second train was over 7800 feet in length and might not fit.

At 11:00, the northbound came around the corner for the meet.  They had UP 2266 and 9024 on the point.  They decided to pull in as far as they could, with the southbound's conductor watching to see if they could clear the south switch.  They ended up about two and a half cars too long.

A call was made to the dispatcher to get permission to back up and to drop a few cars in the stub track.  While standing on the bridge waiting for the switching moves, I noticed that the ties below had been pumping quite a bit of mud - Iowa's been a bit too warm for its own good this winter and the ground is pretty soft.  After a few minutes, the backup move was made and four cars were set out.  2266 had been having EOT problems, so Thornton had walked back to watch the air on the rear of the train and rode back to the switch.

With the south siding switch thrown back for the main and the conductor aboard, 6255 started south and rolled under the bridge 12:18.  I watched them head around the corner and then started back toward home.  2266 was given permission to leave the four cars behind and they were soon on their way toward Des Moines.

That's It!