A Visit to the UP Parking Lot
December 20, 1997

Sunday was to be Christmas with the inlaws, so Byron and Tam came over to stay on Friday night. Saturday, the "girls" went shopping and Byron and I headed north for the UP mainlines at Nevada. It was a beautiful clear morning in the mid-20's.

We stopped first at Des Moines' Short Line yard. Things were pretty quiet, however Byron noticed some interesting-looking engines sitting east of eighteenth street, so we drove downtown and circled back beside the NS (BNSF-operated) line to see what they were. We found two locos, fresh from Transglobal, parked just east of the East 14th street viaduct.

One was an SW-type engine, lettered UFC 136, and the other was an ex-SP unit, 7200, that I'd seen earlier at Transglobal, now lettered for NREX. Byron later looked it up and found it to be a GP-40X.

We drove north along county roads paralleling the Spine line, but saw only a track inspector headed south in a high-rail truck. The dispatching on the Spine line was divided at Des Moines last week, and there are now two dispatchers. Just what they are called hasn't quite settled down yet. On the first day, they were referred to as the "North" and "South" dispatchers, but the south dispatcher is now using "Trenton Sub" instead. The former Spine personnel, (Myra, Dean, et al) seem to be on the south desk now.

We intercepted our first train, an eastbound manifest, at Nevada at 9:47. This train had UP 6318, 6319 and 6215 on the point and had several blocks of lumber and empty autoracks. We parked north of the tracks where we could see a westbound stopped at the east edge of town and waited for the next train. This turned out to be another eastbound, a stacker with UP 9505 and CNW 8657, by us at 10:05.

After the stacker passed, we drove down to check out the parked train, a coal empty of EDGX cars, with UP 7091 and 7090 on the point. This was just the first of a number of parked trains we'd see this day.

In the new Spine Line siding at the east edge of town, there were two southbound coal empties parked. The train in the siding had UP 7043 and 6757 on the head end and the one on the main had SP 9254 and UP 6186 in front of BN hoppers. A crew was pulling the power from the train in the siding when we stopped to get a picture.

We went east out of Nevada and encountered another westbound, with UP 6855 and 8142, parked at the highway S27 grade crossing. The stacker we'd seen in Nevada had stopped and was proceeding slowly, having run into problems with its second unit.

Just west of Colo, we encountered the fifth "parked" westbound train. This was another coal empty, CWEX cars with UP 8101 and 6736 on the head end. While we stopped to take its picture, another eastbound stacker caught up to us with CNW 8609 and UP 9276 in charge.

About halfway between Colo and State Center, the next westbounder (parked train number six) waited. This was a block of loaded autoracks with UP 7094, SP 153 and UP 9456 on the point.

We hurried on over to Marshalltown and stopped just west of the highway overpass to get another shot of CNW 8609, at 11:01, approaching the crossovers at West Marshalltown. I drove down to the crossovers and waited for the next eastbound, which arrived at 11:13. This turned out to be a block of autoracks behind CNW 8556 and high-short-hood NS 5012.

In Marshalltown, at the west end of the yard, we found UP 2984 and GECX O585 (that's "oh", not zero) putting together a train on track two. At 11:34, another eastbound stacker came through behind CNW 6814, UP 3776, 9509 and 3475.

Out at the east end of the yard at 11:40, another parked westbound was just beginning to pull. On the head end of this manifest were CNW 8024 and 8555. We determined later that some of the westbounds were moving around others now that the fleet was moving in the other direction. Westbounds were now being run on the normally eastbound main (UP runs this territory left-handed as the CNW did). The last eastbound stacker called the dispatcher and got permission to stop for a few minutes in LeGrand to pick up some "vegetarian pizza".

We drove down into the old Marshalltown shop area to see what was in the yard today. Old CNW GeePs: 4165, 4142, and 4189; SDs: 954 and 6639. Operating power: UP 5538, 1725, 1964, 415, 4308 and switcher 1420. Also at the enginehouse, SW1500 GATX 153. While we were looking around, a westbound stacker went by at 11:55.

Byron and I went to Taylor's Maid-Rite and got sandwiches and shakes to eat by the tracks. Westbound autoracks were going by the depot went we returned. At 12:26, the next westbound, another stack train, appeared behind UP 6751, 6612 and SP 8147.

At 12:53, an empty coal train of CWEX gons pulled in and stopped at the depot. They were discussing a cracked windshield on the UP 7095 with the dispatcher, and since westbounds were now starting to stack up, they were given permission to take the time to turn their second unit and put it in the lead.

We drove over to the turntable to watch - the second unit was a huge SD90, the 8073. After a long struggle to get the turntable indexing lever to release they began rotating, but the turntable drive kept slipping. Eventually, by moving the unit back and forth on the turntable, they managed to get the unit headed west.

We drove next out to East Marshalltown, where we found a sign telling crews about "Train Verification". We'd been hearing crews calling the Verification Desk to check the lineup throughout the morning. By now (1:39), an eastbound coal load had slipped through the opposing traffic and came by us at the East Marshall crossovers. On the point were UP 6569 and SP 133, followed by GCCX gondolas.

We drove back toward town, but stopped to catch another westbound stacker just east of the yard at 1:47. Running on the north track were UP 9527, 9714, 9521 and CNW 6847. Plenty of horses to move those containers.

We left Marshalltown at 2:00 and drove back to the west. Two of the trains we'd seen parked in the morning were still sitting on the westbound main. A coal empty was pulling away from the siding on the Spine line, headed for the junction and on westward. At the east end of Ames yard, we stopped to watch the eastbound stacker with 9527 we'd seen in Marshalltown come by us again at 2:40.

We moved down to the west end of Ames yard for the last trains of the day. We found a coal empty parked in the yard with UP 6846, 6815, 6681 and 9231 idling on the head end. At 3:00, the power that we'd watched turning at Marshalltown, UP 8073 and 7095, showed up with their coal empty. We waited for one more train, the coal empty off of the Spine line at 3:11, with UP 7060, 6748 and DEEX gons.

On the way back south, we caught a glimpse of a northbound going through Cambridge on the Spine line. We saw 24 trains in five and one half hours. Even with the "parking", the UP's a busy railroad!

That's It!